Our reality became immensely uncertain due to the COVID - 19 virus and its consequences. We are confronted with an invisible enemy that has an impact on everything around us. Our social and business activities are in a standstill, and each one of us has to adopt different habits.
We don’t have a choice.
In this article, we discuss the importance of customer-centric strategy and the main guiding points to help you navigate this crisis.
The “new normal”?
Considering the unpredictability this crisis brings, we all experience a wide array of emotions. The primary needs, like food, shelter and care for our health and safety, drive our actions now. Our mood and feelings reflect on our buying habits. (Does anyone actually know why people start hoarding toilet paper in times of crises?). The perception of value and price is changed.
We think in a new way.
We shop in a new way.
Working from home, video meetings, virtual workshops and online education have become the way we communicate and collaborate. We switched to online shopping and take-out or delivery. Our new reality is powered by virtual connections.
The current world is not only new, but it is also very unclear how, when and how fast it will further evolve. In this new and dynamic reality, businesses can either start panicking or take a deep breath and think about how to take action in order to survive and even become stronger. Think about your customers. How should they fit into your strategy?
Our recommendation is to focus on three guiding points that will help you understand your customer's needs and give you a far better chance to recover faster and position your brand as a trustworthy business:
- Maintain your focus on your customers
- Understand how their emotions are driving their behaviours (now and in the future)
- Bring that insight into life within the organisation
Build meaningful customer relationships today for a thriving business tomorrow
As much as businesses might turn to short term solutions just to keep functioning, we highly recommend steering away from that kind of approach. Even before the COVID -19 crisis, we were strong advocates of the importance of long-term customer relationships based on trust and confidence.
It’s inevitable that many companies and organisations will see a decline in their numbers, traffic and revenue. However, pushing people to make the purchase now, will just counteract the trust with your customers.
Instead, take the opportunity to listen to your customers and act upon what they say, feel, need and do. These are some of the actions you can take now:
- Ask questions to understand your customers during this situation and find a way to bring value to their lives
- Get busy with finding the right solution to ease the worries and needs of your customers
- Shape your service/product to fit their current needs and experience
- Take time to reflect and do a deep introspection of your organisation and products/services
- Analyse your online funnels and see how you can tackle the customer journey better
- Evaluate information from your digital data and CRM systems to find out deviations and change of patterns
Emotions drive behaviour
Thanks to various data sources, brands are able to detect and understand changes in customer behaviours. This is already very useful for companies. But it gets really interesting when you can understand where this behaviour comes from. By combining this behavioural data with data on attitudes, intent and motivations, you'll get a coherent understanding on why your customers are behaving the way they are, and how they might behave in the future. Insights from data analytics will lead to better business performance in the future when taking into account not only customer behavioural data (the ‘what’) but also:
- The ‘who’: Who is your customer? How is he affected by the crisis? Is he/she risk-averse? Is he/she worried?
- The ‘why’: Why do they buy more or less of your product? What are his/her needs and motivations?
The last mile
Once you’ve taken into account the customer’s data and understand their behaviour and needs, it’s critical you put these insights into action accordingly. This third step doesn’t come overnight, as it’s a dedicated process that needs to be embedded in the entire organisation, starting from the CEO to the intern.
A good way to start to prioritise customers is to introduce the Chief Customer Officer role to your organisation. They will be responsible for understanding your customers to stimulate customer-driven growth. CCO's are going to become an in-demand profession, as they will be vital in bringing the importance of human experience into the spotlight of every business.
The difference between companies that are customer-centric, and the ones that are purely focused on their profit, becomes even more visible, especially in chaotic times like these. The brands that just seem to “get it right”, get it right mostly because they are listening to what people need and focusing on delivering that experience and service to them. LinkedIn and Adobe are making some of their courses available for free. Vicks donated $1 million to Direct Relief. LVHM, the luxury brand that owns brands like Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Fendi is manufacturing hand sanitizer and delivering it to health officials in France. Love Your Melon has leveraged its domestic manufacturing network to create 50,000 machine washable and reusable face masks. Mark Cuban announced that any of his employees will be reimbursed for any lunch and coffee purchases from local, independent small businesses which is a great way to support the community and small businesses.
Take a cue from these brands, and rest assured your customers will appreciate the effort and show gratitude long after this storm is over.
Let your customers be the compass
It's OK to feel anxious about our future and the economic meltdown. Just like in our personal lives, on a professional scale, we are also perplexed with many questions to which we don’t have answers yet. No one can predict how long it will take for us to get back to some form of normal.
Yet, this is also the opportunity to take the time, act respectively and think of the ways how you can add value to the world. This crisis should remind us what truly matters in business: the understanding of what your customers need and want and offering them the right solution. If you closely listen and follow their lead, they will help you navigate through the precarious landscape of the world in the time and after COVID - 19.
Your customers can guide you as a compass to help you find the right direction in the unknown territory.
The same way as we physically move around when we are trying to find our way in an unknown place, we should also shift where our customers want to go. Test different peripheries, be flexible and endorse altered products, offers and messages. Adaptability has always been a significant human skill. But we can only adapt successfully if we stand together and listen to each other.
Start with your customers.