For a brief moment, it looked as though the Coronavirus pandemic might finally be under control, but recent viral surges throughout the country indicate that, unfortunately, this disease and the new way of life accompanying it will be with us for the foreseeable future.
While this is certainly unwelcome news, especially for the thousands of businesses that are struggling right now, there is a way that these brands can both stay ahead of the competition and create a better experience for customers: empathy.
Empathy enables brands to understand what their customers want, how to reach them, and how to react quickly to any big changes. Empathy is an essential component of a winning customer experience (CX) strategy.
Today’s discussion focuses on how brands can wield empathy to thrive, not just survive, during this pandemic, especially as it pertains to four key areas:
- External Communications
- Employee Policies
- Employee Behavior
- Taking Action
Key #1: External Communications
How can companies use empathy to meaningfully consider and improve external communications?
Well, it should surprise no one that most customers are experiencing some kind of COVID-related stress, whether that’s staying put at home all day or coming into any sort of contact with the virus. Brands can build trust with new and existing customers by being empathetic to their concerns and putting that empathy front-and-center in their messaging.
Many brands have found great success by expressing empathy for customers’ uncertainty, then offering relief in the form of concrete action plans. Starbucks, for example, wasted no time reassuring its customers that the chains was taking the pandemic seriously and demonstrated that by instituting stringent cleanliness and social distancing measures. Crucially, the chain also told customers that it cared about employee well-being.
As a result of this messaging, many customers felt that Starbucks earnestly understood their concerns and felt empathized with by the coffee chain, which encouraged them to continue buying their cup of joe there. Companies which employ that one-two punch of empathizing with customers and taking steps to address their concerns will see success in the age of COVID.
Key #2: Employee Policies
As we touched on in the previous section, customers are paying attention now more than ever to how companies treat their employees during this pandemic. Most customers won’t give a brand the time of day if they get the impression that it doesn’t care about its employees’ safety.
Though it hopefully goes without saying, brands need to include empathy as a centerpiece of their employee policies. This means making accommodations wherever possible for employee concerns about COVID, especially when it comes to workplace safety. Brands that invest time and resources into this endeavor will retain more employees, increase those individuals’ passion for their workplace, and signal to customers that these organizations care for the folks who sustain it.
Key #3: Employee Behavior
Expressing empathy toward employees can do more than make them better brand advocates—it can also encourage them to make positive behavior changes in the workplace.
For example, employees who feel that their companies care about them and are invested in their well-being are much more likely to infuse that attitude of care and consideration into their own work, being more proactive about, say, wiping down self-checkout kiosks and even helping customers who have questions. Suffice it to say that empathy can spread quickly.
Key #4: Taking Action
We’ve touched on this a bit already, but the importance of backing up empathetic sentiments with real action really can’t be understated. Think about all of the emails you’ve received these last few months from companies who say that they’re passionately in the fight against COVID… but don’t actually back that up with anything more concrete.
That train of thought has occurred to countless customers, and it’s why taking action is so important. Actions like wider aisle spacing, better storefront cleanliness, social distancing enforcement, and other measures let customers know that a brand wants to fight COVID with more than just a polite message.
Taking action is also the ultimate act of empathy. Verbally expressing that emotion is one thing—turning it into action is quite another. Likewise, brands that take action to craft external communications around empathy, pour it into employee policies, and implement measures that reflect customer concerns are the ones that can thrive even as this pandemic continues to rage.
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.