“Safety first” — it’s one of the lessons we remember from when we were kids, and one we invariably repeat to our own children. It’s also, in the COVID-19 era, becoming one of the key mantras for both customer experience and employee experience.
Simply put, employees are not going to come to work if they don’t feel safe, and customers are not going to risk their health to buy your product or service. So safety must immediately become the top priority for any organization that wants to survive the pandemic.
Companies must focus on ensuring their employees and customers feel safe. But just as important as those actions is the ability to effectively communicate them.
As the pandemic started to spread around the world, many airlines emailed customers explaining their enhanced cleaning procedures. Delta Airlines went a step further, incorporating a video featuring the head of customer experience explaining the revamped cleaning process. The video showed real employees using a special aerosol machine that the airline said would disinfect the planes, and then others wiping down the seats and other surfaces. By showing instead of just telling, Delta made customers feel safer.
Mass emails are fine, but take the time to check in one-on-one with customers and clients if possible. A simple phone call, handwritten letter, or personal email can go a long way to ensuring that your customers know you care about them on a human level, not just an economic one. Millennials, in particular, want a human relationship with businesses, but this is extending to other generations as well.
An unintended outcome of the global pandemic is that for the first time in our lifetimes, the entire world is experiencing the same thing at the same time. This means that companies should have an easier time demonstrating empathy — a hallmark of customer experience philosophy — than ever before. After all, we know exactly what our customers and employees are going through because we are experiencing the same thing. Everyone is worried about their health and their family’s health. They are perhaps afraid to go out or enter crowded stores. They are concerned about their jobs and finances, as well as the uncertainty that comes with not knowing when the pandemic will be over.
McKinsey’s research reveals that 60 percent of Americans are very or extremely concerned about their safety and the safety of their families, while 43 percent are very or extremely concerned about their job or income—and not being able to make ends meet.
When we understand how other people are feeling, we can speak to them in an authentic and human manner.
The consulting firm advises that companies should “reach out—not in marketing or overt attempts to gain a competitive edge, but to offer genuine support.” The focus should be on care and concern, staying true to company values.
Avtex, a customer experience consulting and solution provider, suggests communicating often with customers to convince them that your company is on top of safety issues.
“Information is key to setting customers at ease during a crisis,” the company notes on its blog. “Make the effort to convey critical information regularly, and across multiple channels. Helping customers avoid having to hunt for information will put them at ease and alleviate many of their common concerns.”
Putting all of your company’s COVID-19 content in a single place on the website also makes it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for. And as a bonus, you’ll also reduce your customer service expenses if customers are able to self-serve.
Effective communication is critical for employees, too. Just like in “normal” times, happy employees equal happy customers. We can’t expect employees to help customers feel safe if they don’t feel safe themselves. Thus, companies must communicate with employees openly and honestly in order to allay their concerns.
Empathy comes into play with employees as well. Leaders must be understanding that employees are juggling working from home with their kids learning virtually instead of physically going to school, and pets who were used to sleeping all day now wanting attention from their owners. That’s in addition to poor internet connections, doorbells ringing, lawnmowers making noise, and many other distractions.
Companies should communicate that it’s okay — maybe even fun — to have kids and pets join video conferencing calls so as not to have that be yet another added stress for people. And to the extent possible, empowering employees to help customers will give them the passion and enthusiasm to do their jobs well even during difficult times.
As with any communication, use clear and concise language and avoid acronyms, difficult words, or industry jargon. Communicate in the same way as you would talk with someone face-to-face.
The companies that are there for their customers and employees during the worst of times will have sustained loyalty in the best of times, so make sure both sets of constituents feel valued and protected.
Join me Wednesday, August 12th, for a Twitter Chat with Edify about Why Customer Experience and Employee Experience Are Even More Important During COVID-19.
And sign up to attend a virtual discussion with me on Tuesday, September 15th, about How to Keep Customers & Employees Engaged During a Pandemic.