The Coronavirus outbreak has been described as one of the greatest challenges of our generation. Organisations are having to adapt rapidly to minimise risks to their employees and their future business. But whether you are a B2B or B2C organisation, during these unprecedented times, how can you have a relevant and supportive relationship with your customer community?
How can your business effectively plan for today, tomorrow and the future, and not lose sight of your customers’ needs?
In the short term, most organisations have rightly reached out to their customers to advise them of their response to the virus and the actions they are taking. For everyone, the absolute priority is protecting people’s health and safety. But, organisations can proactively think beyond this, in terms of the messages customers need to hear and how to manage these critical relationships in such fluctuating times.
Most inboxes are overwhelmed with standard emails, but this doesn’t create engagement or reassurance for customers. If you are a B2B business, many of your customers will be looking for greater understanding of what it means for their business and their customers, in both the immediate and longer term. For many of them, your ability to service their needs, has a direct impact on their ability to service their own customers and so having a proactive dialogue at this time is critical to their business planning. Whether you are a B2B or a B2C business, it’s important not to lose sight of your customers while you are conducting your own scenario planning and operational response. Letting them know you are available for an open, honest and engaging dialogue can be enough to provide the reassurance they need during these unsettled times. Whilst demonstrating an ability to emotionally empathise with them will embed a relationship of trust and mutual respect that will endure beyond the current circumstances.
Preparing for Tomorrow
It has rapidly become apparent that we are going to be in a changing and flexible state for at least the next few months. Businesses will need to take an approach that is both safe and enduring. Business as usual is no more and the way we work has already and will continue to change significantly. Part of your organisational response to this should be to think about how you can engage with your customers on an ongoing basis and work with them to minimise disruption, to their business, and yours. Finding ways to work flexibly, update each other regularly and adapt and respond at pace in a joined-up way, will provide your business and your customers’ businesses with a level on ongoing confidence, helping them feel more in control. Many digital platforms are now offering reduced rates or even free packages of online communications tools to enable us all to stay in touch digitally, as we become more physically remote from one another. Finding ways to continue to work with your business customers beyond the initial dialogue will be key to business success.
Your short-term planning should consider not only the potential impacts on your business operations, but also on your customers’ operations. The more you can minimise or mitigate these impacts by working hand-in-hand to tackle problems together, as they arise, the more likely it will be that all of your businesses will survive. Finding ways to stay in touch with your employees, support them and maintain morale in these disruptive times will also be critical to maintaining relationships with your customers.
Whilst we can be in no doubt, this is a crisis of the like not seen before, building robust communications channels, and clear levels of responsiveness for your customers will demonstrate you understand their business, you understand the potential impact of the scenario and that you are committed to working together.
Adapting for the Future
It is difficult to know what the new normal will be or when it will arrive, but what is clear is that the future will arrive much sooner than we perhaps thought. The way all of us live, work and travel in the future will change as a consequence of the societal changes we are currently having to make. Priorities, working patterns and our appetite for travel will all change. After a significant period of disruption, organisations will need to think creatively about their proposition and how it can still be relevant in this new world. Thinking differently, engaging deeply with customers to understand their new needs and expectations as well as those of their own customers if you are in a B2B space, and adapting quickly will all be prerequisites to enduring business success. Also, a robust and perhaps even brave, transformation plan will be critical to staying relevant and sustainable through 2020 and beyond.
As we move through the next few challenging and, at times, difficult months, CGA will be on hand to support our customers and help them navigate these unprecedented times. If you do need support with designing a customer communication plan throughout this time, CGA are here to help. If you are looking to keep track of changing business and customer expectations and demands over the coming months, we can help you understand how to track this effectively and adapt and change your business accordingly, prioritising what matters most. And when you are ready to consider how your organisation will respond to the new world needs of business or consumer customers, we’ll be here, looking to help you transform your business for the enduring future. In the meantime, we’ll continue to think about how organisations can maintain relationships with their customers, and respond to their needs, and we’ll be posting our latest thoughts here for those who find them helpful.