Updated: Jul 11, 2020
Maya Angelou once said: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It’s safe to assume your organization had ambitious goals for 2020, introducing new products, improving market share, increasing customer satisfaction, improving your Net Promoter Score (NPS), etc. Whatever it was, you can table it for now.
Whether you are a business leader, employee, customer, partner, or entrepreneur in a small, medium, and large organization - you woke up last week in a different world. COVID-19 has brought substantial disruption to everyday life for all of us.
As a customer leader, there are 3 things you can do to survive these difficult times that will also get you closer to your customers:
1. Start with Empathy
Things are changing rapidly and the situation is continually evolving - this might trigger high anxiety levels for your customers. They may need to contact you immediately to reschedule the appointment, rebook the flight, have their theater ticket refunded for the canceled shows, etc. Whatever it is, they had something planned and now all those plans are gone. On top of this, your customers might be dealing with uncertainty regarding their financial and physical health. Now is the time to make those interactions with your customers as frictionless as possible. One example: Cancel cancellation/rescheduling fees. Wherever applicable, empower your employees to make empathy-based decisions that will resolve customer issues in the best possible way.
2. Continued engagement through digital channels
So let’s say you were ordered to discontinue operations for your customers. Is there a way to provide those services remotely using digital channels? Think creatively, and if yes, great! Do it!
If there isn’t a way to go remote/digital, well, it’s not the end of the world yet. You can still use the time to build a connection with your customers. For instance, Rumble, a boxing training studio chain, physically shut down all locations on March 16th. Though physically closed, Rumble now provides daily online classes on Instagram. Another gym studio chain, Equinox, is rolling out an app in a phased-out approach, and also providing daily meditation check-ins to ensure their gym members’ well being and maintain frequent contact with the brand.
3. Take good care of your workforce
Employee experience impacts customer experience, especially in times of crisis. Your workforce is probably under enormous stress and might be responding to upset customer requests, working around the clock to serve the customer, while also, for the first time in a long time, feeling worried about their financial future and health. Understanding the anxiety your employees feel will allow you to come up with measures to ease it. Invest in technologies and practices that will help them reduce their stress levels - whatever is applicable to your business.
If you are worried about your business continuity and your ability to maintain the workforce during the crisis, you may want to take inspiration from this unusual cooperation in Germany where McDonald’s employees are helping with retail at Aldi, a discount supermarket chain (and parent company of Trader Joe’s). Because of restricted restaurant operations in Germany (and worldwide), many employees of the fast-food empire aren’t working right now. At the same time, the discounter is desperately looking for employees to sell and replenish the shelves. Check out who is hiring right now and see if you could arrange similar solutions in your area.
In case everything fails and you need to furlough or lay off your employees, make sure you inform them as soon as possible in an open and respectful manner. This way you decrease their anxiety level and help them to plan accordingly.
Maya Angelou once said: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The world is facing an unprecedented crisis right now. We will get through it, but the right combination of empathy, engagement, and employee care can give your business the chance to make a lasting difference in your customers’ lives and support a lasting loyalty to the products and services you hope to be getting to them long after this crisis has passed.