When planning for 2020, businesses were looking ahead to prepare themselves for the impact that Brexit could have on their organisation: little did we know that something far more unpredictable was lurking.
In such a short time, companies vastly changed the way their teams work, creating new ways for customers to access services, constantly evolving and adapting around the latest scientific evidence and government guidance.
During the pandemic, Wrapped has been helping businesses develop their communications to ensure that they are staying relevant, honest and open with customers. Audiences have always preferred to buy from brands that they trust and that they know are reliable, ethical and forward thinking. Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on any brands that haven’t been able to demonstrate these traits.
Customers have questions. They want to know if they are still getting the holiday that they have paid for; if their building work will still be delivered; or if their internet connection is quick enough for a family to work from home and be home schooled at the same time. We are reassessing many of the services that we have taken for granted, as pressure points have shifted, finances are less certain and plans are unknown.
So, how do businesses maintain their customer service during a global pandemic? Here are five key takeaways:
Always be honest with customers
If you don’t know the answer, now is not the time to blag it. If waiting times for calls are longer, if you are unsure whether customers are going to get the service that they have paid for… TELL THEM. Be honest, be transparent: people will understand that these are difficult times, and, in general, are understanding and patient. Just keep customers in the loop and update them with any changes.
Email marketing is vital
Inform customers of any changes and updates over email, regularly. Give customers a choice of whether they want to receive Covid-19 updates and make it easy for people to opt out. A great example for me has been TUI, as we had a family holiday booked for September: we received a weekly update just reassuring us that we hadn’t been forgotten, but they had no answers yet. These regular, simple and effective touchpoints, even without answering our questions, still built trust in the brand and removed unnecessary stress.
Don’t jump on the bandwagon
Ensure your marketing still stands out. Too many businesses immediately started advertising the same messages, using stock imagery of clapping for the NHS, having Zoom calls freeze at inappropriate moments and people running around the park instead of being at the gym, etc.
Yes it was truthful, it was what was happening at the time – but every single company did the same. You would get to the end of an advert and have no idea who was behind it. It is imperative to keep sight of your proposition and key messages. By all means, tailor things to keep them topical and relevant, but stay authentic. Heineken and Apple did great examples of this, still playing with the theme of lockdown, but taking the time to make things humorous and relevant to their products.
Keep using the platforms that customers turn to, even if you don’t have the manpower to do it manually
As the furlough scheme came into effect, customer service phone lines and social media management started to take a backfoot, making it incredibly difficult for customers to get help. This is understandable, but there are ways of getting around it:
- Use the IVR system or voicemail on the phone to answer the FAQs that people are most likely ringing for.
- Add FAQ answers to the homepage of your website rather than hiding them in a Covid-19 policy in the deepest, darkest corner of your website menu.
- Post updates on social media, informing people that nobody is monitoring the comments, so you aren’t able to respond as you would have done beforehand.
- Make use of the automatic messaging on Facebook to manage expectations.
Remember the positive lessons we have gained from lockdown, and take them into your future strategies
Yes, it’s been stressful – but there are so many positive takeaways from this time where we have been forced to adapt so quickly. Companies are trusting employees with flexible working, building trust and motivation with teams that may not have been there before. We are focusing on mental health and wellbeing: we should all keep going with that. Businesses of all shapes and sizes have found new routes to market (local restaurants are now delivering, for example). Creativity has been rewarded, so let’s keep being creative, bold and courageous.