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In the midst of the unique disease outbreak that is COVID-19, community rec organizations across the country are shutting down to do their part in slowing the spread of the disease. However, even with your doors closed and your members at home, there will still be opportunities to deliver great customer service.

Members are able to contact you on the phone or through social media, and are feeling the same sense of uncertainty you’re likely feeling. Therefore, during strained times like these, it’s more important than ever for excellent customer service from your staff to shine through.

“We know the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our members and their families in numerous ways, including financially,” said Carrie Ohorodnyk, the executive director of the Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. “We are happy to assist them. We take our mission of social responsibility seriously, and value our members and staff as they were our own family.”

This emphasis on social responsibility is critical during such a unique situation. “It’s important for us to be a voice of kindness and compassion amongst the chaos,” said Terri Maas, the association director of member experience at the YMCA of San Diego County in San Diego, California.

To help make her organization a voice of kindness, Maas has identified several best practices for providing cause-driven, compassionate customer service in a crisis:

  • Be patient with members.
  • Speak slowly and calmly.
  • Listen. Sometimes members are nervous and just want someone to talk to, especially in times of crisis, even if you can’t provide a solution.
  • See things from their perspective.
  • People are looking for a sense of stability. Communicate what we can control in a season of uncertainty.
  • Be clear about what we can promise.

These tips can be applied to any interaction with members — on the phone or online — and will help create a positive experience during uncertain times. Another way to create positive experiences is engaging members virtually.

“To continue to provide valuable meaning for our members, we created a members only Facebook group,” said Stephanie Dworkin, the marketing director of the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. “It grew to over 700 members in just four days, and they get to see we are posting valuable content.”

Virtual content in this Facebook group includes meditation tips, fitness tips of the day, Pilates workouts with a popular instructor, music for kids, and much more to help keep members connected.

“The reach and content schedule is growing every day,” said Dworkin. “We want our members to be able to communicate with us and each other.”

Whatever ways you choose to communicate with members, answer their questions and deliver services, it’s important to do so with a spirit of understanding. Everyone is facing the same questions and challenges, but what will set your organization apart is whether your staff and you show you care and respond with empathy in the face of uncertainty.

When this pandemic passes, great customer service is what your community will remember. “Our Y community is strong, and will remain strong and supportive throughout this evolving situation,” said Ohorodnyk. “Our promise is we will continue to work for and support our members in any way we can, including virtually, and we will continue to support our larger community in any possible way. Where there’s a Y, there’s a way, and we will walk it together.”


If your facility needs additional resources during this uncertain time visit our COVID-19 Resource Page for articles, virtual resources and more to help your staff and you during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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