Business today is far from usual. In the last 5 months, every business, no matter the industry, has been disrupted in some way. In fact, our recent webinar, 8 Steps to Rewire Customer Relationships Disrupted by the Pandemic, our speaker, Jay Baer, New York Times bestselling author and founder of digital marketing consultancy Convince & Convert, asserts every business is essentially acting like a startup right now. Businesses are likely operating in a whole new capacity with new services, products, hours, and procedures.
To further prove this point, during the webinar we polled the audience to see how different their business operations are today versus pre-pandemic. Here is what the audience had to say.
As the large majority of the audience polled indicated, 99% of businesses have made changes to their operations since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. And, your customers are likely asking questions about these changes.
For example, if you manage hair salons or barbershops, your customers are likely wondering:
- Where do I park?
- How do I make an appointment now?
- Are appointments the same length?
- Do I text my stylist when I arrive for my appointment or do I just walk in?
- Is there a place for me to wait for my appointment?
- Do I wear a mask the whole time?
- Is contactless payment available?
Imagine how many questions your customers may have about your modified business operations, especially if your business is complicated.
In this new normal, things will remain in a constant state of flux and we will continue to see huge shifts in consumer behavior. One positive shift we are seeing, however, is consumers adopting new brands.
We also asked our audience if they’ve tried a business for the first time since the pandemic. A resounding 1 in 3 people indicated they have tried a new brand since the pandemic.
This presents brands with a unique opportunity to grow your market share even during times of crisis. In an effort to help you elevate your customer experience, let’s dive into the tips and tactics Baer touched on during our recent webinar.
Here are the 8 steps Baer recommends to rewire customer relationships to hold onto those you’ve already earned and to acquire new customers.
Reconfigure Your Products and Services
Your products and services have likely shifted in an effort to comply with mandatory stay-at-home orders. In-person services are now being highly avoided when and where possible, even for doctors’ offices. For healthcare providers, the idea of virtual appointments was nearly nonexistent prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, it has become almost common practice for providers in some specialties to schedule all non-urgent appointments virtually.
Additionally, we’ve also seen many fitness studios switch their in-person offerings to live or pre-recorded videos. Clients are still able to work out, but in the safety of their home away from others.
Most brands cannot continue to do business as usual. Adjust and modify your services where you can to safely meet the needs of your customers.
Repackage Your Products and Services
A top question your brand should keep in mind right now is how can we make it easier to buy from us given the circumstances?
At Convince & Convert, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a two-year custom-tailored marketing plan for a corporate customer took anywhere between 60-90 days. Given the current state of affairs and an uncertain future, a two-year plan is no longer needed for most businesses.
Convince & Convert was tasked with completely repackaging their offering. Instead, they began offering 4-month plans they could deliver to the customer within 30 days. The new, revamped plans were a win for customers because they were delivered faster, were more relevant, and were less expensive.
It is crucial to make it easier than ever to buy from you. 42% of customers are unwilling to pay full price since the pandemic. Reconsider your services to nurture your current client relationships and gain new ones now when you need them the most.
Retrain Your Teams
Now is the time to retrain your staff on new procedures and protocols. Take a local restaurant for example. In the past, a restaurant has likely trained their staff to check in with their patrons every 3-5 minutes.
Customers want to avoid human contact as much as possible. The restaurant must retrain their staff on how to appropriately interact with patrons with this in mind. One brewery got creative with the need for personal space by creating disposable coasters for each table. The coasters act as a visual cue for servers. One side says “Swing by” and the other side says “Catch you later”.The wait staff has been retrained to look for the coasters to determine when to visit a table.
Your brand should also consider how you can change the way you are doing business so both customers and your team feel more comfortable.
Reintroduce Your Offerings
As aforementioned, you must reintroduce your offerings if they have changed. One of the best ways to communicate these changes is to leverage local marketing technology to keep all of your locations updated consistently across all of your key directories. By doing so, you remove the friction for your customer, and ultimately improve the customer experience as a result.
With the help of a local marketing partner and platform, you are better able to:
- Ensure your local listings are up-to-date
- Respond to all reviews received
- Make quick updates to your Local Pages
- Highlight special services (such as curbside pickup, outdoor dining, in-store shopping, etc.)
Additionally, brands can also communicate pertinent updates with customers through email and social media channels.
Re-Educate Your Customers
Your customers are more uncertain than ever. Your job is to close that uncertainty gap. If your customers need to visit your local listings, read reviews, monitor your social media accounts, and click through your website to find answers to their questions, you not only add additional steps in the customer journey but may tarnish your relationship with the customer entirely
One method Baer suggested during our webinar to eliminate confusion around your brand is to build the ultimate FAQ for your company. He recommends writing down all the potential questions your customers might have and answering them. Once you build out your FAQ distribute it across all your communication channels, making it easy for your customers to find.
Respond to Customer Questions and Feedback
Now is the time to listen harder to your customers. The array of customer questions and feedback your brand is receiving is likely much broader for your brand now than pre-pandemic. For example, popular internet and television provider Comcast has seen a 442% increase in usage of their online chat agent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every brand, just like Comcast, needs to answer its consumer’s questions quickly and in more places than ever before.
Prior to the webinar, Binary Fountain surveyed healthcare marketers to see how they are currently communicating with customers during the pandemic. Here is how they responded.
No matter your industry, you must reach customers everywhere they’re searching for answers.
React Instantly to Operations Shifts
Undoubtedly, retail brands have seen a massive shift in consumer behavior, as stores nationwide have been forced to shut their doors. A well-known mass retailer quickly pivoted their local marketing efforts at the onset of COVID-19, focusing their attention on updating its Local Pages and local listings to better convey the unique services they are offering. Directing customers to shop online, highlighting on-page promotions, and personalizing their messaging at each of their locations helped drive sales when their stores were forced to close. They also ramped up their customer service efforts, ensuring customers received prompt responses to their questions.
Every industry is experiencing similar challenges, but if your brand is not ready to pivot in times of crisis, you risk losing customers and harming your reputation.
For more tips and recommendations on how to quickly pivot your local marketing during uncertain times, check out our recent ebook: Navigating Local Search in Times of Crisis.
Request Reviews and Feedback
It’s crucial for businesses to rebuild relationships by asking for reviews and feedback, even during a pandemic. Baer shared a powerful sentiment during the webinar, citing that your business has many reviews as you’ve gotten after March 1, 2020. How you sell now is likely different than pre-pandemic, which makes your most recent reviews your most influential.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Google suspended reviews for a period of time due to a staff shortage. They are now turning them back on, without notification to the brand. Your reviews are most likely turned back on, allowing you to see critical feedback you’ve received from your customers over the past few months. It’s more important than ever to syndicate these reviews and feedback throughout the organization, making adjustments to your operations where necessary to yield favorable outcomes.