You get what you give: the importance of loyalty
We’ve seen a lot of change as a result of the current pandemic, but can take one positive from it: people are rallying together, leaning on one another, and finding different ways to support each other. There’s a renewed sense of community feeling, and it’s something brands are sitting up and taking notice of.
While it seems business as usual is a long way off, recovery will come soon – and consumers will be jumping at the chance to get back to their ‘normal lives’. As brands plan to build back, they need to bear this in mind. While there might technically be downtime at the moment, it doesn’t mean it’s time to rest on one’s laurels. How brands interact with their customers is more important than ever, particularly if you want them to use your services once the pandemic lifts.
We’re seeing brands respond in a number of different ways to the pandemic. Some are doing a better job than others and have gone out of their way to stay customer-focused and provide great experiences, even if they’re not able to provide their normal services right now. From providing reassurance on safety and hygiene to extending return periods, through to pivoting propositions so as to give back to the community, there’s a lot brands can do in order to support customers and communities at this time.
Not sure where to start? Here are some things to consider if you want to evoke loyalty now that will help you reap the rewards of ‘what goes around comes back around’ as the world recovers from Covid-19:
Simple, clear communication
Communication is so important. Never fall into the trap of thinking silence is golden. Consumers want to know what’s going on right now, so be honest and transparent about procedures and decisions. If you’re unable to provide a refund to them right now, then explain exactly why that is – and what you can offer instead. Remember the three rights: the right message, at the right time and in the right place. That means proactive communications, letting customers know what they need to know, and before they need to ask it. Get it right and they’ll remember they could rely on you during the pandemic when it’s time to give you their custom again.
Take advantage of technology
A lot of companies will be down on staff or have employees out sick. That’s fine – people will forgive having to wait a little bit longer, or even accept getting an answer another way if customer service lines can’t be manned at same level as before. If customer calls are rising, digital queuing technology will make things easier – tell them how long the wait is likely to be, so they can stay on the phone while focusing on something else. Or update your websites, FAQs and social media feeds to reflect the information people are calling up for. It’s also a good time to take advantage of chatbots and other automated messaging platforms to broadcast key messages. If customers still require the human touch they can – but technology can take care of the basic enquiries, where chatting isn’t essential.
Can you create different product experiences? How else can you engage your customer? We’re seeing travel brands give virtual tours of their destinations or zoos offer online talks about their animals.
Can you support your customers who are largely homebound and home schooling by letting your pilots, chefs, managers or employees create online tutorials? Can you stream any part of your product experience? There may be content that you already have that can be re-purposed. Soho Theatre has taken a lot of its live comedy shows to an on-demand platform. Could you do something similar to keep providing people a service they’ve become accustomed to, albeit at home?
Be honest about your position
Customers understand that, like them, you may be worried about cashflow. It’s not price gouging if you can’t offer your services for free or even at a discount. Be clear on what you can do and why. Many brands have extended points expiry periods, but also pushed their online commerce sites as this is great for both customers and business. Retailers and restaurants are offering home delivery, or even merchandise and gift cards to support their business while under governmental restrictions. Those who are in a position to increase business via online shopping or delivery have done so, but responsible brands have been careful not to present these moves as completely altruistic.
Essentially, loyalty works both ways – if you can keep your customers loyal to your brand now, then they’ll remember that in the future. Don’t risk shutting down and shutting out customers now and hope to win them back later on. Those that take a long-term view now will succeed as things recover, and putting the customer and their needs at the heart of everything now will help you emerge even stronger on the other side.
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Zoë Senior is Loyalty Agency General Manager for Europe at Collinson, a global leader in customer benefits and loyalty. Zoë is based in London and brings over 20 years of loyalty agency experience to her role at Collinson.