It was a rough day – you lost something, or someone. It happens to the best of us. Losing precious customers usually means you wronged or offended them, or didn’t meet their needs and expectations. But the top reason for lost business right now is that the consumer landscape changed in ways beyond human control, the so-called Black Swan Event of COVID-19.
Most businesses worldwide were dealt setbacks, ranging from heavy to existential – providers of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and video chat hosting notwithstanding.
But you know that already, and so do customers. It’s been 3 long months (13 weeks and 147.1 hours of Zoom calls, but who’s counting?). People are walking the streets again, hopefully 6 feet apart and masked.
You need a game plan to make sure when they stop at a door, it’s yours. Win them back by staying in tune with changing wants, needs and expectations, and acting on them. Right now, safety is the key word.
The game plan:
Adapting new measures to ensure safety
The obvious first step is to update and maintain stringent health and safety standards as outlined by the CDC and expert public health officials, linked here.
Notify customers about your changes and help them interact as safely as possible. That means communicating across every channel you can, including email, social feeds, and your company website. Make sure it’s linked in a place that’s easy to access.
For a prime example, Disney Parks have taken extra precautions as they reopen their gates in phases, which you can read about here. Take note of how they present the information to be as complete and thoughtful as possible, without being overbearing. It’s simple and direct, but it keeps their brand in mind, too.
Many businesses will need to make some operational changes on the ground to encourage safe interaction. For example, restaurants by and large are offering takeout services in lieu of standard dining. Those still seating tables have far fewer of them, with plenty of space in between and constant cleanings.
Costco retail stores won’t even permit members without a mask, and only one per card. Some stores are even providing on-site masks and sanitizing stations at the door. Little considerations will go a long way to making a lasting impression with customers, or at minimum, not tarnishing the one you already have.
Moving forward after missteps
When you make a mistake, make it right. There hasn’t been much mercy for businesses that embraced the dark side of the pandemic. People are already wary of companies not treating the situation as abnormal, for instance, Vrbo. The vacation rental company’s renters widely refused to refund payments made before travel restrictions were enforced. The cost of not scrambling to correct mistakes could be a death sentence for your brand, especially smaller businesses with less capital to burn.
Even brands with cash to spare are being forced to close scores of physical locations. Just look at some of the retail giants that have already fallen – Pier 1, Macy’s, Office Depot to name a few.
On the flip side, hitting these notes right can pay dividends. In direct contrast with Vrbo, Delta flights scheduled before travel restrictions were enforced have been refunded, and would-be passengers were even given extra miles for their trouble.
Some businesses have had to take it even further. Accommodations such as extensions or outright forgiveness have been granted for all sorts of major payments – rent, loans, even enterprise-level services have had to cut their clients slack just to keep them onboard. But it may be a small price to pay in the long run, when the benefit is creating brand evangelists.
Worthix team member, Adrienne Brown knows this from her personal experience with Planet Fitness. She joined shortly before the pandemic and hadn’t been a member long, but she was impressed with their swift response, which included:
- Suspension of all membership fees
- Production of daily workout videos, including streaming on social media and video archives on YouTube
- Communicating consistently via email about their digital resources and how they were handling COVID
All of this caused me to become somewhat endeared to the company. I was so impressed with their efforts to stay connected with me as a member and offer resources that once they reopened, I was excited to return. I could have just cancelled my membership, without penalty. But, that experience caused me to want to remain a member. While they didn’t have to ‘win me back’, they definitely maintained me and created a brand loyalist.-Adrienne
Tools to track changing expectations
We can’t predict the future, but you know what we can do? We can make sense of what’s going on right now. Customers’ wants and needs are changing constantly, and you have to change just as fast to keep up with them.
The problem is, traditional tools and metrics that track expectations are just not fast enough. Whether they’re paper or digital, just the process of drafting a survey – concept, proofing, production, and finally delivery – takes a long time. By the time that survey gets to customers, it can be irrelevant. The market has grown too fast.
What’s worse, that effort then has to be duplicated for every survey that needs to be sent out for say, different products and services within the same brand.
There’s a way to track customer expectations that’s not only fast enough to match the speed of change, it can pick up new insights without being updated for months on end. It’s called the Worth Index, or Worthix.
Worthix is a surveying methodology that uses A.I. to dialogue with customers. It modulates questions automatically to bring out what customers really want to talk about, and uses a weighted value system to determine what factors will cause them to stay with your brand, or leave it for good.
That’s what we do – we help brands stay on top of changes in their markets to keep customers coming back. In fact, the index was tracking concern over COVID-19 across various markets in multiple industries as early as February 7th, without any need to change its methodology. That’s what makes it such a powerful tool in the race to keep up with change – it’s a predictive technology that really listens to and understands your customers like no other.
Junior Marketing Analyst with a passion for Market and Workplace Psychology, Gaming, and Strategic Analysis.