Nearly every American is feeling the effects of COVID-19, with responses ranging from mild frustration to fear. Understanding the various ways Americans are reacting can help you assess how your small business is serving them. While having a customer-centric mindset is nothing new to you as a business owner, it’s perhaps more important than ever to get inside your customers’ heads. Let’s walk through some of the research on how Americans are feeling, including insights into how you might use those understandings to make smart business decisions.


How Americans feel about COVID-19

Start with empathy. Assessing how Americans are reacting to COVID-19 can help you understand how your customers are feeling as the crisis evolves.

In many ways, COVID-19 is the defining issue of 2020. For many of us it’s the primary topic of conversation and visible everywhere we go. The economic disruption it has caused means people are stressed about money, in addition to worried about getting sick. Perhaps as a result, they’re looking for good news. Literally. Google searches for “good news” have jumped.

It’s important for businesses to not only be aware of this mindset, but how they fit into the discussion.

Action: Don’t ignore the crisis, but try to share positivity when you can. This can be anything from sharing uplifting social media posts to highlighting ways you’re helping the community.


What people want from companies

Research shows customers do want to hear from you, because it can provide a sense of normalcy. But as the crisis evolves, more people are wary of companies that seem like they’re trying to capitalize on the crisis.

So it’s important to talk to customers the right way. Multiple surveys show people want companies to put people first, whether it’s their employees or their community at large.

What that means in practice (how you put people first and help your community) might vary by business. It could mean anything from helping your employees through the crisis to offering discounts to hospital workers.

Action: Think beyond your values to how you express them publicly. If you have to lay off employees, for example, consider explaining why. It can prevent misconception and demonstrates that you value people.


How customers feel about recovery

The way Americans view reopening and recovery varies greatly, and understanding which views your customers hold can help you tailor your recovery plan. Overall, more Americans are concerned about reopening too quickly. Many say that even as they’re able to shop and move about as before, they likely won’t, which could put pressure on owners to find new ways to engage.

But there’s also a strong segment of people who want to see things go back to normal immediately. In these areas, pent-up demand may lead to an initial surge in business that owners can try to maintain as they rebuild.

These different attitudes can have a big impact on how you interact with customers. If you’re in an area with pent-up demand, you might have an easier time reengaging customers. There may also be more pressure on you, as a business owner, to follow regulations around social distancing.

On the other hand, if you’re in an area where people feel more anxious, you may need to offer more flexibility and incentives to customers. In these areas, think about wooing your customers back gradually by helping them feel comfortable again.

Action: Observe your surroundings carefully, like how diligent people are about masks or standing six feet apart. Correctly assessing customer concern about COVID-19 can help you rebuild those relationships — and ultimately your business.


For more specific insights on how COVID-19 is affecting your customers, consider opening a dialogue with them via social media or whatever channel you normally use to communicate. Combining insights directly from your customers with broader data may help give you a clearer picture of how they feel and what they need from you.


SOURCES: Pew Research, Google Trends, Twitter Insights, Ace Metrix, Pew Research, Bankrate survey, Associated Press, CUNY