Times of crisis can be challenging for your business. But they’re just as challenging for your clients, too. Your customers are under pressure, and while these pressures may be different to what you’re facing, they’re no less important. During times of crisis, customers seek support from those around them; they look to others for guidance, whether that be friends, family members, or even the trusted businesses they buy from.
When things go wrong, organisations have a choice. They can take a short term view of the problem, focusing exclusively on protecting business operations. Or they can instead look to the medium to long term, prioritising both the protection of operations and supporting their loyal customers with an innovative business model designed for sustainability in a crisis. The act of supporting customers through crisis can help businesses to ensure they still have a strong client base once everything is back to normal. But, of course, some crises are unprecedented. Organisations can plan but they can’t fully prepare… Looking after customers is often the only thing they can do.
In the first scenario, we have businesses that remain financially stable throughout crisis, then may struggle to re-emerge on the other side. In the second scenario, we have businesses unable to continue with day-to-day operations, but who set themselves up to thrive in the future with a stable audience base as a result of their innovation strategy during the time of crisis. It’s clear which is more effective.
How to Care for Clients During a Crisis:
Keeping in touch and touching base with customers is an essential aspect of client management, regardless of whether your client base is confined to your home country or is international. According to a report undertaken during the Covid-19 pandemic, three quarters of customers said that it was important for brands to inform their audience of what they were doing in response to the crisis. Other vital communications during a crisis include sharing what measures are being taken to ensure the wellbeing of staff, and how the business plans to continue to support their clients until the crisis is resolved.
Perhaps one of the best ways to support clients during times of crisis is to know what they want, before they know they want it. By providing a solution to a potential concern before it becomes apparent to customers, you’re ensuring that there’s a plan in place to resolve the problem quickly and easily. This makes your business more sustainable no matter the problem you’re facing right this minute. Start by monitoring online discussions and identifying trends in customer perceptions and behaviours to pick up on possible challenges that could arise as a result of the crisis, and generate a plan for resolutions.
The data that’s gathered through listening exercises can help to segment customers based on past, current, or anticipated future interests and behaviours. At times of crisis, data is key to gaining a thorough understanding of what customers need at this time.
Provide Relevant Information
Again looking at the Covid-19 customer report, 78% stated that brands should aim to help customers in their day-to-day lives during times of crisis. To support customers, businesses should aim to become a ‘one stop shop’ for information about the crisis, making them a valuable resource. This could include sending emails with handy tips for staying safe, healthy, and protected during the crisis, offering Government or business updates, and off-topic advice for personal and home lives. Businesses can also promote a competent, calm attitude to crisis through positive stories and alternative facts that aren’t often communicated through ‘doom and gloom’ media sources.
Go Off Topic
If your business isn’t able to provide the goods or services that it usually does during times of crisis, it’s still possible to remain relevant and valuable, and support your customers. This could be through going ‘off topic’ and doing something out of the ordinary, as seen with breweries shifting to sanitizer production during the Covid-19 outbreak. Alternatively, offering relevant, associated content that provides value to the customer, such as opportunities for learning and knowledge expansion, could be very well received.
Real Life Inspiration
During the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of organisations emerged as leaders in client management during a crisis by virtue of their innovative business strategy. Folding bicycle manufacturer Brompton Bicycles made 200 bikes available to hire for free to NHS workers. And Carol Vorderman’s online teaching programme The Maths Factor was made free for new sign ups during school closures, as well as freezing payments for existing customers. By locking some of the more advanced features, the business fully supported its target audience - parents - while still ensuring that there was something extra to entice customers back after the crisis is over.
And how not to do it? Olympic swimmer Steve Parry ended up in hot water for continuing to charge parents for children’s swimming lessons under his brand Total Swimming during the outbreak, despite not providing lessons during this time.
Calmness = Competence
“You might not be feeling confident during times of crisis, and that’s completely normal.” Adds Rodolphe Soulard, Team Leader at Enterprise Europe Network. “But by acting calmly and not rushing into anxiety-fuelled decisions that could impact your reputation, you’re displaying levels of competence that others aren’t… and that’s exactly what customers look for at challenging times. They look towards the businesses that are demonstrating an ability to protect their customers when they need it the most.”
If your business is struggling due to the impact of the pandemic, our advisers at Enterprise Europe Network can help you with innovation and finding oppotunities to manage the crisis impact. Contact EEN North West team now to receive support