The effects of COVID-19’s spread across the globe have been wide-ranging and indiscriminate. Companies are losing revenue and filing for bankruptcy. Millions of people have lost their jobs while millions of others report for duty on the front lines in hospitals, grocery stores, and other essential businesses. Workers who can operate from home are now trying to find a balance between getting their work done and home-schooling children, caring for parents, feeding their families, and more.
In short, the COVID-19 pandemic has made us all vulnerable. As your agency or consultancy works to support customers during this historic time, you must respond to that vulnerability with authenticity in every interaction — from widespread marketing messages to one-to-one customer conversations.
Authenticity is a key component of a solid customer relationship, even when the parties involved aren’t dealing with a global crisis. A whopping 90% of consumers who responded to a Stackla survey reported that they value authenticity when choosing which brands to support. But in our current climate, being authentic may take different shapes than before.
To ensure your agency delivers authenticity across the board during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, start by implementing these four strategies:
- Operate with full transparency.
We’re all fighting the same battle, so there’s no need to pretend you’re moving forward with business as usual. Your customers don’t need that from you. According to a Kantar report, the majority of consumers expect brands to focus on providing education about what they’re doing in response to the crisis. Tell folks what changes you’ve made and reassure them that you’re there to offer support.
That goes for conversations on a personal level as well. Christine Alemany, CEO of branding and marketing firm TBGA, saw immediate benefits when she began to open up to employees and clients about becoming a caregiver for her parents.
“When I allowed myself to talk openly, it gave my clients and employees the safety to open up about what they were dealing with outside of work,” Alemany said. “Clients shared that they felt more important and valued because they were being kept in the loop.”
- Keep the lines of communication open.
The best way to give customers the chance to be open with you — and vice versa — is to make sure they have enough touchpoints to do so. Deliberately reach out more often than you might have six or even three months ago. Instead of sending an email or setting up a phone call once a month, try checking in biweekly. Even a brief email once a week asking how a customer is doing and how you can help shows them you care.
One benefit of open, authentic, and transparent communication is an increased opportunity for feedback. When you’re communicating on the regular, you can easily add a feedback solicitation to a message or call; take Slack’s request for feedback within a notification email, for example. Gathering feedback from your real customers can help you make decisions on whether you need to add or adjust your services; make changes to your website, app, or software; and much more.
- Anticipate and meet your customers’ new needs.
Finally, show your customers that you’re acting with authenticity by meeting their actual needs rather than delivering the same things you’ve offered all along. In addition to any feedback you collect on a 1-to-1 basis, take a look through your social media mentions to see what your customers are discussing. The same Kantar study I mentioned earlier showed a 61% spike in engagement on social; with everyone spending more time at home during the pandemic, there’s a good chance some of your customers fall into that category.
Use what you’ve learned to anticipate what your customers need before they tell you they need it — perhaps even before they know they need it. Other organizations are already doing the same: A company that rents cars in China announced a new plan to let people keep rental cars for an extra day so they could safely get supplies when mass transit was discouraged, and fast-food chain Fuddruckers baked and sold bread when customers were having trouble finding loaves in grocery stores. You have the power to take similar actions and adjust your offerings to show clients that you’re serious when you say you want to support them.
Amid the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, operating with authenticity can position your agency as a welcome bright spot for your customers. Communicate transparently and often, encourage honest feedback, and meet people’s needs, and you’ll find your customer relationships are stronger than ever.
Written by Rhett Power. Have you read? Moldova CIP: Moldova Citizenship By Investment Program, Turkey CIP: Turkey Citizenship By Investment Program, Portugal Golden Visa Program, Dominica Citizenship by Investment Programme