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Empathy and reassurance: fostering customer loyalty during uncertainty

Author: Chris Rigby, TAB Aberdeen

Customer LoyaltyMany people are instinctively resistant to change. It’s an unknown, introducing uncertainty into our lives.

The process of change, however, can often tell us something new about ourselves. And from a business perspective we can capitalise on that process to create new – and stronger – customer relationships.

The Covid-19 pandemic has magnified the issues around change to exceptional levels. Who would have imagined just a few months ago that we would need to make such urgent and drastic changes in how we live and work?

We didn’t have a choice, of course, but the fact remains that we’re all now in a new reality. We’re looking at life from an entirely new perspective.

The sense of crisis has brought people together, both internally and externally. Applying empathy and care as we check in with others – to see how they’re truly coping – has become part and parcel of life. Previously it might have been just the odd text message, often not even eliciting a response. Now it’s something more. This has been a time for introspection, reflection and thinking of others. A sense of community and deeper connections is prevailing.

Ask yourself, what are you most proud of during this time? What strengths stand out for you – strengths you didn’t realise you possessed? What has surprised you in how you have dealt with change and uncertainty?

What about your customer relationships – how would they describe their experience of working with you during this time, and what have they valued most? How do you know?

We’ve all had to embrace technology more than ever over the last few months, but technology doesn’t actually deliver the customer service experience. That’s down to you.

Setting, managing and exceeding expectations of service in the months ahead are crucial. You need to be able to reassure your customers, both visibly and psychologically, that you understand their needs.

Their needs and wants will probably have changed since the turn of the year. Understanding your customers has never been so important. What do you know about what they need from you right now, and how much is assumption? What do you know about their current pain points? What about their gains? How do they know that you care? Ask yourself these questions and look at how your own business offering meets these challenges. Now is the time to focus on rekindling and strengthening relationships.

One way to retain and delight customers – to reward them for their loyalty – is to ‘put on their shoes’ and get closer to what they really value. A great way to start is to develop a Customer Journey Map – a service design tool which will help you gain greater insights into the customer’s perspective of their experience with you.

Understanding the customer journey as they buy something from you is an ideal first step in tracking those pains and gains. It will help you to iron out steps which they don’t value, while highlighting and strengthening those that really matter to them. Even if you’re still physically distancing, you can start to walk in their shoes by engaging them in conversations and mapping out services which can deliver a great experience, irrespective of how you interact with each other.

This process doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply select your most typical customer and write down all of the steps they would typically take when connecting with you for the first time – irrespective of how small they may seem.

Identify the touch points; all the moments, whether online or elsewhere, when a customer can engage with you. It may be via the website, telephone, social media or others. Are there too many?

Organise these steps into a sequential timeline, all the time thinking about what they are seeing and feeling as they go through the steps, from initial interest to post transaction support. Take the journey yourself. The results may surprise you.

So as we move into this new period of unlocking and refocusing, ask your customers what you can do differently to make their experience even better than it was pre-Covid.

This is the route to creating and sustaining customer retention and loyalty.

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