Humanising your customer contact

Humanising your customer contact

Future proof your business: Get to know your customers

The global Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdown in most countries world-wide, have challenged most of us to reconsider many aspects of our lives. In business, the lockdown has pressed the “pause button on sales and revenue, and it is not playing out well for small and medium business.

While many retailers have been faced with different challenges around inventory, safety of staff and customers, branching out prematurely into e-commerce space and even forging new partnerships for distribution, other businesses are unable to trade during this time.

Many businesses can feel how their customers are just slipping away while being handcuffed by law and lock down. Losing your customers’ top of mind position or the relevance of your brand, especially when competing against the fight for essential goods, is a frightening thought.

The importance and value of non-essential goods will take on a completely new consideration level in consumers’ buying decisions, post the lockdown. How can small and medium business stay relevant in the minds and hearts of their customers and ensure their loyalty? How can this ‘whitespace’ or ‘time-out’ be optimised to maintain, an even enhance relationships, despite having hands tied?

Don’t let your hard-earned investment in your customer relationships be compromised by the lockdown! 

Use this time to REALLY get to know your customers! Get beyond the defined personas with broad stroke insights about their needs, pain points and fears… and the moments that mattered before. Now is the time to get a very clear picture of how the lockdown (and isolation) is impacting your customers, and potentially, their behaviour. By humanising your contact with your customers (not marketing, promotional or sales contact), you will be able to connect with the “humans” who supported you and a clear picture of their changing perspectives and needs, to redesign your plans for the post-Corona customer engagement.

HOW to humanise your connection with your customers

  1. Define and understand the purpose of the -contact

One of the most important elements of customer experience, is the emotional reaction to the engagement and connection with your brand. This should form the cornerstone of your connection now, when you reach out. The contact should leave customers feeling like

  • they are not forgotten
  • they mean more your business than just the sale or the value to the transaction
  • that you care about their new reality during these abnormal times
  • that you are interested in their concerns
  • that you want to support them when they raise any concerns
  • that you don’t abuse the relationship (not shoving a product, discount, a deal down their throats, while they have other issues to deal with)
  • that you are genuinely interested in getting to know them.
  1. Identify the best platform to execute the contact

The connection with customers can take many shapes and forms, but we recommend using a Voice of the Customer (VoC) platform. These platforms host customer information, are geared to capture feedback, and many are able to “close the loop”, in other words, channel the feedback to the appropriate and responsible people in the organisation. It will ensure that valuable insights are recorded and accessed for analysis and planning.

Consider the following when designing your customer contact

  1. Determine if your current outsourced call centre providers are able to continue their service remotely.
  2. Align the format of the contact (script or discussion guide) to the purpose of the call.
  3. Identify relevant information to share with your customers (enhancing the value of the call), that will empower them to deal with potential pain points (even if not directly related to the problem space of your brand or offering).
  4. Identify individuals who are able to manage out-bound contact and support them to work remotely (internally managed VoC programmes).
  5. Understand the purpose. The tone of the contact should steer away from any marketing, selling or promotion, therefore the conversation framework has to be designed.
  6. Ensure the backend can store the feedback (and escalate priority content).
  7. Appoint a responsible sponsor for this initiative who is able to lead, coach and support the remote team.
  8. Be agile to address any unforeseen issue.
  9. Analyse feedback collected within the context of customer insights, priorities and responses required.
  10. Cluster content and provide feedback to the relevant business units for planning and action post the lockdown.

Take it online

Although a call center setup may present the ideal opportunity to execute this type of customer contact initiative, it can be executed online. Many customers can be reached online due to the explosion of the technology requirements to work from home. A personalised mailer and option for open-ended comments, may be very useful when the customer base is larger, and contact needs to be scaled. Care should be taken around the tone, message and back up support.

A phone call away

Having said that, the first prize remains personal conversations with your customers. The discussions can be done telephonically and, in some instances, using collaboration tools such as Skype, Whatsapp face time, Zoom, Microsoft teams, Google Hangouts. This will depend on the type of customer relationship.

Even without visual contact, telephonic contact will present unique opportunities to gain more insight about your customers. It is easy to connect; it is personal, customers are in the comfort of their homes and they may be more open to unstructured conversation that is purely centered around them.

It is the only time in history, that there is a truly unique and collective appreciation of the impact of the pandemic (empathy). Everyone “get’s it” … even the interviewers have an understanding of what it is like, therefore elevating the level of empathy and authentic conversation.

Benefits of customer connection during the pause in direct contact

In closing, there are many benefits to a customer connection campaign. Once the lockdown is lifted, life as we know it, will certainly not resume straight away. It will make no business sense to wait until the end of the lockdown, while your relationships with your customers weakens. Reaching out presents the following benefits:

  • It differentiates your customer focus from your competitors.
  • It strengthens your relationship with you customers.
  • It enables planning with with deeper insights around changing needs and priorities.
  • It presents a lead generation opportunity through prioritised shared concerns.
  • The most valuable benefit, is the deep and intimate knowledge that you will extract from your customers’ mindset and the ability to design future solutions.

Partner with us at The Consumer Psychology Lab to drive your customer contact during the lockdown. We have skilled CX interviewers, who know how to get customers to talk freely and work remotely. Our backend support is agile and able to manage the data and feedback requirements. We use unstructured conversations to harvest insight, so you can plan your post-lockdown strategy. We are uniquely suited to support small and medium businesses to retain existing relationships with their customers. www.consumerlab.co.za