In any relationship, there is an emotional component. That holds true even for the connection between consumers and brands. Your brand’s relationship with customers is built over time, strengthened by buying experiences and repeated interactions on many physical and virtual consumer touchpoints.
In a time of crisis, like any relationship, a brand-customer connection can be put under strain. And let’s face it: the coronavirus pandemic is unlike any situation as it forces people to be isolated. They are forced to be physically separated from their friends, workplace, and favorite places. Their loneliness and anxiety are heightened. And with the threat of infection, they may also feel unsafe or vulnerable. As a brand, how do you help consumers who feel stressed and fearful and are longing for human connections?
As the pandemic calls for a new or better normal, the brand must redefine the customer experience. You may now have to interact with your potential and existing customers in a purely digital way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t inject an emotional component or human element into the customer experience.
To navigate this digital-only interaction with customers, here are some strategies you can adopt:
Shift your focus as your consumers’ priorities change
Brands with the coolest product or most memorable marketing campaign might no longer have an advantage these days. After all, consumers’ priorities change as they deal with the pandemic’s health and economic impacts every day. In these trying times, most people want to be seen and understood.
So, your focus shouldn’t be on asking, “How do I boost my sales and recoup my recent losses?” The more important thing to ask is, “How can I serve my customers in a relevant, meaningful way in a time of crisis?” With this shift on focus, your consumers will feel you’re genuinely reaching out to them, and the act isn’t merely self-serving. You can show that you’re there to support them as they battle against a crisis.
For instance, you run a ramen shop. Pre-pandemic, many diners went to your shop to have a hot bowl of ramen. However, dining has become a no-no during the lockdown period. Instead of merely closing shop or forcing customers to drive to your shop to pick up their orders, why don’t you deliver a ramen kit? Fill it with quality ingredients and personalized instructions that suit each customer’s preferences. This way, your customers can have their comfort food any time while deepening their bond with your shop.
Find solutions to make digital more human
Pre-pandemic, customer service was available on multiple channels: face-to-face, phone or mail, or online. For efficiency, you probably transitioned human interactions to digital or automated platforms. You probably employed chatbots and automated social media responses and emails to help more customers. But now that people crave for human interactions, it’s better to find ways to make digital more human.
One good example is offering the option of a video chat with a real person for customer support. While it can’t entirely replace face-to-face interaction, the video format can help build a human connection. This option is also suitable for your workforce as it allows them to keep working from home despite the recession.
Another way you can inject human interaction to efficient digital platforms is through custom mobile apps. Build apps that cater to the specific needs of your customers. Take a cue from Spotify, Netflix, and other apps that champion personalization. Through mobile apps, you can engage your consumers better and build stronger relationships with them that may last not only during today’s crisis but also for a long time.
Make consumers’ lives easier
You can show your care to your customers amid a pandemic by making their lives easier. Apart from giving them various product and support options, make service pauses and cancellations easy.
Say you run a SaaS company that offers different subscription packages. If a customer reaches out saying their finances aren’t in the best shape to continue or renew the subscription, allow them to pause their subscription. They will likely appreciate your help. And for all parties, the pause option will be more convenient than restarting a subscription.
The same goes for cancellation requests. Again, customers’ priorities have changed due to the pandemic. They will likely cancel services or product orders that they no longer see as essential at this time. Don’t make things more difficult for them by having them go through multiple steps to request cancellation. Streamline your refund and cancellation policy to show support to your struggling customers. With this simple, genuine act, consumers will likely remember your brand once they can purchase your product or service again. You can still forge brand loyalty, even if customers have to leave you for a while.
Show customers that you’re doing everything in your power to serve and support them rather than merely gain profits. If you show that you recognize this is not the time for business-as-usual, you will boost your relationship with them. And that’s an excellent way to redefine customer experience for a better normal.