How to Stay Close to Your Customers While Maintaining Social Distance

March 27, 2020

The past few weeks, we’ve learned how to do without in many areas of life, including our instinctual need for social interaction. As people worked remotely, self-quarantined and abided by guidance to keep gatherings under 10 people, there was a real potential we could sink to new lows in an already socially challenged society. But, the opposite appears to have happened.  

Ironically, our dependence on technology for connection – a trend that’s been growing steadily over the last decade – may be exactly what saved us from the depression, loneliness and feelings of isolation that can come from reduced face time with other humans. Our proficiency with both analog and digital technology is also keeping people-centered businesses connected to their customers in a time of uncertainty, and in some cases, great need.  

Here are a few ideas for how you can do the same:  

Reengage Customers Voice to Voice:

A friendly phone call can build goodwill during times of turmoil. For digital-first customers, send a text or a Facebook message first and invite them to chat, perhaps even commiserate, with you about what’s become their new normal. You’ll undoubtedly discover ways your business, your network or your expertise can help them cope with the challenges the pandemic has introduced to the day-to-day.  

Dig Into the Data:

Many companies have taken strong advantage of the digital economy to tap new business intelligence sources. What kind of information do you have within your systems, or the systems of your strategic partners, that can tell you what your customers need without even having to ask them? If you operate a gym, for instance, can you identify those clients that use your childcare services and email them fun tips for exercising with young kids at home?  

Put on a Happy Face:

If contacting customers individually isn’t feasible, distribute a series of quick videos providing updates on your services. Bring your best by keeping things light and positive. Include one silver lining of the pandemic (e.g., more time with family) or a quick tip on how to survive some of the frustrations it’s caused (e.g. a list of restaurants giving out free toilet paper with to-go orders).  

Extend Yourself:

There will be customers of yours that experience very real hardships, whether from the loss of a job, the stress of guiding children through distance learning or not being able to visit loved ones in care facilities. Most businesses were in pretty good shape before the pandemic spread and worries about a recession kicked in. Challenge your teams to think big about how your business can, prudently of course, extend some of the profit garnered in recent years to help in meaningful ways. The short-term loss will undoubtedly pay off with the long-term gains of increased customer love and loyalty.