Customer loyalty in times of crisis – all digital, all well?
By Roman Becker
The Corona crisis is endangering the customer relationships of many businesses. Massive restrictions on personal contacts interrupt familiar communication, so emotional ties often suffer. The good news: contacts via digital channels can turn customers into fans as well – but only under one important condition.
An invisible threat is changing the way we live and communicate around the world. Personal relationships with customers, business partners and employees have been severely curtailed. There can be no familiar greeting ritual, and in some cases no eye contact at all – and even if there is, then only from distance via camera: There is no shared tea or coffee at an important meeting, no handshake after signing a contract. The emotional bond, the closeness, the connection through personal contact has been abolished by decree.
Only an “A” counts…
We know from more than 20 years of market research and fan research: Digital contacts can increase emotional connection as well. Digital contacts can also turn customers into fans. The decisive component: The customer must perceive the digital contacts as excellent and unique. Only if this is the case, does it have an effect on the fan rate, on the emotional bond. We tend to say – in studies on contact quality – that only an “A” counts. At a “B”, the fan rate already falls below that of customers who have had no contact at all.
This is where the employees of companies and organizations are important. Because, if you want to be precise, there is no such thing as “digital contacts”. We are always talking about human-to-human relationships. Behind every digital channel, people are at work: a company’s website, for example, is made by people who can achieve an emotionalization of customers through an appropriate message. Provided they know the needs of their customers. The same applies to social networks, telephone calls, video messages, webinars, etc
Life in times of Covid
Currently, people are gaining experience with the digital world, they are adjusting to digital contacts. And they are realizing that it works. Homeschooling works, so does home office, shopping at an online pharmacy is done quickly, flowers, herbs and new soil for the garden are delivered, and even the bookstore and the pub around the corner can deliver right to your home. Many an elderly gentleman has now had to venture into online banking and will probably save himself the walk to the bank, with the hand-filled remittance slip, in the future as well. Customers will get used to these digital offerings. And they will love them. And there will be no turning back. Because everything is so much easier. And above all hygienic, a key factor for now.
All digital, all new?
Companies are now under the pressure – but also have the opportunity – to adapt to these new habits and expectations. And they need to do so quickly – and professionally. If you digitize bad processes, you will only end up with bad digital processes. It is a matter of making real identification tangible for customers. Businesses need to know the relevant needs of their customers, especially now, before they invest in digital processes with a scattergun approach. It is precisely these needs that must be served excellently at every possible touchpoint. This satisfies customers, and even more: this turns customers into profitable fans.
Employees as Fan Makers
We know from hundreds of studies, that employee motivation and customer orientation play just as significant a role in digital channels, as they do in personal contacts. Customers have a very keen sense of how customer-focused the employees who are responsible for designing and maintaining digital channels really are. They are able to evaluate aspects such as “I feel at ease on a website” or “Those responsible find it easy to put themselves in the shoes of visitors/users” in a very precise and differentiated manner. And in customer surveys, these aspects regularly prove to be highly relevant for the overall perception of digital channels, whether or not an “A” is awarded on the school grading scale. Because only excellent digital contacts can make fans!
Speaking of fans: They are the customers who stay and are loyal even in times of crisis; who buy more and more frequently; who are less price-sensitive and who – across all digital channels – are the best ambassadors.