To say that COVID-19 has changed the way we look at things would be a gross understatement. News cycles continue to churn out information, and we —as brands, consumers and humans in general— continue to respond.
We’re all human. We’re all being impacted by this.
As marketers, we’re seeing the customer journey change quickly and often across industries and market segments alike – and many of these changes may well be permanent.
The path forward isn’t clear by any means, but the brands that quickly and proactively adapt will survive and hopefully, come out of this stronger. Customers have begun demanding transparency, recognizing, and responding to authenticity and social responsibility now more than ever.
Last week, we polled our team to ask if they’ve had any personal experiences with a company navigating changes with them (as customers) really well in a COVID-19 world. Did any brand demonstrate an ability and commitment to adapt their customer experience to meet the rapidly evolving moment? We wanted to know.
The answer was an overwhelming, "yes."
In the responses, we saw four key themes emerge, illustrating just how companies are adapting their CX to meet the needs of their customers.
Theme 1: Adapt with Empathy
This situation stinks for everyone. Now is NOT the time to nickel and dime. It may feel counterintuitive, but it’s not the time to make things difficult in order to protect your business.
Now is the time to break what are traditionally non-customer-friendly practices (ahem...airlines and travel).
By the way, this isn’t just a B2C issue. Business owners and business stakeholders are people too.
- Shopify has shown that it is dedicated to helping small businesses. Amongst other things, the brand made physical and digital gift cards available on all new and existing Shopify plans, and committed to making $200 million in small business funding available to lend some much needed support to the community.
- OpenTable is recognizing the massive impact the restaurant industry is experiencing. They activated their customer base and sent an email to users encouraging support for the community with examples on how we can help restaurants during these times. It came across as altruistic while providing actionable information.
- Chicago Cubs / MLB: When the remainder of Spring Training was cancelled, an email went out from the Cubs organization proactively detailing that refunds would be issued for all purchased tickets, exactly how they would be received, and the timeframe refunds could be expected in. There was no action needed from the customer.
“It was nice to receive everything in one email and not have to worry about contacting anyone to get a refund.”
- Westin , Telecharge, & American Airlines: A New York City trip planned for the week the city was being shut down meant more than one cancellation was needed.
Westin helped tackle cancelling non-refundable reservations with no hassle, in a matter of minutes.
After the announcement was made that Broadway would be going dark, Telecharge proactively got cancellation emails out by the end of the day, making clear its plan to issue full refunds with no action needed from the customer.
“They were clear in email and website to "be patient, no need to call, you're getting a refund."
American Airlines flights to New York (that were booked with points, no less) needed to be cancelled quickly, in the eleventh hour.
“I had a really long wait time, but once I was on they were nice, quick, and frictionless to get the points returned.”
Theme 2: Adapt Proactively
Consumer behavior has been changed, for sure in the short-term. Better to be there first, anticipate the changes and make proactive adjustments if you can.
- Blue Apron: With news of COVID-19 beginning to take off, Blue Apron’s business spiked and the brand was quick in communicating with its customers weeks in advance about the changes needed in order for everyone to be served within their dietary restrictions.
“[Blue Apron’s] customer service has also been helpful since I wanted to change the serving sizes on my orders.”
- Costco: “Staffed up for the rush and changed their business workflow to appease the customers and maintain sanity.”
Sanity may be a relative term, but we applaud the company for doing its best in these strange times.
- Booty's Burgers and Wings
“It's our favorite local wing place and we wanted to help them out. They have a system set up for pickup that limits any contact. Very fast, easy, and tasty!”
- Texas Roadhouse quickly deployed a very efficient system for pickup where you didn't even have to get out of your car – and had a good takeout deal too.
- Pat Tillman Foundation: Instead of cancelling their charitable run in April, the nonprofit is transforming it to be a virtual run.
“It's pretty cool. They're encouraging users to share as they run. Great way to keep the momentum virtually!”
Theme 3: Adapt Altruistically
Quickly developing an altruistic model, or leveraging one that already exists.
“Opportunistic” doesn’t have to have a negative connotation if it’s true to your brand, has an authentic voice, and strives to be helpful to the situation.
- Allbirds quickly spun up a donation model in which they implemented a buy one, donate one model for getting shoes to frontline healthcare workers.
Their statement read: "Beginning March 24th and running while supplies last, you can bundle any shoe purchase with a donation to immediately supply a pair of Wool Runners to a healthcare professional who’s already reached out to us. Don’t need a new pair yourself, but still want to help? That’s an option, too."
- TOMS has a good campaign running right now centered around how “we can all use some extra comfort” and that we’re in this together. The shoe brand has a sale on sale for its slippers.
“The messaging was tactful and helped with some normalizing, [giving] a break from seeing only COVID in my news feed.”
Theme 4: Adapt Radically
The badassiest of all. There are many, many companies who are pitching in to help, but two specific ones came up in our office poll. One, in particular, is a local company that is no doubt further solidifying its already strong brand, but winning new customers and brand advocates.
The “doing good is good for business” mantra has never been more true than right now.
O.H.S.O. and Fruit Brands, et al will reap the benefits of doing the right thing today.
- O.H.S.O. Brewery & Distillery: An Arizona-grown restaurant, local nano-brewery, and distillery (and local favorite) began producing hand sanitizer and delivering to Banner Health, a local healthcare provider to lend a helping hand.
- Fruit Inc. Brands (@RussellAthletic), (@Spalding), (@FruitOfTheLoom), (@ShopVanityFair) have converted production lines to create protective masks for healthcare providers.
No doubt, the impact of this virus will continue to grow. And the changes we’re all faced with making today will live on. Since we’re all in this together, let’s continue to make those changes for good.
How has your customer journey been impacted by COVID-19?
What has your company been doing to adapt during these times?
Additional contributions and editing by Laurie SantaLucia.
Written by Robert Wallace