We are in unprecedented times. Even the best crisis and business continuity plans are likely being tested right now. Some businesses, like my chosen career path of public speaking, have ground to a complete halt. But this is not the time to panic, especially when people are looking to businesses for confidence and guidance. It is, in fact, the very best time to focus on customer experience and to show customers you are there for them.
Here are 5 things you can do right now to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak:
1. Remain calm. Whether it’s getting into supermarket fights over toilet paper or selling entire stock portfolios, people are panicking. According to the Journal of Neuroscience, anxiety can negatively affect our decision making by making us less flexible. Think through business decisions thoroughly and discuss with leadership before taking any decisive actions, including seemingly inconsequential things like social media posts. When customers see businesses acting calmly and rationally, it helps them remain calm, too.
2. Take care of your employees. Just like in the best of times, happy employees = happy customers. Unfortunately, the inverse is true too, so ensure that your employees remain healthy and safe. Do not require anyone to come into work who doesn’t absolutely have to, allow employees to take care of their families during this stressful time, and practice social distancing religiously. (Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now is the best resource I’ve found so far on the topic of social distancing.) You can’t expect employees to help customers feel safe if they don’t feel safe themselves.
To Our Valued Clients:
At Schwab, we have a deep and abiding belief in seeing the world “through clients’ eyes.” That simple, powerful idea helps us stay focused on what’s most important: living up to the trust you place in us every day.
With so much uncertainty in the financial markets and concerns about COVID-19, investing for the future may seem more complicated than ever. Please know that every one of us at Schwab is committed to helping you meet your long-term investing goals. I also want to remind you of the resources available to you…
The email goes on to describe three investing resources and reassure clients of additional capacity to serve them, so “despite market turbulence and disruptions in daily life, we’re confident in our ability to be here for you, whatever comes our way.” It also sets customer expectations by acknowledging that phone wait times are longer than usual. The entire email is calm, customer-focused, and helpful; compare that to all of the emails that refer to the same CDC website and mention the same cleaning and sanitation methods. Many companies just “followed the herd” and sent recycled emails so they could check one item off their crisis plan. Schwab gave its customers confidence when they most needed it.
4. Check in with your customers and clients. In addition to mass emails, take the time to check in one-on-one with customers and clients if possible. A simple phone call, handwritten letter, or personal email can go a long way to ensuring that your customers know you care about them on a human level, not just an economic one. Millennials in particular want a human relationship with businesses, but this is extending to other generations as well. In many companies, entire teams can’t work their regular jobs for one reason or another; give these people something to do by connecting with customers.
5. Find out how you can help. We’re all in this together. Suddenly political, social, and religious differences seem inconsequential. Companies often have additional resources that can be used to assist local and regional communities in a time of crisis. Whether it’s money, supplies, facilities, or expertise, take some time to evaluate how your organization can be part of the solution. Your customers and prospects will thank you when this is all over, and you will have engendered deep loyalty that will last for years.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and as my grandmother used to say: This too shall pass.