This article was originally published here.
The coronavirus pandemic has done more than upended how brands communicate with customers—it has completely changed the lives of customers across the globe.
The sudden influx of physical distancing, the (hopefully temporary) shuttering of businesses, and general unease about the virus have all reshaped how customers interact with brands virtually overnight. On top of all of that, it’ll be at least a few months before any sort of normalcy is restored.
Because of all of this rapid change, it is absolutely crucial for brands to re-assess how they communicate with customers and how to conduct business in the age of a global pandemic.
The question isn’t an easy one, but in a recent webinar, our experts shared how companies can communicate with their audiences and build strong relationships with them (even in times like these).
Key #1: Acknowledge That Your Brand is Taking The Coronavirus Seriously
There are several means by which brands can communicate their commitment to squashing the coronavirus to customers. The first, and most obvious, is to release an email (or message via social media—whichever is more your speed) acknowledging the pandemic and what your brand plans to do about it.
Whether it’s reassuring customers that a given service will continue or announcing a temporary closure plan, customers will appreciate the update.
There is, however, one caveat to this message notion: every brand is transmitting messages just like these to customers, putting themselves at risk of being just another email.
To help avoid this problem, brands should keep their messages as concise as possible. This can help a given company’s message stand out in an all-but-literal sea COVID-19 musings.
Brands that maintain physical storefronts (and can responsibly keep them open during this pandemic) can consider more in-person reassurances that they take customer health seriously.
For example, in several Costco locations around the country, the brand employs workers who not only sanitize tables, but take pains to ensure that their work is very visible to customers.
Gestures like these can go a long way toward helping customers feel safe and healthy in an in-person shopping environment, and thus help ensure that they have a quality experience.
Key #2: Emphasize That Customer Feedback Matters Now More Than Ever
In times like these, brands need to reiterate to customers just how important their feedback is. Thus, companies should use messaging to communicate both their dedication to fighting the pandemic and how much they value their customers’ views and opinions on a provided experience.
More specifically, brands should ask customers open-ended questions about their views on the pandemic and, perhaps more pertinently, those customers’ opinions on what an ideal experience looks like in an age of quarantine and temporary shuttering. This strategy yields two results—it gives organizations a glimpse at pandemic-era customer thinking, and it reassures those customers that their opinions still matter.
Key #3: Do Not Try to Sell to Customers Right Now
It may be tempting for some brands to capitalize on the coronavirus, but the simple truth is that now is not the time to try to sell to customers. Rather, brands need to emphasize the importance of customer relationships over profits.
As previously discussed, the pandemic presents an opportunity for companies to demonstrate that they care about their connections to customers, and that endeavor will yield big long-term dividends.
Think about it—the brands that go most out of their way to build lifetime value with customer relationships are the ones that stand out in those individuals’ minds even during “normal” times.
This factor is multiplied a hundred fold in times of crisis, as customers are even more impressed with brands who still prioritize customers despite hardships. As has long been established, customers will pay more for brands that they feel care about them.
Key #4: Thank Customers for Their Support
This point overlaps somewhat with our previous bullet, but it’s worth reiterating the importance of building long-term relationships with customers, especially in adverse times.
This point also hearkens back to one of the fundamental principles of CX—if the customers who sustain a brand submit feedback, that brand owes it to those individuals to respond.
With that in mind, don’t hesitate to thank customers for their support during trying times. Be generous with letting them know how much their business meant before the pandemic and how much it means during the fact.
That sense of connection matters, and customers will remember it when the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
Looking To The Future
The coronavirus has conjured a lot of uncertainty in today’s experience landscape, but that doesn’t mean that brands shouldn’t look to the future.
Even if this disease causes upheaval for a few months, companies can still invest in a better tomorrow by strengthening relationships with their customers through concern instead of just commerce.
Customers, in turn, will remember the effort that these organizations put forth during a challenging time, and make good on that memory when daily life returns to normal.
In these trying times, we know that it’s more important than ever to focus on CX best practices. That’s why we hosted a new webinar with a panel of CX experts, “Managing the Customer Experience in a Time of Crisis.” You can access it for free here!