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Your Customer Relationships Must Outlast Coronavirus

The Covid-19 pandemic has obliged businesses to maintain and build relationships with consumers when their world has been Turned up-side Down. Businesses are now facing great stress between generating sales during a period of extreme economic hardship whilst respecting the threats to life and livelihood that have totally altered consumer priorities and preferences.

This tension is real, particularly for recent ventures or smaller business that provide Corex products and that may not have the resources to survive long periods of slow cash flow.

The Covid 19, also known as Coronavirus, has changed even large, more established Importing companies literally overnight. In March 16, 2020, many stores in the U.S. and Canada bustled with typical weekly activity. Just one day later, all of those stores came to a standstill for at least two weeks, as clients and employees were told to stay away due to the risk of spreading the coronavirus. This is the nature of business in the time of a pandemic.

What can smaller, newer and more vulnerable businesses do to consolidate their relationships with customers when social distancing has minimized or practically cancelled personal interaction?

Drawing on over 40 years of combined experience in business practice, Market research, and customer satisfaction, we have found that five key strategies aid companies overcome crises and preserve their consumers fidelity:
Humanize
– Make your company more Company Educate about change;
Assure stability;
Revolutionize offerings;
Tackle the future

These strategies are part of what we call the HEART framework of sustained crisis communication. It explains guidelines on what to say — and what NOT to say — to consumers during such difficult crises. It emphasizes how current and potential customers should be made aware of your company’s plan for supporting them and providing new value that they might require.

The HEART Framework: How it Works

We shall illustrate the components of our frameworks drawing on examples ranging from small Importing firms to large and well structured importers with strong distributing facilities.

Illustrate your company’s very Human approach

Ensure consumers know that your company understands the extreme social circumstances at play and cares more about the whole global situation than just simply look for more profit during this chaotic time. Empathize and spell out the steps you are taking to help your customers and their final on-line and wholesale distributors. Your company’s social media sites and customer mailing lists are ideal vehicles for doing this.

For example, many restaurants are re-deploying staff to deliver food, rather than laying them off. Restaurants are informing their customers they will reassign all front-of-house employees to make personalized deliveries, rather than outsourcing other delivery services.

As a virus prevention precaution that is a useful element of promotion, Corex is asking customers to keep a branded pen. This pen will help remind customers that Corex cared about both their financial status during a time of crisis, and reinforce commercial loyalty after the crisis ceases.

In communicating to your customer about what you can offer them, keep your message brief and classy. Although consumers certainly care about the “softer side” of your business, don’t overplay it. Ultimately customers will care most about the value you create for them. Also, expressing too much empathy could come across as insincere and blend into the soundscape of other companies saying the same things.

Educate consumers about how to interact with your company

Tell them about all changes to your operation, including new hours, facility closures, staff reductions, customer service availability, and ordering options, among others. While you can reference the emergency government regulations that necessitated these changes, it’s far better if you are viewed as being proactive and motivated by your customers’ best interests.

For instance, companies such as Lululemon and Apple knew that forced store closings were coming, and they closed their stores before the government ordered it. They reached out to their customer list to encourage online shopping, emphasizing their convenient return policies and responsive call services that could help customers with problems and questions.

Assure consumers the company’s values will continue

Elaborate how, despite the upheaval in how you operate, you will continue to provide the things they have come to know and love — the defining reasons they patronize your business instead of others. If consumers value the impeccable quality of your wares or the thoughtful nature of your customer service, tell them how will you maintain those value propositions.

For instance, Yoga8, a yoga studio in Waco, Texas, that prides itself on detailed, hands- on instruction, announced the conversion of its courses to online interactive and recorded meetings. Employees of Hans Wittler’s Automotive Service in Albuquerque, N.M., which prides itself on convenience and safety, now pick up vehicles for repair at customers’ homes and return them later.

Emphasizing these points of assurance is important in reminding customers/Importers that your company’s value proposition — your worth to them — helps remove the obstacles imposed by this crisis.

Emphasize what consumers value about your business

Sun Tzu, author of ‘The Art of War’, recognized that chaos presents opportunity for innovation. This sentiment has been confirmed many times through the ages. Besides Demonstrating to customers that your company’s existing value propositions will remain unchanged, tell them what innovationshave arisen from the ongoing pandemic — after all, necessity is the mother of invention.

Tell your existing customers how you are serving them by guaranteeing continuity and no radical changes. Reach out to potential customers by offering new products or services that solve a new problem.

For example, a hamburger chain decided to address shortages of bread in grocery stores by baking and selling bread loaves directly to their consumers. Some heavy liquor companies have decided to produce hand sanitizer from the alcohol they distill. These companies that take such measures, and let consumers know about them, will inject hope into their heartache, as they see how companies are developing ways to make their lives and services better. By doing so offers the added benefit of even further humanizing a company.

Tackle the future

Establish a timeline for when you will reevaluate the changes to your company’s operations. While you must comply with any government-imposed limits, do more if you can afford it. Show customers that you are willing to go beyond what you need to do for their benefit, particularly if your company can handle a slight financial burden.

Your company must demonstrate by going “above and beyond” in various ways, all of which point, precisely, to a silver lining of the pandemic experience. Make it obvious that your company is well-positioned to maintain its revised business model until things return to normal, signaling that it is ‘dealing’ with the storm.

Moreover, highlight what your company has learned from the pandemic experience, as well as how these learnings might improve the way your company operates after the pandemic ends. That is, signal that your company will come out stronger on the other side of the storm. The temporary improvements that satisfy customers now may become permanent improvements to your company’s business model in the future. This will inspire confidence.

The key here is to signal that your company is taking ownership of the situation, as much as possible, rather than allowing the situation to take ownership of your company and its valued customers.

With the right customer-centric attitude and an awareness of what people need right now, companies can emerge from this crisis having strengthened their relationships with customers. Give consumers your HEART during this difficult time. It will cultivate long-lasting goodwill with past customers and help ensure they will stay with you in the future.

Around 64,600 people in Germany are now infected with the corona virus (as of March 31, 2020). In view of the increasing number of corona cases, the federal government aims to slow the outbreak down. Here you can find out which measures you can take to protect yourself:

The three important protection tips:

1. You Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands. This is the best protection. If you can’t wash your hands, use a disinfectant gel.

2. Always Keep one to two meters away from people whom present flu symptoms.

3. Use Correct gestures: Sneeze into the crook of your arm or a disposable handkerchief, turning away from other people (then throw away the disposable handkerchief).

Original Article by Ted Waldron and James Wetherbe (Harvard Business Review: www.hbr.org).
English