Let's get back to this pandemic topic. Ultimately, this crisis may spur or renew an emphasis on the patience/empathy ethic. The reason is that people are hurting today.
Practicing patience and showing empathy is easier said than done — even for those service personnel who already believe in the method. It's challenging work.
But that said, this approach may be extra difficult for those all-too-familiar businesses where strong emotions and high drama reigned before the virus arrived.
Facing worried, fearful customers with your own brand of drama and anger is not a winning formula — whether the meeting occurs at your front counter or out in the parking lot during the pandemic.
In spite of this crisis, some consumers admirably soldier on. But it's taking an emotional toll on much of the populace and that may include your own crew members and the motorists they're serving.
Truth be told, everyone from owners and managers to employees and customers may be feeling the heat during these tough times.
Many people have lived through business downturns commonly called recessions. They may have had their hours reduced or taken a pay cut; they even may have lost their jobs. Or they were affected by a friend's or relative's job loss.
A downturn or recession may have prompted people to reduce spending to some extent. This may have meant curtailing a vacation or postponing purchase of a new vehicle or appliance.
But during previous recessions, it seemed substantially easier for an average, hard-working person to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. A bit of belt-tightening at home — possibly coupled with some adjustments or updates at work – and life would be relatively rosy again.
There's an enormous emotional difference between reasonable belt-tightening in years past and the current crisis. Today, some people need that unemployment check and every penny a stimulus offers just to cover routine family bills.
(These folks also may be managing their money in order to maintain a vehicle because it's their only mode of transportation. This may describe existing and/or potential customers.)
Sobering changes seem to surround us. During past recessions, it was disheartening to see a few businesses shuttered. But it's more shocking to consider the number of smaller businesses — local shops, cafes and watering holes, for instance — that may not survive this current crisis.
Mental health specialists are describing the pandemic's potential impact as being an unprecedented societal upheaval in modern times. So we shouldn't be surprised to see these changes foment powerful, unforeseen emotions in your crew and your customers.
Bottom line: Anticipate unexpected outbursts, arguments and other seemingly unwarranted emotional displays. Try to cope the best you can because these emotions likely reflect the times rather than your skill, knowledge or behavior.
For instance, an emotional outburst from a co-worker or customer may seem like a personal affront to you. You may feel blindsided by a reaction that's totally out of proportion to the problem or discussion at hand.
I repeat: The root of that co-worker's or customer's flare-up actually may be unspoken cares and worries. So, don't make a tense situation worse by overreacting to this person's outburst.
Instead of counterattacking, pause for a deep breath, then patiently allow the co-worker or customer to vent his or her frustrations and fears.
Remember that when intense emotions threaten to overwhelm an interaction or derail a discussion, the person with the coolest head usually prevails. (A cool head also has prevented fisticuffs.)
You may need to get your own house in order before your staff tries to deal with potentially stressed out or temperamental customers. Maybe you should host a team meeting over pizza; politely take the emotional temperature of your crew.
Clarify that they're not alone if they're feeling unusually blue or stressed out. Encourage them to blow off steam among each other instead of with customers. It's difficult to address feelings that are bottled up.
Sometimes, the most-effective therapy for worried workers is an opportunity to vent without being judged or reprimanded.
Remind workers that your own door is open — if for nothing more than a proverbial "bitch" session. An employee may not readily admit it, but he or she appreciates your concern for his or her well-being.
Keep an eye out for a worker who seems to be extraordinarily depressed by current events. At some point, this person may need professional counseling.
Finally, remind your team members that arguing with a stressed-out customer may be futile and counterproductive. Instead, the smartest move may be to politely excuse one's self from the transaction.
Then have a co-worker handle this cantankerous customer's problem.
Sometimes mere mortals simply run out of patience and empathy.