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Love the One You’re With: Customer Retention in Times of Crisis Part 2

This is the second post of a two-part series dedicated to the importance of customer retention in a crisis.

There’s an old saying in the South: “Dance with the one who brung ya.” Of course, its relevance goes beyond the dance hall – it underscores the value of the people and relationships that got you to where you are, in life and business.

With that in mind, hard times may be a good time to focus less on customer acquisition and more on customer retention. Our first post explored two of four must-do’s for retaining customers, providing better service and increasing loyalty amid COVID-19: 1) contextualize the crisis in the lives of your target; and 2) be proactive and honest in what you say and do.

Here, we continue the conversation, shining light on two additional steps your brand can take to better serve your customers during hard times.

3. Leverage Data to Level Up

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, social distancing from customers (in the metaphorical sense) isn’t recommended if you want to maintain relationships. To continue having a high impact on the target in the low-touch COVID-19 world, you must cultivate connection from a distance creatively and strategically, which includes getting to know customers better through data.

Digging into data will help you uncover meaningful ways to increase engagement, dial up delighters and do away with frustraters.

For example, what can your shifts in your website traffic tell you about what matters most to people? What recurring problems in online reviews – say, related to customer service, quality, online ordering or even the speed of your drive-through – can you and should you tackle in this moment?

Practicing social listening and sentiment analysis can also help your brand go beyond the metrics gathered from websites, email programs, reviews and online comments. Consider how feedback has evolved since the onset of the crisis, as there may be differences in customers’ primary cares and concerns.

From there, you can decide what learnings to apply now (or later) and then do so, leveraging various marketing channels such as mobile and web push motivations, mobile apps, mobile messaging, email, content, referrals and social too.

For example, with retention in mind, you might modify your social strategy by pausing lookalike targeting and focusing on exact audiences with match lists to exclusively focus on existing customers only.

Knowing there are limitations to what you’ll be able to do, those initiatives you choose to endeavor should strike a balance of the following: tactics with a track record of success, available marketing dollars, and depth of staff support and resources.

Another thing you can do with data-based learnings is to level up and supplement existing marketing communications and services that underscore your brand’s value in a crisis. Among the options:

  • Providing content with tips on remote meetings and presentations and offering webinars and training resources that showcase thought leadership and help customers establish new ways of doing things; e.g., Coursera is giving universities free access to their Coursera for Campus platform so they can continue serving students amid coronavirus
  • Suspending paywalls and expanding membership access and subscriptions; e.g., The New York Times is offering access to its COVID-19-related news content during the pandemic
  • Doubling down on loyalty programs to underscore the target’s importance, be it value-add coupons, birthday delights and then some
  • Adding new service-driven dimensions to your existing services, e.g., building in annual reminders for medical appointments, compliance programs and more to make life and business easier
  • Providing guidance to help the target look beyond today or tomorrow so that they’re well-positioned for the eventual ramp-up and recovery

4. Take Care of Your Team

Businesses vary widely in the goods and services they offer, yet all share a common thread: They’re made up of people serving people.

Business magnate, investor, author and philanthropist Richard Branson, who has been widely quoted and noted regarding his employees-first approach to business and client service, has remained faithful to this long-held philosophy amid COVID-19. In a March 22 blog post, he shared details of what his companies are doing amid the crisis and how employees helped identify solutions, saying “our people have and, will always be, my No. 1 priority.”

In times of thriving, striving and struggle, your company must prioritize the team members driving the brand experience – motivating them to keep doing great work and demonstrating care and concern for your customers and for each other.

Just as you are with your customers, you need to be proactive and honest with your teams. Make sure staff know what to expect during a crisis, and what’s expected of them. If there are changes in processes, communicate those clearly and leave room for questions.

Also, whenever appropriate, ask them for input on how to adjust operations – especially because it’s likely they are closer to processes than leadership and may have some insightful ideas for serving customers better and saving time and money.

Some considerations:

  • With more open schedules, are there ways for senior leadership to connect uniquely with the team during this time?
  • Are there daily stand-ups that give everyone a chance to connect, address real-time concerns and take care of one another?
  • If your brand is considered an essential business resulting in more work, longer hours and greater potential exposure to the virus, can you provide PPE, sick leave, hazard pay or bonuses? For example, HEB, Tyson, and Walmart have rewarded the hard work of their essential workers in these ways.

Not everyone has the deep well of big corporations or of global leaders like Branson, but that’s OK – the size of your company or length of staff roster shouldn’t limit your ability to be kind, show care and concern, and collaborate to move through crisis toward recovery, serving your customers together.

Curious about how your brand can use marketing to retain and better serve customers in a crisis? Email Ted at tjun@hiebing.com to set up a call.