Coronavirus (COVID-19), Learning & Development

Conflict Resolution for Customer-Facing Staff Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

It’s essential that training materials stay current. Most people cringe when they see out-of-date training materials—and rightfully so.

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It’s not just that the actors and setting in an old training video can seem dated or that staff have read the same text seemingly dozens of times; it’s also cringeworthy because it suggests the training hasn’t changed even though the environment staff are being trained for has changed. Technology changes. Customers change. Social society changes.

Companies need to ensure their training keeps up with those changes so their employees are prepared to respond to ever-changing circumstances.

Pandemic Changes Spur Training Updates

What better example of ever-changing circumstances than the COVID-19 pandemic? The disease and local, state, and national governments’ responses to it have upended businesses around the world.

While the impact to many white-collar workers has been limited to learning how to work effectively from home, blue-collar and customer service workers have had to adapt dramatically to a changed workplace, including taking on tasks and responsibilities that were never a part of their original job descriptions. This might include factory workers taking on responsibility for thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting work spaces, for example.

This also includes training for generally low-paid retail workers on how to handle angry and potentially violent customers opposed to store mask policies.

Especially as the Holiday Season Approaches

“Many retail workers will receive a new sort of preparation for this year’s holiday season: training on how to manage conflicts with customers who resist mask-wearing, social distancing and store capacity limits,” writes Sapna Maheshwari in an article for The New York Times.

“The National Retail Federation, a trade group representing about 16,000 retailers, said on Thursday that it had teamed up with the Crisis Prevention Institute, a company focused on reducing workplace violence, to help retail workers learn how to prevent and de-escalate shopper disputes that emerge from pandemic restrictions.”

It’s a sad state of affairs when employers need to train staff on such practices, but faced with the reality of the situation, it’s increasingly seen as a necessity. The pandemic certainly highlights the importance of adapting training to changing circumstances.

Training can only remain static in a static environment, and in the business world, that environment simply doesn’t exist. As new opportunities and challenges emerge, staff need to be trained on how to handle them in order for the company to thrive and, in some cases, for employees and customers to stay safe.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting societal and business impacts are prime examples.

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