I am not sure I can say with confidence that we are adjusting to the situation we find ourselves in, however, it has given me time to think and faithfully look forward. Juinpero Serra, founder of the California Mission system (now St. Serra) said: “Always look forward, never look back.” Perhaps this is a message we can all collectively hold on to. With that said, I am committed to looking forward and helping others do the same. I want to remind you we are here for you and ready to help.
I recently read an article recommended by one of my employees (Fran Murillo), from Harvard Business Review. The article is entitled, “Ensure That Your Customer Relationships Outlast Coronavirus.” I would like to share some highlights with you. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced our businesses to maintain and build relationships with consumers when their world has been upended. Businesses are now facing tension between generating sales during a period of extreme economic hardship and respecting the threats to life and livelihood that have altered consumer priorities and preferences.
(Excerpts from the article)
This tension is very real, particularly for newer ventures or smaller businesses that provide discretionary products and may not have the resources to survive long periods of severely diminished cash flow. So, what can smaller, newer, more vulnerable businesses do to strengthen relationships with consumers when social distancing has minimized or eliminated personal interaction?
“Harvard Business Review writers, drawing on nearly 70 years of combined experience in business practice, research, and education, have found that five key strategies help companies weather crises and preserve their bonds with consumers:
Humanize your company
Educate about change
Tackle the future
These strategies are part of what they call the HEART framework of sustained crisis communication. It provides guidelines on what to say — and what not to say — to consumers during a sustained crisis. It emphasizes making current and potential customers aware of your company’s plan for supporting them and providing new value that they might require.
Humanize your company.
Let consumers know that your company understands the dire social circumstances at play and cares about more than simply reaping profit during this difficult time. Empathize with those affected by Covid-19, and spell out the steps you are taking to help customers, employees, and other stakeholders. Your company’s social media sites and customer mailing lists are ideal vehicles for doing this.
Educate consumers about how to interact with your company.
Tell them about all changes to your operation, including new hours, facility closures, staff reductions, customer service availability, and ordering options, among others. While you can reference the emergency government regulations that necessitated these changes, it’s far better if you are viewed as being proactive and motivated by your customers’ best interests.
Assure consumers the company’s values will continue.
Elaborate how, despite the upheaval in how you operate, you will continue to provide the things they have come to know and love — the defining reasons they patronize your business instead of others. If consumers value the impeccable quality of your wares or the thoughtful nature of your customer service, tell them how you will maintain those value propositions.
Revolutionize what consumers value about your business.
Sun Tzu, who penned The Art of War, recognized that chaos presents opportunity for innovation. This sentiment has reverberated through the ages. Beyond assuring customers that your company’s existing value propositions will remain the same, tell them what innovations have arisen from dealing with the ongoing pandemic — after all, necessity is the mother of invention.
Tackle the future.
Establish a timeline for when you will reevaluate the changes to your company’s operations. While you must comply with any government-imposed limits, do more if you can afford it. Show customers that you are willing to go beyond what you need to do for their benefit, particularly if your company can handle the financial burden.If you would like a copy of the full article, go to our Blog on your website or you can email me and I will gladly share it with you. In the words of Albert Einstein; “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”
Ensure That Your Customer Relationships Outlast Coronavirus