Updated: May 20
Imagine a customer walking up to your business, ready to spend money or inquire about services. When she pushes on the handle, she’s met with an immediate obstacle: The door won’t budge because it’s locked to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions.
In this scenario, the customer is likely going to feel annoyed, frustrated, or unsupported.
A locked door is practically signaling to your customer that you can’t help her. You know that you can, so how do you let your customers know you’re willing to meet their needs, despite safety challenges the pandemic has presented?
How do you meet their needs in the first place, while also keeping everyone involved safe and healthy?
1) Remember your core values — Your business was likely built on a mission statement or a list of attributes you wanted your everyday operations to reflect. This might include honesty, trust, and customer commitment. Whatever yours might be, dig them up and assess them. Try to understand how these core values could align with your current safety policies.
If one of your core values is customer commitment, for example, think about how your pandemic-era business practices will reflect that.
What could you do to make sure customers are your first priority, even if it’s harder to see them face-to-face?
Everyone’s assessments of their core values will look different, but here’s an example of how you could redesign customer commitment:
Post a sign on your locked door with a message to customers to let them know why the door is locked. Give them alternative methods to contact the business. This could include a phone number, a website URL, and a social media handle. Add a statement about your commitment to meet their needs. Personalize this in your business’s unique voice so customers feel connected and valued.
Another way to show your customers you're still committed to them during this time could be hosting virtual events, such as over Facebook Live.
Showing customers that you’re still standing by your core values during a pandemic eliminates some of those negative feelings they may experience when they realize your doors are locked.
2) Think of limitations as opportunities — Sure, your business isn’t operating like it used to, and that can be incredibly frustrating. I’m sure most business owners weren’t jumping at the chance to lock their doors or limit the number of people who could step inside.
While the restrictions can be difficult to manage, the best course of action is to shift your mindset. What if instead of looking at the pandemic as a limitation, you thought about it as an opportunity?
I was recently talking to some retail store owners about how they could continue to exceed customer expectations while restricting the number of guests inside their stores. They had resorted to making their storefront available by appointment only, and they were charging customers for groups larger than the CDC recommended number of patrons.
With their new policies, they found themselves in a sticky situation: Many customers were irritated with the restrictions and extra charges. On the surface, this seems like a lose-lose situation. The customers weren’t satisfied, and the owners seemed to have their hands tied as they were simply following state regulations.
I wholeheartedly believe there’s a simple solution to this unprecedented scenario.
Instead of thinking about how difficult the situation is, think about your new opportunities.
How can you give the customers the experience of a lifetime and still keep everyone involved safe? How can the restrictions actually work in your favor?
My advice to the retail store owners was to schedule calls with each potential customer after they scheduled an appointment. On the calls, they could ask, “What would make this experience amazing for you? What are your main goals when coming into my store?”
By keeping communication open with customers, business owners can develop a baseline for customer needs during the pandemic. (Bonus: When you ask the customer about their needs, they feel validated and heard, which is equally as important! After all, connection is currency.)
Customer needs may look vastly different from before the pandemic, and that’s OK! Build a new experience that you, your team, and your customers can enjoy (safely).
3) Use questions and concerns as information — Like I mentioned before, it’s helpful to schedule calls with potential customers to figure out where their expectations lie. During these calls, you may receive mixed reactions from customers — maybe even some negative reactions. You may also receive several different questions and concerns. Use everything you hear as information.
If you want to go from overwhelmed customers to incredibly happy customers, all you need is a system. Collecting information is a great place to start.
As you make these calls, make sure your language is empathetic. You’ll want to make sure the customer feels heard and understood to keep the conversation going.
My other advice is that if a customer is overwhelmingly enthusiastic during a particular point in your conversation, make a note of it! If a customer gets defensive, make a note of that too!
As you make these notes, you’ll start to see patterns in customer behaviors. These patterns are extremely important! They’re your golden ticket to tackling the new normal!
If you take questions and concerns at face value or analyze them on a case-by-case basis, you may miss key information that can help you succeed during lock-down restrictions.
Remember: The way a customer reacts is almost always a looking glass into her needs.
Luckily, we can use this as an opportunity to make sure our customers' needs are met.
Your doors may be locked. Your business may be operating in ways you never thought it would operate. Your anxiety about what’s next may be growing every day.
Take a deep breath: You’ve got this. Everything is trial and error. Some things will work. Some things won’t, and that’s OK. Hold your core values close, shift your mindset, and gather information every day. Your customers will thank you for it.
To learn more about creating happier customers and teams – one word at a time – book a free strategy call with me here.