Reopening: Patience and Compassion Required

hair dresser booking appointments by phone

Reopening is not a return to things as they were earlier this year. We remain a world impacted by COVID-19. Yet this past week, several colleagues shared stories with me of their clients’ high expectations. There was someone who was surprised by a wait of several weeks for a haircut. And a podiatrist whose patients all insisted they were a priority.


As business owners, customer service professionals … and as customers, we need to recognize that reopening includes new rules and new stresses that we all have to navigate. To do it well, we need – to the best of our ability – to show up consistently with patience and compassion.

What is the role of patience and compassion right now? And how can we help each other “rise to the occasion”?

As Business Owners/Customer Service Professionals

Reaching out to customers prior to reopening and preparing them for new procedures is key to success. Make this message as personal as possible to support both trust and loyalty. If the relationship has included an ability to email, a personalized message will go a long way to ensuring they understand the reopening process … and cultivate patience.

For example: “Hi Susan, We are looking forward to seeing you! Right now we are making adjustments to our space to keep everyone safe and we are providing important training to our staff. We’ll begin serving clients on Saturday, June 6. In order to accommodate physical distancing and safety standards, we will be working at half our former capacity. Know that many of our staff, who are delighted to be back a work, are going to offer more hours for the month of June but it will still take some time to fulfill everyone’s appointment requests. Please use this link to begin our new booking process, or contact us at 555-555-5555. See you soon!”

Even better … call them. The sound of your voice will contain your desire to serve and allow you to answer any questions – and calm any fears – immediately.

When talking to customers, set aside all assumptions about what they know and how they’ve been impacted by the pandemic. While we are all having the same experience, i.e. social distancing, washing our hands, spending more time on our phones and in video conversations, we are not all having the same reactions to this experience.

Some customers will now carry a fear that will deeply influence their ability to communicate clearly and/or understand instructions. Some will be anxious, making them quick to anger or cry. Others will be bold and want to push aside all the safety measures. Everyone is carrying the brunt of these past 12 weeks and it is essential that this is taken into consideration when it comes to customer service.

Assumptions about how people “should” behave, what they “should” understand and how they “should” react need to be set aside. As business reopens, customer service will demand maximum patience and consideration. This will be tiring for staff and additional breaks during each day may be needed.

Lead with compassion. Remember that everyone has “suffered” through this in some way. Perhaps it has been about juggling home-schooling with working full time at the dining room table. Or maybe it has been a particularly lonely experience. Or maybe they are a front-line worker and beyond exhausted. Spend a few moments thinking about or listening to their story, extend a gentle kindness toward them regardless of their behaviour. We have been in this together … and we need to move through reopening together as well.

As Customers/Clients

On Tuesday, June 2, it will be 12 weeks since I’ve laughed and shared stories with my stylist, Claude Comeau, at Spirit Spa. Our relationship goes back more than a decade. I’ve missed him! I’ve missed the “me time” that Spirit Spa provides. And … my hair is becoming something of a bother, which hasn’t happened since high school.

So I was delighted when he called me this past weekend to organize my hair appointment. The conversation was full of laughter and a clear reminder of why he has both my trust and loyalty.

The conversation also prepared me for my visit to the salon and … it made me sad. Why? Well, in addition to being passionate about hair, Claude is a storyteller. He fully embraces the social element of being a stylist. He builds relationships. And now … he’ll be behind a mask. At the moment, he’s not sure how this will impact his ability to have extended conversations with clients.

His clients will also be required to wear masks during their appointments. This will certainly lessen that joyous moment of celebrating a new haircut!

There’s a LOT more that both Claude and Spirit Spa are doing to get back to business in our COVID-19 world. None of it is easy for them. It will be the same for retail, restaurants, transportation, physiotherapists, etc. As customers and clients, we want to express our joy at being able to see them again … and we want to extend our understanding and compassion about the measures they are taking to keep everyone safe.

Everyone is working hard to get back to business. Let’s celebrate and … be kind.

Interested in knowing more about my work with customer service teams? Click here to find out more:


Leave a comment

What's The Phone Lady doing?


  • Remote learning experiences + one-on-one coaching for women entrepreneurs (More info about this three-year program here.)
  • Team and individual coaching with a national moving company to refine their sales process
  • Remote half-day training for provincial tourism representatives
  • Remote seven-part sales training program for US-based SaaS
  • Remote webinar on accounts receivable communication for industrial-services company
  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
  • In-person workshop on job search skills for women in the trades
  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

Do you or your team want to improve your communication skills? Do you have a communication question or challenge you'd like to discuss? This quick-to-fill-out form is easy to use and you'll hear from Mary Jane very soon.