Covid-19’s appearance on the global scene and the concomitant market fluctuations remind us of our increasingly interconnected economies. Because we are so interrelated it makes sense to work together to forge paths through adversity. What does the customer experience (CX) look like in times of crisis?
Take these 3 steps to guide your company when crises occur:
- Communicate more – Transparency wins the day. Since trust is the currency of business, imagine what happens to companies that are less than forthcoming with information. Do not mistakenly assume your customers know how (if) a crisis is affecting your company. Instead, communicate with them proactively. If the news is good so much the better. If not, outlining your plans or alternatives strengthens trust. Taking the opposite approach of limiting information or trying to control the message too tightly always backfires.
- Shift your perspective – Crises present an opportunity to walk in your customer’s shoes at an even higher level. By higher level, I mean that you help customers in ways that exceed your current relationship. In addition to communicating, “what we’re doing”, make space to ask customers how you can assist them navigate the crisis. If they have no current needs, you earn relationship capital by asking. If they do, for example, if their other business partners are no longer able to meet commitments, your business can step into the void to address a pressing need. Even if you eventually lose that “won” business, you will have raised your corporate (and personal) profile as a true business partner who helped in trying times. Either way, that kind of investment pays dividends in the long run.
- Be(come) flexible – By their very nature, crises are unanticipated and abnormal. Businesses can help their customers navigate such trials by extending flexibility in ways they might normally resist. One way to think about this option is to consider how you would hope to be treated if a similar problem affected you. Consider the difference between airlines when they deal with weather related delays. How easy is it to reach a final destination when the airline is flexible? What happens when they adhere rigidly to policy? Which one garners loyalty?
Crises present fundamentally unusual situations to all businesses. In one sense, crises are opportunities to expand business with customers. You might say that companies are taking advantage of a situation. In a deeper way, supporting the people at these companies has a more meaningful and lasting effect because you establish valuable ties with one another. How companies respond to crises is visible evidence of their corporate culture/character.
The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.– John F. Kennedy
The pivot point to help customers navigate crises successfully is to extend transparent communication, make your customer’s concerns your own, and offer flexibility. Doing these 3 things are the right thing to do. They may strengthen your business relationships. Who knows, one day they may even be reciprocated.
(While the spread of Covid-19 provided the impetus for this post, the steps apply equally well to other crises. Customers may be having difficult financial times or they may experience natural disasters or localized economic effects.)