By Sophie Giles

How to be customer-centric in challenging times

In good times, and bad times, nurturing the relationships between your business and your customers is crucial. In the face of the Covid-19 global health and economic crisis, customer-centricity is more important now than ever.

Even though businesses across industries are navigating many issues, maintaining and growing customer relationships is the key to coming out strong on the other side. Done right, balancing your internal needs with your customer needs will be the best thing for your business.

It is important to stay in touch, build relatedness and trust for the long term

These are our five high level pointers for how to ensure you’re putting customer-centricity to work during this challenging time.

#1 Adapt your customer approach

Although pushing hard to make a sale might seem like your priority, your focus should be solving customer problems and creating a positive brand experience. People will always remember how brands made them feel, especially in a time like this.

You can adapt your service to be more customer-centric in a few simple ways:

  • Be proactive about contacting customers by reaching out to acknowledge the situation and updating them on how it will alter your business’s service.
  • Make sure customers aren’t facing indefinite call wait times to contact your business. Provide a call-back number or divert them to online contact points like email or chatbots.
  • Keep your communication consistent, so that customers aren’t receiving conflicting messages from different contact points within the company.
  • Extend expiration dates for redemption.

#2 Give extra attention to loyal customers

A phone call works. A simple approach to being human helps. The infrastructure you have that allows you to recognise who your best customers are and reach them across marketing channels is especially valuable in times of crisis. These are the people who will make personal decisions about where they spend their time, energy and money as we recover.

Remember people do business with people – and right now the personal approach works.

Man in high vis on phone to customer

#3 Do things as promised

Most people are understanding that things are not ‘business as usual’ and won’t bemoan changes to service times and availability. Less staff availability and service obstacles are the new normal that customers expect, but they still expect to not be lied to.

Do what you say you are going to do

Manage customer expectations with accurate communications and follow through. As Forbes said of the new status quo, “we are not thinking in terms of a ‘one day delivery’ but more about delivering as promised.” Being honest is better than trying to over-promise, and it means you keep your customers’ trust.

If you cannot fulfil on what was agreed – let people know. Trust is about building connection and people will understand if everything does not go to plan, as long as you let them know.

#4 Foster online consumer communities

During this time of increased physical isolation and social distancing, people are seeking connection through online communication and communities. There is a unique opportunity for brands to be the connectors by unlocking the power of social media.

Online is not a one-way channel – learn to listen

Cultivate a space where customers, non-customers, and your business can communicate by going beyond talking products and services and focusing instead on relating on a human level. That might mean sharing feel-good videos, relatable content, asking questions, starting discussions, and anything else that can bring people together as a community.

Not only does this help you form real, lasting connections with your customers, it also gives you an opportunity to get a read on consumer emotions and open up a channel for useful feedback.

#5 Prioritise new research for a new landscape

The current landscape is radically different and rapidly changing, so be careful of relying on your existing bank of data on customer behaviour. You will need fresh, primary research to keep up with new consumer sentiments, behaviours, perceptions and preferences. That way, you can form your business strategy around how your customers are acting now, rather than how they acted before.

Those changes might involve anything from a shift from mobile to desktop as people are less ‘on the go’, to different product demands and varied engagement levels. For your business to adapt successfully, you need insights into how your customer base and behaviour is changing.

Online polls on social channels can give us an understanding of customer sentiment

Whilst time is short, it is important to build relationships and be truly customer centric. It’s that brand experience and connection that will help guide your business through this time.

Your business will adapt as you reflect what customers are saying – so stay close, listen deeply and learn as much as you can.

To get our bi-monthly Handpicked selection of blogs, ideas and stories for business success click here, and join us in the conversation on LinkedIn.

To find out more about how the RedBalloon for Business team can help you reward and recognise your people, contact us today