This is a time that your organisation needs to go back to basics- and a fundamental part of this is to address the needs of your customers in tough times.
Sometimes changes come naturally. Other times, they’re forced upon us. With all the negative sides of the pandemic in business, there is a silver lining for organisations that are willing to be proactive about improvements in their organisation, and that is to leverage customer needs to optimise the organisation’s operations.
Very few people and organisations alike have been immune from the economic impact that the COVID-19 virus is having worldwide, and while there’s a lot of negatives that will surely rock the boat in the coming weeks and months, this is also an opportunity for organisations to reshape their most fundamental offering: how they can better address the needs of their customers. While Gerry Harvey might have been insensitive to claim outright that Australians shouldn’t be worried, and that “this is an opportunity” for the retail sector, on the fundamentals, he’s not far from the truth. The opportunity, however, isn’t in moving whitegoods from Harvey Norman’s shelves, it’s found in how you can more than ever connect with your client base and see how your organisation can transform in line with their needs.
This is a period in time where leveraging empathy will help to drive your research of customer’s needs, so your organisation can better respond to these requirements. Bill Gates once said that “your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning,” and this is where you should start your soul-searching. Ideally, you should be listening to these customer complaints on a regular basis, well before a time of crisis. Your day-to-day operation should take customer complaints into consideration, and eventually into action in the form of an updated policy to reduce friction points in your organisation and streamline the customer journey. It’s very telling just how small of a detail can upset a potential customer, and if there’s any evidence whatsoever of a friction point in the journey, you risk losing that customer; at a time like this, that’s simply not an option.
McKinsey & Company writes that “now is an opportune time to mimic - and arguably improve upon - the customer experience,” citing examples of the banking industry in China moving to a more efficient online format and lenders changing their business as usual approach to interest, late fees and offsets. The author states that organisations “must prioritize outreach and communication with concerned customers. Offering empathy and genuine caring not only strengthens the customer relationship but also demonstrates a commitment to customers’ long-term well-being. Customers will welcome such a commitment as reassuring and potentially even refreshing at a time of extreme uncertainty.”
This, of course, ties into the concept of a SWOT - strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats - analysis within your organisation’s operations, and is designed to highlight some underlying weaknesses and threats that you can, ideally, leverage into opportunities and strengths for your organisation. Author and founder of ThinkLions, Mike Sims once wrote that “people will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel,” and that quote really acts to underscore the end goal of this process of reflection and empathy for the customer- your organisation’s commitment to improving their experience with your business.
I’ll end with a quote from McKinsey & Company, who writes that “whether the economic impact of COVID-19 is a short, sharp shock to people’s everyday lives or leads to longer-term stress on the financial system, how individual banks react and care for customers and staff will be remembered for years to come.” While the author is putting this into the context of the financial industry, there’s a widely-applicable lesson for businesses of all shapes and sizes, being that when the current events and economic stagnation subside, if your organisation was truly trying to make a difference in the lives of its customers, this appreciation could become transformative for the organisation as it steers the ship toward clearer water.
Thanks very much for your time, I’ll see you in the next piece.
Kobi Simmat- Director & CEO of the Best Practice Group.