Truth in Crisis: How COVID-19 Shines a Light on Both Good and Bad Examples of Customer Loyalty
Customer Loyalty is the bread and butter of good business. Returning customers cost less to market to, buy more often, and spend more when they buy. Repeat customers are far from guaranteed, however, even if your product or service is top-notch. Customer loyalty will always take an active effort by brands to foster and maintain it, but COVID-19 has shined a light on a few mistakes that can be made with the best intentions, as well as some of the better strategies for earning and maintaining the loyalty of even the most discerning customers.
New Loyalty Measures in June 2020
As many industry leaders are demonstrating, now is the time to ramp up rather than slack on loyalty programs. From AT&T to Costco, big corporations around the world are making sure to innovate, incentivize, and offer social distancing services and safety measures while preparing for the upcoming rush when restrictions can be safely lifted.
Companies like Costco, Lowe’s and Six Flags have announced new ways to keep you safe while they operate. Six Flags announced several new safety measures looking ahead to their park reopening plan. Their plan includes online reservations, staggered arrival times, and attendance management. Meanwhile, Lowe’s has launched their virtual tool for home visits. Now Lowe’s professionals can make diagnostic visits without entering your home through their new service called “Lowe’s for Pros JobSight.” Costco even has some plans in the works to bring back one of their customer-favorite services: free samples. They’re taking all measures possible to ensure that this service can be offered safely while still allowing customers to sample different products while they browse.
Sephora is unveiling changes to their popular Beauty Insider program that should make their customers pretty happy. One major addition to the program is Beauty Insider Cash. This new addition will allow customers to convert their points into direct cash savings at checkout both online and in-store. 500 points will give you an instant savings of $10 off. Other rewards like new birthday samples, free shipping options, and early access to new products should have loyal Sephora Beauty Insiders excited. AT&T announced a partnership with Salesforce to accelerate its customer experience vision.
Lack of Communication
One way to quickly lose the business of customers is to fail to keep them in the loop. It’s no surprise, perhaps, that customers aren’t going to be able to easily purchase your products or services if they don’t even know whether or not you’re still offering them. Likewise, if you aren’t able to continue your operations, or weren’t able to at any point during this crisis, that shouldn’t be something your customers had to find out on their own. Furthermore, keeping in touch with your customers demonstrates that you value them and their time. And, if your communication is interactive, such as through social media or active customer service, it also demonstrates that you value their opinions. One of the best and simplest ways to ensure that your customers know you’re still up and running is to keep them in the loop, and one of the best ways to ensure that your customers are there when you’re back up and running is, again, keeping them apprised of everything. Let them know about your safety measures and policies, about the ramp-up process, be upfront about delays and any other problems.
We’ve all seen bad examples of this, companies that offer no information about what they’re doing during not just COVID-19, but at all times. And you know that those aren’t companies you want to deal with unless you have to; unresponsive on social media or through support, no updates about if they’re closed, what changes they’ve made, or when they’ll be open. But we’ve all also seen the good examples as well, companies that are proactive about keeping their customers informed and up to date, and thereby actively holding onto our business, while others might be losing it forever.
Not Taking Safety Seriously/Failure to Adapt
The behavioral changes and safety measures that COVID-19 has demanded have been a pretty big adjustment for many. Outside of the straight-forward monetary cost of safety equipment, potential temporary drop-offs in customer numbers, and operational changes, there’s also an adjustment cost, the less-obvious growing pains that can be felt by people who have done things a certain way for a long time and now are forced to change. But safety should always be a primary concern for businesses and brands. You should always demonstrate to customers that you are doing whatever you can to minimize their risks, whatever they might be. Companies that fail to do so are not only jeopardizing their customers but also showcasing that they don’t put your safety first.
Failure to Adapt can also negatively impact your relationship with customers in other ways. Many of those companies that didn’t keep their customers up to date and in the loop did so not intentionally, but because they were unable to adjust to a remote workflow. Many of these businesses simply weren’t able to devise a way to keep people working from home, including customer service and public relations positions.
Either way, we’ve all seen companies that have had to shut their doors because of failure to change. Whether people weren’t satisfied with their safety measures, or the companies themselves were unable to continue operations in-full or in part either through safety measure compliance or remote workflow, failure to adapt has taken its toll.
Failure to Incentivize
Times are tough. Unemployment is at an all-time high. People are scared. Earning business in a time like this, for a lot of companies, is more difficult than it has ever been. If you want to keep the customers that you still have, you need to go the extra mile in terms of customer loyalty. Examples of companies failing to do this can be a bit more difficult to see if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
But think about the companies that get it right, those that give you discounts if there are shipping delays, for example, versus those that simply say it isn’t their fault. That might be true, but it misses an opportunity to incentivize customers to come back to your business. Why go for the business that isn’t going to bat for you when their competitor shows that they understand your frustrations even though they’re facing their own?
Rewarding, showing appreciation for, and incentivizing customers has always been a huge part of customer loyalty, but now the stakes are even higher. In these times, even sending out a few bucks on a virtual Visa® egift card can make a huge difference.
Holding onto customers during, through, and after a global pandemic is no easy task. We might not have noticed the companies that failed to incentivize, but we’re certain to take notice of the ones that do.