The ongoing disruption of COVID-19 can transform loyal customers into occasional visitors. In order to keep your customers, or win back any you may have lost, consider these three strategies to make your customers feel valued.

 

  1. Stay engaged

As the crisis evolves, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for your customers to continue being customers. The best way to do this is by putting their needs first. You’ve likely made changes to your business in response to the COVID-19 crisis — but have you thought about how to keep customers engaged through those changes?

For example, a local wine shop may have added online ordering and curbside pickup to accommodate customers who prefer to stay home. This move puts customer safety first, but it’s possible to go a step further to build customer relationships. Consider New York wine shop Corkbuzz, which hosts virtual wine classes for a small fee. Customers have the option to purchase corresponding wines ahead of time. Create something similar by telling customers about business updates that prioritize their needs and interests, then look for a way to develop those updates one step further.

If your business works with other businesses (versus directly with consumer), you can create this kind of engagement via community involvement. If you partner with other organizations, talk to them about ways to help the community, like sponsoring socially distanced events to help replace live sports or concerts.

 

Action: Think of how your customers’ lives (or businesses) have changed since January. Use your customer journey to figure out how to make their new reality easier; it might deepen your relationship.

 

  1. Stay receptive and empathetic

Excellent customer service requires listening, as well as outreach. Make sure you are available to your customers: social media, email, telephone, website, and even in person, if it’s safe to do so.

Be sure customers can easily get in touch with you to voice any complaints or issues. Your customers may be emotionally, physically, or financially on edge, so try to lead with empathy and follow these tips.

  • Devise a strategy. Determine the best way to respond to customer inquiries or complaints, then write it down and share it with employees. Be specific. For instance: If a customer wants to cancel a membership, authorize employees to offer a discount or a three-month hiatus. If that doesn’t work, cancel without pushback.
  • Make sure customers feel heard. Determine how you’ll acknowledge and address customer problems, even if you can’t fix them. Your employees might say, “This is important, and the owner would want to hear from you,” before taking a call-back number.
  • Adapt your strategy. As the saying goes, the customer is always right. Ask your employees to share what works and doesn’t when taking customer feedback. Don’t be afraid to update your plan and policies accordingly.

If a customer walks away from an interaction feeling good, they’re more likely to come back. Make sure they feel heard and supported.

 

Action: Try to be less rigid about fees, cancelations, and returns, if you can. If you can’t, explain why and be as empathetic as possible.

 

  1. Reward loyalty

Just thanking customers for their business can go a long way toward making them feel valued. But there are a few other things you can try.

  • Price: Consider a basic discount for any long-term customers. This could apply to a single product or service, or everything you offer.
  • Service: Thank long-term customers with special or added services, like priority reservations.
  • Points: Generate long-term loyalty by offering some type of reward points that can be redeemed in the future.
  • Perks: A one-time perk, like a free gift or service, can acknowledge customers who stayed with you during any breaks in business.

 

Action: Be strategic about which products and services you use as rewards. If you’ve launched a new initiative in response to COVID-19, featuring it as a reward can raise awareness while also expressing customer appreciation.

 

Making your customers feel appreciated can help protect you against any future disruptions, whether they’re related to COVID-19 or not. Be overt about wanting to develop a strong bond. After all, valued customers not only come back, they can also generate positive buzz that leads to new customers and sales.

 

Sources: Corkbuzz, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, McKinsey & Company