If you’re a business owner, you’ve probably heard at least one musing or another about how the strongest brands are the ones that can best adapt to change. That quote is especially true in times as unprecedented as the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we acknowledge in our trends report on this issue, it’s difficult (if not impossible) for brands to prepare for every eventuality, especially one as heartstopping as a worldwide pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t try, and it certainly doesn’t mean that brands that try don’t stand a good chance of finding a way forward. Here’s how brands can do precisely that.
Speed: The Name of The Game
It’s never too late to create the processes and teams that brands need to adapt to a crisis like this. Our research indicates that the faster an organization acts to put these changes in place, the easier it will be for brands to maintain positive customer sentiment even in conditions as adverse as these.
Consider, for example, the gulf that lies between customer perceptions of the restaurant industry and those of online retailers. When the pandemic began truly ramping up, many restaurants responded by quickly changing teams and processes so that they could keep providing excellent experiences.
These establishments were able to maintain positive customer sentiment in a number of ways. First, they made it clear that they took customer health seriously by encouraging social distancing and even closing dine-in services. Then, they quickly adapted new strategies like curbside and third-party delivery to keep the meals going and to encourage customers to keep returning.
Finally, many restaurants were able to accomplish all of this without overburdening customers. Indeed, our research shows that the only difference many customers noticed was that they didn’t need to venture outside to grab their favorite grub!
All told, restaurants were able to keep customer sentiment positive by recognizing an encroaching threat and working quickly to adapt to it. As a result, many of these establishments continue to enjoy business even in an age of closed dining rooms and stringent social distancing guidelines.
Restaurants are a great COVID-era brand success story, but the same cannot be said of every industry. As we mentioned earlier, there’s a stark difference between customer perceptions of restaurants versus online retailers, and the X factor here, again, is adaptation.
When the pandemic arrived to American shores in earnest, many online retailers were slow to react. They failed to adjust incoming shipments and were slow to follow up on how that logistical change affected their stock, leading to, well, much less of it.
Additionally, a lot of online retailers also failed to take order pace and workplace safety measures into account. They did not attempt to anticipate how the pandemic would affect certain items’ stock, and they also left many of their fulfillment centers bereft of the workplace safety measures that other industries adopted in the face of the pandemic.
All of this inability to adapt did not stay confined in-house. Before long, customers became adversely affected by these retailers’ surprising slowness to adapt, resulting in overwhelmed call centers, negative comments, and unimpressed customers. Many customers were also outraged at these retailers’ seeming indifference toward employee safety, a fact that many of these individuals are paying attention to and will remember when choosing a brand to shop with in the future.
Going With the Flow
There’s an old Greek proverb about reeds surviving storms because they can bend with the current, while the oak tree is destroyed because it’s too stiff to adapt to the tempest. The same holds true for organizations and COVID—the brands that adapt will come out the other side of this pandemic in much better shape than the ones that don’t.
As we’ve illustrated with the examples above and as our research demonstrates, brand survival and brand adaptation are one in the same. Companies that can change teams and processes—that can bend with the proverbial current—will still provide quality experiences for customers. They will thus survive and thrive during and after COVID-19.
Want to learn more about how to survive and thrive in the age of COVID-19? Be sure to read our Special Edition CX Trends Report “Your Post-Pandemic Playbook” for additional tips and insights.