Whether it’s using video chats to keep in contact with elderly relatives, or hosting virtual pub quizzes amongst friends, our digital behavior in the COVID-19 pandemic really highlights the power of technology to maintain relationships.
And this is no different for businesses. Technology has been crucial for maintaining contact with customers. As the world opens back up, combining face-to-face communications with digital options can help you to cement customer relationships even further.
Let’s look at some of the ways you can do this:
1. Social marketing
Remember that your customers have been social distancing and possibly isolating too, so will be craving connection and communication. You have an opportunity to make them feel valued and cared for, by staying in touch and letting them know you’re here for them.
It’s important to remain as ‘pandemic-aware’ as possible in all your marketing communications.
For example, avoid releasing content around things that are no longer happening (such as events that have been cancelled), or content that contradicts social distancing guidelines (such as an image of a large crowd).
There’s no way to predict how long this crisis will last for – so stay proactive. Try to anticipate questions before they arise and share how you plan to solve these future problems in the content you release.
You probably won’t ever have more in common with your customers than you do right now, so take advantage of that connection. If you find ways to support and help your customers today, they’ll remember it tomorrow. Not only will it strengthen your relationship, it’ll potentially help you gain more fans.
2. Digital care
It’s important to recognize the impact of this crisis on your own customer care teams. Even if they’re used to dealing with urgent needs, people are more anxious than usual right now, and it may be taking an emotional toll on your staff.
Consider providing additional training or tools so that your team feels equipped and supported to maintain (or even improve) customer satisfaction.
It’s similarly important to manage customer expectations. If you’re operating with a smaller contact centre team while call volume has increased, it’s best to be honest with your customers.
Tell them about new strategies, or the challenges you’re facing, so they know what to expect. Even if they get frustrated by these changes, they’ll appreciate the transparency and it’ll help foster a trusting relationship.
It’s also a good time to reassess your current resources and experiment with new cost-effective solutions. Things like intelligent call routing, customer self-service tools like apps or customer portals, and omnichannel technology to link together all your customer comms.
An easy win in this area is to consider chatbots that can provide quick answers to customer questions. There are many different options, depending on budget and complexity but handy guides like this one from Ninja Team will help you decide whether to go with the likes of Facebook, IBM or Gobot.
Once you’ve equipped these bots with welcoming messages, FAQs, and triage capabilities, they can provide quick resolution to multiple customers at the same time. Start small and scale up if you need to.
3. Online engagement
As important as it is to acknowledge the pandemic in your communications, remember every other business is trying to do the same.
So instead of adding to the noise, connect with customers more interactively across your digital channels and try to provide something different for them to engage with. Seek out their opinion through polls and share videos that can be amplified outside your community.
Companies like Nike, for example, are encouraging customers on social media to exercise at home and share their videos, which is a great way to engage an existing community on platforms they already use and feel comfortable with.
Consider creating a group hub or forum where your customers can communicate with each other. If you don’t have this function on your website, there are a range of existing channels, such as Facebook and LinkedIn groups, or you could look to forums like Reddit. This will help create a real, meaningful online community – a safe space where your customers can support each other and share stories or tips on how they are managing.
Think about how else you can interact with your customers. Asking them questions on social media posts, surveys via email, promotional offers when they subscribe to your mailing list – all of these can boost engagement.
Finally, consider using technology to hold events virtually. Webinars allow you to share information, but they can also be viewed and shared after they are finished. YouTube Livestream, 6connex and Webex are all relatively straightforward platforms for this.
You could even take it a step further and launch a podcast. This medium is still very popular as it’s so easy to consume and simple to produce. Just pick a theme that you and your customers are passionate about – you could even use a poll to decide the topic. If you’re new to podcasting try Audacity as it’s user-friendly, or go for Adobe Audition or GarageBand if you’re used to these tools.