We’ve mentioned it before that retaining an old customer is cheaper than roping in a new one. But beyond retention, existing customers are essential because they trust the brand. And when people trust a brand, 83% will recommend it to others, and 82% will continue to use its products and services.
In other words, earning a customer’s trust and loyalty not only reduces your churn but also helps you gain more sales via word of mouth.
But when a crisis like the novel coronavirus pandemic hits, customer loyalty tends to waver, making it extremely easy for your competitors to leverage it. So, it is essential to put your best foot forward during uncertain times and prioritize your customers and make them feel valued.
Strategies to Earn Back the Confidence of Your Customers
The COVID-19 scenario has taught us the importance of always being prepared for the worst. And whatever be the crisis, companies need to focus on customer experience. Only then they stand a chance of holding on to customers and protecting their business and, at the same time, laying the seeds for future growth.
Communicate With Your Customers
As an emergency evolves, the market becomes unpredictable, which, in turn, increases short and long-term financial fears of customers. The first and foremost step you should take to belay such fears and ensure loyalty is to reach out to them proactively.
When brands communicate well during tough times, they forge stronger and longer-lasting bonds with their customers. The key here is to use your customer data to personalize the message and make it relevant to specific needs.
In the current scenario where in-person communication is not an option, utilize social media, emails, and all digital channels to regularly engage with your customers. You can even start video conferences with your retail customers. This will give them a sense of personalized attention. For example, an eyewear retail customer can be handled over a video conference in a group. This saves time and you can handle quite a few customers at one time.
One more factor to bear in mind is to increase both frequency and speed of communication spanning all channels. It generates more trust in the customer.
Show That You Care
When a crisis hits, customers don’t expect you to have the picture-perfect answer. What they do expect is a demonstration that their needs and concerns are important to you.
You can show customers that you care by carefully curating a message that talks about your awareness of the issue. Reinforce the message with helpful, educational resources, and take charitable steps.
For example, Bank of America gave its customers the option to defer mortgage payments while the virus pandemic rages, besides pausing foreclosure sales, evictions, and repossessions.
H-E-B launched Texans Helping Texans, a community-outreach initiative, to fight the coronavirus threat. In partnership with a food delivery company, it offered a Senior Support Line for those aged over 60. These customers could place essential orders by phone or website and receive them at home the same day.
The logic here is when you offer a shoulder to lean on during an emergency, your customers pay you back multiple times once it is over.
Responding to the Situation
The third strategy to earn back the confidence of your customer is to actively respond to the situation. Use behavioral insights to make real-time decisions. Identify the focal areas of concerns through customer satisfaction measurements. Add a disclaimer on your website linking to a landing page which clearly describes your current status and operations.
Use all the data you have to make points of purchase more convenient for the customer. Assure your customers that you don’t compromise on hygiene, and take all measures to keep the safety of the team and customers as a priority.
The same rule applies to customer support. Be conveniently accessible to them. In a crisis, customers often have more questions, and if they don’t find a practical, agreeable, and suitable way to get their queries answered, you lose credibility.
A simple tactic to ensure this is to focus on a few channels like email and live chat to carry the customer load. By doing this, you avoid the inevitable mess that arises from trying to serve customers on all fronts in a crisis. Moreover, try to be proactive rather reactive, as far as the customer service strategy is concerned. If you’re expecting delays in international shipments, for example, let the customers know as soon as you can. This will earn you extra points in their books and will prevent the heartache that reactive customer support can cause.
Lastly, all responses must have future-vision, i.e., your approach should be far-sighted. It allows you to adapt and innovate new ways to delight customers as the situation changes.
Communicate With Employees
Never ignore your employees in times of emergency. They are the living representative of your business. They are the ones who take critical decisions and that too, under highly unpredictable circumstances. A crisis like COVID-19 has also demonstrated the importance of having clear lines of communication within your company, so that you can continue to operate and coordinate even during a lockdown, when everyone is working remotely and your supply chain is falling apart.
Therefore, it is just as indispensable to communicate with them as your customers. Re-emphasize the core values of the brand during a crisis, but more than that, empower them with all the resources necessary to tackle the situation with agility.
Also, make sure that you redress all their grievances. When the economy is uncertain, and fear of losing their job is high, any absences of reassuring communication will drop employee loyalty to zilch.
An excellent example of a business addressing employee issues in a crisis is the Hilton. The hotel group partnered with leading companies of the likes of Amazon, CVS, Lidl, Sunrise Senior Living, and Walgreens to provide short-term jobs to employees of temporarily closed hotels.
Review Your Marketing and Advertising Strategy
Your usual marketing and advertising game will not work during a crisis. Rather it will misfire. Shift your strategy from product or service launch campaigns to highlighting values and mission statements.
When a brand promotes integrity and showcases empathy while navigating an emergency, they retain customers once the crisis blows over. So, emboss any campaigns that you do advertise with concern and compassion towards your customer. If you’re a retail store owner, see this as an opportunity to shift to selling online and explore your options.
Most people also look for moments of escape in a pandemic. Therefore, share messages with a hint of positivity or humor, and it will strengthen your customers’ confidence.
The only exception to the rule here is if you have a product or service that acts as a problem-solver during the crisis. If that is the case, then it must be given more preference in your marketing strategy.
A customer-first approach becomes an absolute must for businesses during uncertain times. You need to walk in your customers’ shoes to understand what they need and where they need it. Plan all your strategies with this as the crux.
And finally, continually monitor the situation, respond accordingly, and measure your success. If something doesn’t work, tweak it.