The coronavirus represents not just a public health crisis, but an economic crisis.
The impact on businesses cannot be overstated. Many have already closed their doors. The majority of those still trading are having to fundamentally change their business models.
But the most unsettling thing about all this is that no one knows how long it will last, or indeed, what comes next. We seem to have arrived at a moment when the past is no longer a reliable guide to the future. When ‘all that is solid melts into air’, as Karl Marx once put it.
Many businesses won’t be around when this is finally over. Whole industries will cease to exist.
Take cruise lines. The recent publicity couldn’t have been more devastating. Their reputation has gone from floating pleasure palaces to virus plagued hulks that trap their passengers at sea. With little prospect of government support, the industry is almost certainly doomed.
Numerous other businesses will suffer a similar trust deficit, albeit far less severe. Business models that rely on people congregating – as most do – will remain unprofitable for some time. Even as things return to normal, people can’t be expected to behave as they always did.
From a customer experience (CX) perspective, everything has changed.
Letting go of the past and planning for something new
We are entering a brave new world for business. To succeed, you will need to let go of the past.
You will also need to plan for a radically altered future.
Initially, your focus should be on reformulating your business model. Firstly, to find a way to continue trading while we remain locked down. Beyond this, to plan for the time when restrictions ease.
Empathising with your customers
Empathy is central to great CX. This has never been more true than it is today.
Empathising with your customers involves understanding their point of view and what they are experiencing or feeling. Then taking this into account in your decision making and communications.
It also involves listening to your customers. Hearing what they have to say and responding. Ensuring that they feel like they are being listened to.
Right now, many of us are experiencing disbelief. Some are feeling panic and fear. Others despair, or even grief. Not to mention boredom and loneliness. People have lost jobs and are struggling to save businesses.
Keep this in mind in your communications. Think about what people want to hear from you at a time like this.
Don’t stop communicating
There is a tendency for companies to turn inward during a crisis. This is exactly the wrong approach.
Remember – empathy.
Customers who have a positive opinion of your brand will want to hear from you.
Now is not the time for a hard sell, but if you’re still trading, people will want to know how to get your products.
Be authentic. Heartfelt communication is the key. Acknowledge the crisis and tell people how you will get through it. Let them know you’re mindful of what they’re going through.
Refine your CX strategy
You will need to refine your CX strategy to cater for a new reality.
Invariably, customer touch points will change. Staff will be dealing with customers through new channels, using unfamiliar technologies. They need to be trained for this. Remember that nine out of ten people report leaving a brand for a competitor after just one bad experience.
It’s also worth remembering that it is emotion that fundamentally drives behaviour.
At a time of great upheaval, when emotions are heightened, any misstep in your communications or customer interactions will see you judged harshly. On the other hand, get it right and you will reap the reward of a loyal customer base. Still the most valuable asset for any business, no matter what the future holds.
Get Help from nlighten!
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View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: Customer experience in a chaotic world
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