Staying in touch with what customers and employees are saying about their experiences with brands has never been more important than now. The pandemic and need for social distance is having a dramatic impact on customer sentiment and what people expect from the brands they interact with.
In normal circumstances, consumers have a wide range of needs that businesses and service providers aim to meet. In the current world of doubt and uncertainty, according to recent research we’ve recently conducted by monitoring customer COVID-19 feedback, these needs have become focused around safety, belonging and control.
This is playing out as customers expecting more protection, support and the continuation of services that they rely on. They are also seeking reassurance that they still have some control over their own lives.
Supporting brands that protect them
Customers are showing higher sensitivity to and awareness of what businesses are doing to protect them against exposure to the virus. Visible signs of protection are important e.g. the smell of disinfectant or the presence of sanitisers, and friendly staff welcoming customers with sanitizers, whilst wearing protective clothing.
As consumers are now more isolated, they have an increased need to connect and communicate, and are demanding efficiency, speed and information more than ever. Businesses which meet these needs, and exceed their customers’ expectations, will stand out and create strong bonds of loyalty.
Consumers are relying more heavily on electronic communication and need innovative ways to help them to continue to conduct business at home. Helping them to connect with friends and family will be key for businesses. Telecommunications companies are, more than ever, expected to be efficient, address issues and faults very quickly and communicate on progress very frequently. Any delays or queues have become an even bigger challenge than normal.
They want greater control and a sense of belonging
Customers are expecting more from services that connect consumers to the outside world (without fear of contamination) or provide the ability to do business (personal or otherwise) from home e.g. online banking. When consumers do need to venture out, they need respect and acceptance. Employees need to be encouraged to be friendly and take an interest in the people they engage. Any rudeness or aloofness is interpreted as disrespect or fear.
Communication in all its forms needs to be as effective as possible, in particular electronic communication, call centres and help lines. These need to be manned by the best and well-trained agents. Queues and non-responsiveness must be minimised as much as possible. Instead brands should consider over-communicating in simple, clear language.
Companies affected by government mandated (or personal) changes of plans e.g. bookings, cancellations, refunds, subscriptions need to ensure their customer support is flawless, as customers want to feel that they still have some level of control over their lives and plans they have made. Companies that don’t already should implement policies to govern this and ensure their support teams are well informed, trained and empathetic.
Offering alternative services or creative ways to help consumers carry on with their lives e.g. ways to bank from home, exercise tips etc, can help to create a new customer experience and ensure customers retain affinity with brands.
Employee sentiment and feedback
Employees are experiencing heightened levels of fear and uncertainty and this also needs to be addressed. They feel a lack of control over their own lives, are concerned about being forced to take leave, and are scared of the impact that the lockdown will have on their job security or financial status e.g. no/limited salary increases. People are also watching their employers carefully to see how they are treated during these times, making the voice-of-the-employee more paramount than ever.
In a global crisis, there will be winners and losers. Companies that have their ear to the ground, carefully listening to and proactively responding to the voice of their customers and employees, and who are agile and execute decisively, will be the winners in this new world.