These are very tough times for all of us. The spread of Covid-19 has caught us off guard leaving global businesses unprepared to handle the impact of it. Whether you are a big brand or an online eCommerce business or a local business serving customers in person, the outbreak would have affected your organization. In a survey of eCommerce companies, the majority of companies were negatively impacted by the disruptions caused by the pandemic while very few were able to tap into changed demand.
Below are a few ways to stay relevant to your customers and prepare for a comeback as we wait for the storm to pass.
1. Identify possible changes to customer needs: Your customers priorities may have changed suddenly in this environment. Mass gatherings and outside movement may have been severely restricted due to government orders. Think about how you might support people who are quarantined? Can your company offer solutions to keep people healthy, fed, safe and entertained if they have limited mobility for short or extended periods of time? Also think about different customer segments – are your customers elderly who are at higher risk and lower technology users? Are your customers young adults whose consumption of your products may increase?
Evaluate in the context of your business what are the new customer needs by using the data collected from your websites, products, customer service requests, social media and other customer touchpoints and how the demand for your product will change in the new environment.
2. Identify areas of largest impact: Your supply chain may have been severely affected by the restrictions. Some of our customers saw delays for air shipments with flight closures but sea shipments were on track. Factory closures in certain regions of the world caused shortage of inventories. Closure home, customers not willing to venture out caused a drop in footfall. Your employees may need time off or you may get limited support. The delivery systems could be disrupted and you can no longer get the product to your customers. Or maybe the overall demand tapered off and now you are left with inventory to hold. Your customers may also have concerns about from where the products are sourced and associated risks.
Start with what you know today – how are my customers affected and what can we do to serve them. Map out best case and worst case scenarios to identify various possibilities the company needs to address such as
- Can you can leverage technology to provide your services online? In lieu of government restrictions, fitness classes are being broadcast using Facebook live. Conferences have completely moved to virtual mode even giving the attendees an opportunity to virtually network with each other.
- Can you implement home deliveries and drive through rather than in person transactions? This may require some investment for enabling digital transactions but it may become the norm in long term.
- Think about the goods and services people will still need and what your business can do to increase or ensure ongoing supply such as sourcing locally or limiting the number of products a customer could purchase to prevent hoarding.
- Consider the impact of high demand, especially if you have an online product. How will you ensure the availability and scalability with large no of concurrent users.
Bring together your cross functional teams from front line sales to customer service to supply chain and marketing teams to see how your company could address the key pain points for the customers.
3. Proactively communicate with customers: If you are waiting for your customers to reach out to you with specific questions, you are already too late. It is important to proactively communicate with customers via emails/ sms, notifications on the website, on your social media handles etc. Address the questions the customers would like answered and craft your outreach accordingly.
- Think about how you would like to handle situations of orders delayed or can be no longer fulfilled, cancelled events or appointments, or a project which cannot be completed on time. The response could range from full refund to credit for future order or other options which make sense to the customer.
- Think about alternate products or services that you could offer to your customers like free deliveries, free online consultations, product bundles, service timings availability etc which are relevant to their current priorities. For e.g. Zoom is offering free software to schools to enable them to continue classes remotely.
It is important to prep your customer service teams with FAQs of key customer questions ranging from policies to information about product safety and steps the business is taking for the safety of their customers and employees alike.
Evaluate all other touchpoints with the customers, whether it is the marketing campaign that you had planned months in advance or a big launch of a new product. If the priority and tone of communication does not matches with the customer mindset, postpone what you can and make appropriate modifications to the marketing communications.
4. Keep your ear to the ground: Situations such as these are unprecedented and could also change very rapidly. It is important to listen to the larger consumer sentiment and specifically sentiment of your customers around your brand.
Use voice of customer analysis platforms: Use sentiment analysis tools like Bewgle for identifying and summarizing conversations around virus, disruptions and customer lifestyles. It is important important customer needs and priorities.
Survey frequently: Communicate and seek feedback from your customers at critical intervals to be aligned to their changing needs. This will enable you to be ahead of the curve and ready to serve your customer’s new needs.
Monitor competitors: Using competitive analysis tools like bewgle, monitor how your competitors are responding to the crisis, though do not make this your benchmark. Your goal is to create the best experience you could offer in line with your company philosophy and means.
Also plan for the case when the situation goes back to normalcy and what does your business need to do to support increased or reduced demand at that point of time.
5. Keep your employees engaged: Your team is frontline army in this situation. Keeping them safe, healthy and in good moral spirits is also important. Consider changes you can make in your current operations to ensure safety and well being while continue to be engaged with the organization. If your business requires physical presence, maybe reducing shifts or reducing the no of services offered would help take employees time off on rotation. For businesses with operations which can be done virtually, allowing them to work from home, postponing non-critical projects and providing learning and development courses to keep them productive and upskilled will help them be engaged with But do have realistic expectations of how much work should be done from home.
Keep in mind our opportunity to excel (or fail) for customers is greatest in instances when emotion and needs are running high versus in regular periods when everything is going as expected.
We are here to support you in your response to the current crisis. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for limited time free feedback analytics software to keep your business relevant in these challenging times.