Social distancing creates emotional distance between companies and their customers. Find out how to bridge the gap.
Being separated from the people and places we usually take for granted is a major fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. But by humanising the virtual experience in your business, you can offer some of the comforting connections we are all craving, writes Olaf Acker for Strategy+Business.
“Your first question… shouldn’t be, ‘How can I grab market share?’ or even, ‘How do I boost my top line to counteract the economic carnage I’m facing?’ Your most pressing question should be, ‘How do I support my customers right now in a meaningful, human, and relevant way?’”
In this crisis scenario, with most interactions now taking place digitally and virtually, relationships of all kinds are being tested. As you implement essential changes in the way you do business, it’s possible to strengthen your connection with customers by focusing on their needs and expectations as you both adapt to new and unfamiliar experiences.
CONVEY THE RIGHT MESSAGE
Pandemic life has magnified and multiplied the everyday digital experience, with all kinds of encounters that used to offer personal options now routinely transferred online or onto virtual forums – from routine grocery shopping to healthcare appointments.
People are now looking at what really matters to them and changing their priorities. Competitive pricing, clever marketing and trend-setting products may have topped customers’ lists pre-virus, but they are now more likely to be impressed and comforted by a business they believe really cares about them and their emotional wellbeing.
To gain customers’ trust and, ultimately, their lasting loyalty to your brand, this message has to come across in a genuine way, with the right tone and underlying motive.
COMMUNICATE IN PERSON
Efficiency and economy have been the drivers behind widespread digital transformation, with direct human interaction progressively replaced by remote, automated and digital channels. But is it possible for your business to create a more caring, personal flavour in its communications?
“A customer who contacts a call centre might be delighted to have the option of a video call with a real person who’s also working from home and is willing to take as much time as needed to address her question.”
Now is a good opportunity to trial innovative solutions you might previously have considered too risky. If customers know you are trying to satisfy their needs, they’ll be more supportive, and if an idea doesn’t work out, admitting the failure will serve to underline your human side.
BE IN IT TOGETHER
Pain and suffering draw people closer. This difficult situation offers the chance to connect with customers on a strong emotional level and learn from each other. Showing compassion and making changes for the benefit of all will deepen existing relationships and create a mutual and hopeful bond for a better future.
FOCUS ON THE PERSONAL TOUCH
Here are the six steps that will help you to successfully put the human element into your relationship with customers:
- Define the changes in your customers’ expectations and use these to assess what strategies you need to take.
- Listen to what customers tell you and demonstrate empathy. Now is not the time for aggressive marketing campaigns.
- Be honest and genuine in your interactions with customers and make sure you deliver on your promises.
- Establish care as a top priority throughout your company. Show that you truly respect your employees and your customers will respect you.
- Think outside the box for ways to give customers something back to reward their loyalty. Show them that you appreciate their support through the difficult times you are going through together.
- Keep one eye on the future. Think about how your current actions could impact on longer-term relationships when the crisis is over.
COVID-19 has thrown down a unique digital challenge to businesses across the world. Showing the human touch online supports your customers and helps safeguard the future of your organisation.