In a recent survey by Edelman, customers in a dozen countries stated how they view and what they expect from their favorite brands during this time of social distancing, sheltering-in-place, and business shutdowns.
The respondents view companies as critical partners to governments, non-profit relief organizations, etc. because they feel the companies have the resources/relationships to help mobilize action.
- 86% view their favorite brands as an essential safety net, ready to step up to assist anyone not helped by a government’s response to the virus.
- 63% believe that their country will not make it through the COVID-19 crisis without brands playing a critical role.
- 55% perceive that brands are responding more quickly and effectively to the pandemic than their government is.
In a recent US Chamber of Commerce article, Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist, states, “Businesses that recognize that connectedness is ‘a human imperative’ and adapt accordingly, will strike a more resonant chord with consumers and stoke their loyalty long term.”
Here are 5 ways to remain connected to your customers and retain their loyalty.
Offer a helping hand
Many companies are offering tangible resources in an attempt to help slow down the infection rate and assist front-line healthcare workers.
Distilleries have switched gears to make hand sanitizer. Clothing manufacturers, designers, and sewing studios are coming together to produce hospital gowns. Eddie Bauer is shifting production to N95 and surgical masks. Bloom Energy, a fuel cell manufacturer, has stepped in and is refurbishing California’s supply of older ventilators. According to a recent press release, Oracle has “built and donated to the US government a COVID-19 Therapeutic Learning System that allows physicians and patients to record the effectiveness of promising COVID-19 drug therapies.”
One of the most critical ways employers can go above and beyond in terms of caring for both customers and their employees is to communicate effectively and often. Only 15% of consumers don’t want to hear from brands at this time, according to a 4A’s Research survey. The rest of consumers find it reassuring to hear from brands and want to know what they’re doing in response to the pandemic and if they’re donating goods and services.
For tips on how to improve customer communications, check out 4 Ways to Improve CX Through Communication.
It’s very easy to get stuck in a paradigm that business must be conducted face-to-face. But now is the time to get creative. 56% of consumers are pleased to hear about brands taking actions to help out communities, like making donations of goods and services, according to the same 4A’s survey.
Boutique workout studios and personal trainers are conducting virtual classes. They’re also creating videos to show their clients how to build their own workout area using everyday household objects. Local bookstores are offering virtual storytimes, a primary marketing tool before brick-and-mortar locations had to shut down. Popeyes gave a Netflix username and password to 100 customers that is active for a month if they tweet a picture of their “at-home fried chicken” with a specific hashtag. Movie studios and Broadway shows are pushing content to customers through several streaming services.
Working from home while watching children, taking care of patients or sick family members, or trying to make ends meet can be overwhelming. The answer isn’t to fully take off the burden, because that may just not be possible. But it is possible to help. As Mr. Rogers has said, “Real strength has to do with helping others.” So how about doing something (small or large or in-between) to help? For example, coloring has been shown to be therapeutic for stress and anxiety. Newscred, a marketing management software & content marketing services firm, sent their customers a printable book filled with coloring pages, sudokus, and crossword puzzles to reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Los Angeles Unified School District is providing free meals to ISD students and their families, holding fundraisers, and is working to provide childcare for essential workers. Chef José Andrés mobilized his charity, World Central Kitchen, and fed cruise ship passengers quarantined in an Oakland, CA port. He also transformed eight of his shuttered restaurants into community kitchens .
In a recent Time article, Patrick Strother, founder of Minneapolis-based communications firm SCG, states, “Brands are really going to be judged for a long time by how they behave through this.”
Coursera is offering 100 online courses for free through the end of May. Several credit card companies are allowing customers to skip payments with no interest or fees. In addition, many software companies are offering access to their cloud applications and providing new integrations to help people study, work, and stay in touch. According to a recent blog post, Oracle is “providing free access to our Workforce Health and Safety solution to current Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud customers until the pandemic is over.” Zoom has lifted the 40-minute restriction on its free accounts and has integrated it with a widely-used teaching portal so that teachers can access needed features free.
The goal is to make sure that your relationships with your customers outlast the current situation. With a little creativity, empathy, communication, and the offer of a helping hand, a company signals that it’s managing the situation and not the other way around. And that customer-centric attitude will likely be remembered for a long time to come.
For more online educational resources check out “Tech Tools and Apps for Families Educating from Home.”