How Companies Can Be Mindful of their Customers’ Struggles During COVID-19
Despite the vaccine roll-out and a potential end of the pandemic on the horizon, cases continue to rise. So after a long year of struggling with this pandemic, but a hopeful end in sight, it is more crucial now than ever to be sensitive to the struggles of your customers. Proving your brand to be sympathetic and understanding during this time can earn you lifelong loyal customers. Sympathy during these times can take many forms, from rewarding loyal customers in a valued, meaningful, and memorable way, to bringing efficiency, friendliness, and helpfulness to all customer interaction.
Reenergizing Customer Interaction
Just as customers have been impacted by COVID-19, so too have the brands that rely on them. Almost every industry has been hit hard by this pandemic, and business can be stressful even without the added stresses and worries that COVID brings. Some brands might see the need to tighten belts as a reason to divest from things like customer service when really the opposite is true. Customers are up against a lot, and trying to successfully engage with large organizations can seem daunting to impossible when they are consistently met with understaffed customer service teams. These are teams that are working remotely and who are bogged down with large backlogs of customer complaints. It’s no surprise that customers don’t want to be bounced around between remote reps until they find one with the tools and authority to help them, all the while waiting on hold, staring at an unchanging chat session, or wondering if their emails/support tickets simply got lost. For one-third of consumers, a single bad interaction is all it takes for them to consider switching companies altogether, and over half of consumers have followed through and switched brands for good after following a bad experience. The fact is, companies are losing $62 billion every single year because of poor customer service, and in these tough times that represents a cost companies can no longer afford to pay.
78% of customers have simply bailed on a transaction or planned purchase because of a poor service experience. And when it comes to weighing the variables of a purchasing decision, 64% of individuals report that customer interaction is even more important than price. The solution? Invest in reenergizing all levels of your brand’s customer interaction. This means prioritizing customer service, but it also means going the extra mile in terms of all customer interactions, from in-store representatives to sales staff, and anywhere and everywhere that your brand or your team interacts with customers. Being friendly, effective, and fast while fielding customer issues is one thing, but you should also strive not only to prevent these things from becoming issues but also to give your customers a positive customer experience overall. One of the best places to start doing just that, especially these days, is by making sure your remote workers aren’t overwhelmed and that they are equipped to handle all customer service inquiries.
A lot of brands have recently scaled back, but we now know that investing in customer services typically offers a tremendous ROI. In fact, businesses that are able to increase their retention rates by even 5% see a more than 25% increase in profits. Your business needs to make sure that your customer service department isn’t understaffed, while at the same time making sure that your team is operating remotely with all of the tools, support, and efficiency as they have back at the office. All of this can seem expensive, but, surprisingly, this is actually a cost-saving measure, since customer retention is so much less expensive and more profitable than customer acquisition.
Reward and Incentivize
With the value of customer retention in mind, it’s also important to note that holding onto customers goes far beyond making sure the interactions they seek with your brand are positive ‒ you also have to bring some positivity to them. This is especially important given the difficult and stressful time that your customers are facing. Your loyalty program is in need of rewards and incentives that are useful to your customers, not only to better and more practically address their current needs but also to remain competitive with other loyalty programs. Only 18% of customers engage with every single loyalty program they belong to. In fact, while customers belong to an average of about 15 loyalty programs, they only ever interact with less than half of them. Your loyalty program needs to be worth it in order to compete. The majority of consumers don’t care about how interesting a reward is. Your customers want useful and practical rewards, especially now.
These days with difficulties brought on by COVID-19, having a great loyalty program can mean the world to your customers. But this goes beyond having a flexible and valuable reward, you also want to reexamine your loyalty program with empathy in mind. For example, a lot of brands have an expiration date on the points that their customers can accumulate within the loyalty program. One way to really be mindful of your customers’ struggles is to extend or else do away with these expiration dates. This global pandemic has shaken everything up and that includes consumer shopping habits. While, for example, a month might have been a reasonable time period before points expired based on typical shopping frequency, now that’s not necessarily the case.
One of the key values of your loyalty program is customer statistics. You will need to figure out what the best amount of time is for your points to last before expiring based on the recent changes to this data, and you may even want to temporarily do away with point-expiration. The same should also apply to your reward tiers. Many reward programs require a certain continual shopping frequency or spending amount in order to remain within a given reward tier. It’s also worth temporarily reevaluating this practice so that long-time and loyal customers aren’t knocked out of their reward tier during such a stressful time.
The Big Picture
Your valued customers are collectively facing unprecedented struggles. Investing in customer service and the customer experience can actually act as a cost-saving measure since existing customers are less expensive to market to and more profitable to keep in comparison to the costs and profitability associated with acquiring new customers. Your loyalty programs are another way in which you can be mindful of your customers’ struggles. Easing up on some of the restrictions, and taking care to offer a competitive and valuable reward can go a long way in earning the loyalty of your customers while also mitigating some of their stresses.