Monday, November 23, 2020

Combat the Risk COVID-19 Holds on Your Customer Relationships

Stephanie Bannos, Head of Customer Experience Strategic Solutions
Strategy

When it comes to retention strategies and engagement marketing, there’s one thing worse than a lapsed customer: loss due to ‘switch’ to a competitor. Any time there is a lapse in behavior or change in routine, consumers are most susceptible to switching their brand loyalties. This is because moments of change invite moments of experimentation. COVID-19 has disrupted many routines and behaviors, which means as consumers adjust their patterns or resume old behaviors, the moment is ripe to try something new. Because of this, brands need to take urgent actions to prevent Covid-Lapse from becoming Covid-Loss.  

A Day in the Life of a Customer Coming Out of COVID-19

Office Commute

Customer Situation: On the way to the office, Matthew always stopped at the coffee shop two doors south of his building because it was the most convenient in his path from the train station. He always eye-balled the shop across the street, but never walked the extra 20 yards because his routine was comfortable. With his office re-opening in the Spring, however, Matthew’s old patterns have been disrupted enough for him to finally try something new. He’s open to the experiment of trying out the brand, and if he likes their roast, he’s liable to fully switch or split his business. 

Brand Warning: Don’t assume customers will resume old behaviors when life “gets back to normal.” This is the most opportune time for customers to try new things. As you strategize about winning over new customers, assume you also need to win-back your old customers. Their loyalty is an asset you don’t want to lose permanently.  

Routine Business Travel

Customer Situation: Talia once traveled every week for work, and over the years she became loyal to one carrier because it had the best schedule for a route, she was flying consistently for 18 months over three years ago. Even though that carrier didn’t always have the best times available for her more recent travel, she made it work because her loyalty (and her status) was secured. Now that she’s preparing for 2021 travel, she’s watching closely to see if her preferred carrier honors her old status. If she is penalized for her [involuntary] lack of travel this year, she plans to try out other airlines with more favorable schedules.

Brand Warning: Recognize that your customers’ extended lapse is very much not out of choice. If they feel their standing with your brand is ‘reduced’ due to the extenuating circumstances of the pandemic, they won’t appreciate the short-sighted lens. Re-think your definition of loyalty – ‘activity in the last 12 months’ might not be appropriate given the circumstances. Failure to show empathy will be noticed.

Workplace Attire

Customer Situation: Andrea has a closet full of traditional “office attire” – dresses, blouses, slacks, blazers… and it has been collecting dust for 10 months. A combination of loose-fitting athleisure, lounge wear, and leggings has been her go-to while balancing a full-time work-from-home position and home-schooling a nine and seven-year-old. She used to hit the gym three days per week on the way to the office, but that’s a distant memory. Though her daily attire is forgiving, she knows she’s gained weight. She figures she’ll eventually get back to her old routine, so she isn’t stressing about falling off the fitness wagon, but she’s definitely not eager to put on that fitted wardrobe! Her colleagues seem to have become equally casual over Zoom, and her HR department’s return-to-work sentiment surveys have taken note: they are inquiring if employees would like to switch to a more relaxed office dress code.

Brand Warning: One of the main drivers of retail purchases – what you wear to work – is undergoing a complete transformation. Brands must find ways through research and voice-of-the-consumer to understand how views about day-to-day attire will change when the world ‘re-opens.’ Because of the longer cycles in retail manufacturing and distribution, predicting the “off-cycle” trends in 6 months means a need for heavy research now into customer needs, wants and expectations.

3 Core Imperatives to Focus on in the Future for Your Relationships

At Rightpoint, we’re urging clients to focus on 3 core imperatives going into 2021: 

  1. Proactively research evolving needs and wants of your customers through research and voice-of-the-customer programs aimed specifically at capturing Covid-19 implications. Assume that their priorities have changed.  
  2. Rethink your definition of loyalty, at least in the short-term, because measuring engagement activity and transaction frequency over the last 12 months is not representative of customer interest when Covid-19 is a variable. Being empathetic will go a long way.  
  3. Don’t forget to be pro-active with your win-back strategies – even going so far as directing some of your acquisition strategies and promotions at current customers. The audiences you’ve historically considered secure are very much at risk. 

Within our Customer Experience practice, we have experts in Customer Lifecycle and Engagement strategies, as well as deep expertise in digital marketing, research and customer analytics. Connect with us today to learn more about how we can help you combat the risk of Covid-19 on your customer relationships as we transition into 2021.