May 22, 2020

Engaging with customers during challenging times: Part Two

4 minute read

It’s fair to say we’re all treading new ground right now. The fortunes of most businesses peak and trough over time, but many of us won’t have experienced a challenge quite like the one posed by the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In part one of this two-part blog series, we explored how and why you might want to reach out to your consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic, or indeed any other time your business might be facing adversity.

In this post, we ask when and where you should consider engaging with your customers, as well as how you should position your message when you do so.

When is the right time to reach out?

Many consumer-facing businesses are in the unenviable position of having to close the doors of their physical stores and touchpoints during the pandemic. But that shouldn’t affect the need for your customers to interact with your brand, only that the touchpoints and channels they use to do so may differ.

Where customers have traditionally visited a store to interact with brands by speaking to someone about a problem, asking for advice, getting additional support or making a return, now they need to turn to digital channels and platforms to perform these tasks.

This can involve a number of different digital tactics brands are using, such as enhancing the live chat functionality on your website so customers can talk to your team when they’re browsing and shopping online. It might also involve expanding your call centre function so you can handle increasing call volumes, or providing additional training so they can support your customers across a wider range of questions and needs.

Furthermore, because more of your customers are now shopping online, it means they’re no longer confined to the working hours of the high street. Therefore, you may even need to think about altering your operating hours, to suit or make sure you’ve set expectations around when a member of your team is available to help your customers.

Where should you engage with your customers?

COVID-19 has had, to say the least, a major impact on the way consumers communicate and engage with brands, which is why we need to change and rethink the way(s) we interact with them.

Since the outbreak began, the Global Web Index (GWI) has learned that 49% of US and 39% of UK consumers are reading more news stories on social media, with Facebook being the most popular channel to do so. Social media presents a great opportunity for you to engage with your customers on a platform where they’re already naturally searching for information.

In addition, video content is proving hugely popular, with 76% of US online video watchers planning to consume just as much of this content when the outbreak is over. Livestreams (30%) and podcasts (20%) are also gaining traction amongst the millennial demographic.

It’s interesting to see that the data backs up how much we’re craving a personal touch, at a time when many of us have never felt more alone. Organisations have a great opportunity to make that authentic human connection with their audience simply by showing a face and sharing a voice.

How should you position your brand message?

Framing your message is always important, but never more so than during a crisis. In part one, we discussed how your customers might be feeling like they need a little more reassurance and personal connection, but we also have to be mindful of their mindset.

A lot of people will have lost their jobs or been furloughed. Even for those whose income hasn’t been affected, they may still be cautious about what happens next. In the UK, the government has implemented financial packages to support the economy, but all that debt needs to be repaid once the pandemic has passed. All of these elements combine to create a level of anxiety and unease that affects every member of society. 

Research from GWI shows that a third of consumers are planning to use their savings, reduce any subscriptions and wait for products to be on promotion or sale before making a purchase.

What’s crucial is that the data shows that consumers are almost four times more likely to hold out for promotions, rather than looking for cheaper options from an alternative brand. Clearly there’s an opportunity to encourage loyalty and spending through specially placed offers.

As well as framing your message well, you should also consider your tone carefully. At a time when consumers are choosing to spend more of their time online, it’s important to note that they’re actively seeking out funny videos (42%) and looking at memes (32%).

The opportunity to inject some carefully crafted humour does exist as we seek respite from the hard-hitting headlines and uncertainty over the future.

How can Ikano Insight help you?

Clearly, there’s a lot to think about and huge opportunities exist simply in how you choose to engage your customers over the coming weeks and months.

We can help you to identify how you can best enhance your customer experience using data insights, analytics and intelligence. The more you can learn about your customers, the quicker you can adapt, the faster you can make decisions, the better you can serve your customers, and ultimately, the stronger you will emerge from the current crisis. 

Get in touch with the team to discover an Ikano Insight solution that’s right for you, or find out more about how Business Intelligence, CRM and Data Analytics could help your brand connect with your customers during challenging times.

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Engaging with customers during challenging times: Part Two