More than ever now, customers want to deal with organisations they can trust. Given that the Covid-19 crisis has upended lives in so many ways, it has left customers vulnerable and to contend with issues from health and safety to supply chain efficiencies.
“Trust is the belief and confidence in the integrity, reliability and fairness of a person or organization…. an essential human value that quantifies and defines our interdependance in relationships with others.”
Trust yields from a self-schema that a customer evaluates organisational experiences with, and captures how the customer thinks, feels, and acts. This process translates into self-perceptions eg. pleasant, defensive and knowledge acquired from past experiences with the organisation.
Strategies that can help emotionally connect customers to brands and increases trust for an organisation include:-
· Care & connection first
· Reassure with empathy & communicate business challenges
· Educate about change & adapt proactively
· Innovate offerings
· Digitalise customer journey
Care & connection first
Reach out to customers by spelling out the steps you are taking. For example, Nike’s ‘Play for the world’ campaign showed their list of athlete endorsers staying active during the lockdown, in a powerful, emotional and inclusive video. It was promoted heavily across social media, availing it to one and all. As part of their out reach, Nike allowed the public to subscribe to the Nike Training Club app for free. This has enabled people to access workouts and training tips from home.
These type of give aways to customers are useful and memorable especially during a crisis in the short term. In the longer run, it contributes towards positive relationships and trust for organisations with their customers, that are bound to last beyond the crisis.
Reassure with empathy & communicate business challenges
With all of this uncertainty, it’s important to communicate with your customers with empathy and compassion – we are all in this together, with a tone that is relatable. Reassuring customers helps relieve some anxiety and help customers feel confident in their decisions with your brand.
Be open about your own setbacks and your ongoing capabilities during this disruption to your customers. Although customers care about your organisational challenges, don’t overplay it. Ultimately customers will care most about the value you create for them.
Educate about changes & adapt proactively
Inform your customers about all changes to your operation eg. new hours, facility closures, customer service availability. Highlight any temporary offerings you are promoting eg. extension to payment deadlines. Relay any updated company policy in detail eg. offering credits to be used for future use. Avoid overselling and under-delivering at all costs. Keep your message brief when you communicate to your customer about what you can offer. If customers value the quality of your products and services, tell them how you will maintain those value propositions. Provide solutions that will help your customers, and deliver on your promises consistently.
You can also anticipate occurrences of major lockdowns and better prepare your organisation and customers with. For example, Apple foresaw forced store closings. Stores were closed before the government ordered it. Apple proactively reached out to their customers to encourage online shopping. Customers were also informed of Apple’s convenient return policies and responsive call services if they had any problems and questions.
Re-engineer your solutions to consider your product’s most crucial benefits that become a value add to customer. For example, when employees were asked to avoid using public transportation in Shenzhen, a car company rolled out a “rent five days, get one free” offer. This allowed people to rent a weekday carpool for work and also use it on Saturdays to run personal errands. Yet with another example, in China quick-service restaurants and aggregator apps are now jumping onto the bandwagon to offer free delivery to capture a share in a demand shift – this followed after Meituan China’s premier food delivery service, successfully reported quadrupled delivery orders in early 2020.
Digitalise customer journey
Digital delivery with low-touch points has become a necessity for customers to make purchases and communicate with organisations. Companies which capitalised on this opportunity included China’s Ping An Bank. They deployed their “Do It At Home” digital functionalities which garnered more than eight million page views and about 12 million transactions within half a month.
Digital-led experiences will continue to grow by default under this pervasive Covid-19 climate, and even after the pandemic has been abated. Organisations that are responsive and innovative in their delivery model to help customers navigate the pandemic safely and effectively will establish a strong advantage for the future.
Trust is the cornerstone of a customer’s buying decision. It stems from deepening customer relationships through positive emotional connections all along their journey. By considering ways to improve trust levels with your customers through empathy, care, innovation and digitalisation, you are potentially positioned to develop even stronger and more trustworthy relationships that will endure beyond Covid-19’s passing.
· Diebner, R., Silliman, E., Ungerman, K. & Vancauwenberghe, M. (2020). Adapting customer experience in the time of coronavirus. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/adapting-customer-experience-in-the-time-of-coronavirus?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck&hlkid=3c5e0af088764d1c84cde696a84fd77f&hctky=9418904&hdpid=fc0c8d04-0366-4a5f-9e78-e3a1bd6d056d
· Pearson. (2020). Five of the best marketing campaigns during COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.pearson.com/uk/educators/fe-college-educators/btec-blog/2020/10/5-of-the-best-marketing-campaigns-during-covid-19.html
· Pipedrive. (2021). How to Reassure Customers during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.pipedrive.com/en/blog/reassure-customers-covid-19
· Waldron, T. & Wetherbe, J. (2020). Ensure that your customer relationships outlast coronavirus. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/04/ensure-that-your-customer-relationships-outlast-coronavirus