Is COVID your opportunity to win customers for life?

This article was first published in the September 2020 issue of AP, written by Meqa Smith.

None of us alive today have lived through a more uncertain time than the one we’re living through right now. It feels like almost everything has changed and as though there’s nothing we can be sure of anymore.

In our businesses, most of us are up against real day-to-day challenges in just keeping the business going and in our personal lives, many of us are grappling with a whole new way of life.

With all this going on in the background, it’s easy to slip into survival mode, do what we’ve always done and focus on what’s right in front of us at any given moment and consider just getting through the day a success.

But the issues we’re dealing with are things like an email from a customer, a phone-call you need to make to a supplier, or an overdue bill that needs to be paid right now. These things do need to be attended to, but they will always be there and no amount of working hard will change that – you can’t get off the hamster wheel by running on it faster. 

What you want is to get more loyal customers so you don’t have to constantly be chasing the next sale, looking for new leads, or twisting yourself into a pretzel to get business from a customer who is demanding terms that are so unrealistic, it will cost you money to help them but you need the revenue so you say yes anyway. Nobody wins in this scenario.

Right now, everyone is feeling the impact of the COVID-related uncertainty in some way, whether subtle or serious. 

This means that everyone you deal with now is in a state of anxiety and possibly even fear. These are not great emotions to have to cope with in a business environment because people are “on the edge” when we call them, email them, or they come in looking for our help. 

Stress makes people come across as more closed, sceptical and demanding than they would ordinarily be; they might even seem like they are ‘hard work’ or ‘unreasonable’. 

If you don’t understand why this is happening and how you can help them, you’ll be frustrated and treat them in a way that could cost you the opportunity to create a customer for life.

As humans, we crave certainty; the unknown is the greatest psychological stressor. So much so that the navy seals use the unknown as their primary ‘test’ by keeping all details for every exercise secret – and not giving the recruits any idea what to expect. This creates maximum stress and allows them to weed out anyone who isn’t iron willed. 

The world as we know it is now something like a navy seal boot camp and everyone you come across is looking for some kind of certainty to cling on to, some sense of being in control. Psychologists would call this “psychological safety”.

Most other businesses will be treating customers the way that they always have and will feel like people are just more demanding and difficult to please than ever. In the process, this treatment will be making customers feel like they are getting really bad service and they’ll be looking for help elsewhere.

This is your opportunity to do everything you can to give your customers a sense of certainty and being in control and help them feel like they are getting great service, that they are understood and valued. 

Here are some simple things you can do:

  1. Mention the ‘elephant in the room’ – don’t just pretend things are normal, acknowledge the strange situation we’re experiencing and that it is understandably creating some uncertainty for people.
  2. Be a bit more patient with people – give them a bit more time in explaining things, or even just a bit more time on small talk.
  3. Make sure the process of dealing with you from start to finish is very clear for your customers – create documents or videos helping them at every step of the way, from website to service delivery.
  4. Give your customers choices whenever you can, for example in service levels, product choices, payment options – put these in writing or create images so they can see them.
  5. Acknowledge your customers – thank them for their business with a card, text message, video message or email.

These little things will make a huge difference to the experience a customer has with you and the way they feel about doing business with you again. Even though times are tough at the moment for all businesses, the best we can do is to look for the opportunities and make the most of them.

Meqa Smith is the strategist of The Unforgettable Agency.

For more information contact Meqa Smith at [email protected] 

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