The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t just resulted in changing consumer behaviors and a new economic environment. It has also pressured businesses to question how they interact with customers and respond to their needs.
Customer retention in normal times was always a primary focus for businesses. However, in this new normal, it’s more important than ever for businesses to figure out how they can position customers at the heart of both their marketing strategy and their business model.
Adapting Your Customer Retention Strategy
With fewer chances to personally interact with your customer base, you may wonder how you can possibly maintain your relationship with them and continue to build their confidence in your brand. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to innovate and improve during these uncertain times.
Below, we describe the most important areas you should be focusing on when it comes to navigating the realm of customer retention in this new and unfamiliar business environment.
Build Relationships Using the HEART Framework
The Harvard Business Review offers guidelines for building relationships with consumers during a crisis through its HEART framework of communication. These guidelines call for business owners to
• Humanize their companies
• Educate customers about changes in their operations
• Assure stability to inspire consumer confidence
• Revolutionize their offerings by adapting to the new environment
• Tackle the future by determining a timeline for reevaluating and updating changes as needed
Above all, the HEART framework emphasizes the need to reach out to customers not with new marketing efforts but with information and support, providing them with much-needed value and building relationships in the process.
Make Targeted Changes to Customer Experience
Chances are your customer experience has been dramatically altered over the course of the pandemic, for better or for worse. You may have had to make spur-of-the-moment decisions regarding how customers interact with your business and receive your products and services without fully thinking through how these changes would affect customers’ overall impression of your company.
Now is the time to take stock of changes that have already been made and those that still need to be made in the face of long-term shifts in consumer behaviors. Throughout this decision-making process, focus on meeting customers where they are through innovations in online interactions and expanded home delivery options or contactless operations.
One of the easiest ways to assess customer feedback is through surveys. You can gather a significant amount of information with questions as simple as:
• How likely are you to recommend our service?
• What did you like about our services?
Additionally, now is an excellent time to survey your customers about their feelings regarding the reopening of your business. Find out where their concerns lie. Are they interested in seeing your staff wearing masks? Do they expect to see hand sanitizer at multiple locations within your store? Are they anticipating special business hours for seniors or those compromised immune systems?
At this critical time, it’s also important to listen to employees who have the closest interaction with customers, as they’ll have particularly valuable insight into how changes are being implemented and received.
Understand What’s Most Important to Customers
Customers’ priorities are changing—fast. Since the pandemic has altered their lives seemingly overnight, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that what they’re looking for in brands has changed significantly as well.
In order to gain a better understanding of how these changes have impacted consumers’ trust in brands, a recent survey reached out to more than a thousand consumers in the U.S. to learn more about these new priorities.
The results showed that this crisis has led consumers to take on a more community-focused mindset. Consumers are most concerned with how brands are making the well-being of their employees and customers their focus, rather than taking advantage of the situation to maximize profits.
In other words, consumers aren’t looking for empty words of hope and optimism. What they want is for brands to demonstrate more concrete support for their customers and employees—not their bottom line.
These factors are likely to have an impact on customer loyalty and brand reputation for as long as the pandemic is an influential part of Americans’ lives, and should thus be a major consideration as you make changes to your business going forward.