Has COVID-19 created more compassion in brands?
New research reveals whether brands are doing more than merely paying lip service to customer empathy and compassion.
As countries around the globe continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic, empathy and compassion have become central themes of discussion.
In September 2020, MyCustomer commissioned a study to discover that an empathy gap still existed in many businesses, with major work needed in order to meet the empathy and compassion needs of most customers.
Now, according to the DMA, brands believe they have heeded the call. Surveying over 200 marketers in leading businesses, it found that 74% had a renewed focus towards being more compassionate with customers.
A key facet of this shift is in how marketers feel their brands communicate to customers. 68% of the DMA’s respondents said they were thinking in empathetic and compassionate terms through ‘tailored content and thoughtful messaging’, while 62% said they spent more time “trying to be useful to consumers” and “taking a more customer-centric approach (55%)”.
In addition, 50% mentioned being more generous to essential workers, rechannelling marketing spend and volume to reduce the impact on consumers during sensitive times.
“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on people and businesses around the world,” says Tim Bond, Head of Insight, DMA.
“But if there is a small positive side-effect of coronavirus, it is that it has contributed to a significant increase in brands’ compassionate and thoughtful approaches to how they market to consumers.
“Over recent years, we have seen that the values and ethics of businesses are becoming an important motive for consumers when considering brands. The message is clear – brands who put people first are more likely to engage and connect with consumers post-lockdown.”
Whilst many big brands – from Nike to Four Seasons – have been praised in the last 12 months for going above and beyond simply adapting their tone of voice in marketing messaging to “put people first”, other brands continue to make ill-conceived choices in that regard.
For example, MarketingLand’s Greg Sterling recently highlighted solar products company GoSun, which sent an email with the subject line, “Is There a Bright Side to Coronavirus?” at the height of the outbreak.
Empathetic customer service
Marketing may be the function for brands to highlight their compassionate and empathetic values to customers, but it’s customer service where these values have been most greatly tested.
In MyCustomer’s September Empathy in customer service - a consumer survey research, 70% of consumers stated it was vital that compassion and empathy were displayed by customer service staff, when dealing with their queries.
The good news for brands is, when their service staff are empathetic towards customers, it leaves a positive brand perception as a result. 73% of consumers surveyed for the research said they had had recent experiences of feeling more positive about a brand as a result of a customer service interaction when their emotions were understood and acknowledged by staff.
“Modern businesses tend to focus on cost-efficient and effective processes, and measure their performance accordingly; with easily quantifiable operational metrics,” explains Peter Dorrington, the founder of XMplify Consulting and a contributor to the Empathy in customer service - a consumer survey research.
“As a result, customer service has often focussed on optimising operational practicalities, not the feelings of customers.
“However, as MyCustomer’s research clearly shows, when customers are treated with compassion, they feel far more satisfied; 63% of respondents rated themselves as ‘very satisfied’ when they felt their emotional state was acknowledged and understood.”
Indeed, in the DMA’s survey, when asked about the key benefits of compassionate and thoughtful approaches, the two areas most cited focus on people – both the brand’s customers and its staff. “Creating a truly ‘customer first’ experience” (65%) and “improving the wellbeing of their own employees” (64%) were followed by “a feeling of providing more harmony to society” (61%).
Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.