If you take care of them, however, they'll reciprocate. And how can you remain top of mind with your customers with so much going on in the world? A lot of things are competing for their attention, from their health to their livelihood to their mental health. Making things easier on them is the key to both solving their problems and making your services more visible.
Start by using these five trust strategies:
1. Follow the Heart framework.
After 70 years of combined experience, Ted Waldron and James Wetherbe at Harvard Business Review found that what they call the Heart framework can help companies preserve their relationships with consumers during times when customer trust may be challenged:
- Humanize your brand: Waldron and Wetherbe say to empathize with your customer's feelings and to share those messages through your company's social media sites and customer mailing lists. The key is to be genuine and authentic. People want to do business with people they like, and people who understand the challenges they face because they face them too.
- Educate about change: You need to be open and transparent with your customers so they feel they're kept in the loop. But it's also about showing your customers that you're being proactive. For example, Apple closed its stores before it was mandatory, voluntarily prioritizing its customers over profits.
- Assure stability: Communicate that what distinguishes your company -- the quality of your offerings or the thoughtful approach of your customer service reps -- is what will continue to remain. Show them how you plan to maintain those advantages: This is all about consistency, something everyone needs in times of uncertainty.
- Revolutionize offerings: Waldron and Wetherbe point out that necessity is the mother of invention. Let your customers know how you're still serving them, but it wouldn't hurt to ask what you could do right now to improve their lives even further. What are they struggling with? What do they need access to? How could you change your delivery options to accommodate their needs?
- Tackle the future: Because everything may be up in the air, it's difficult to provide a timeline for concrete action. In the meantime, keep your customers updated on what you're doing to maintain and improve your business going forward.
2. Unleash the chatbots.
Customers have a lot of questions. To demonstrate your credibility and reliability and give them peace of mind, try to address them in a timely manner.
If you don't want to stretch your team too thin or currently don't have enough team members to handle this responsibility, chatbot technology should be added to your customer service strategy. They can provide immediate responses, personalized customer experiences, and real-time problem-solving.
3. Reward your most loyal customers.
Retaining your existing customers, as opposed to recruiting new ones, saves you time and money. In fact, just increasing your customer retention rates by 5 percent can increase profits by 25 percent to 95 percent. Best of all? There are several cost-effective and easy ways to show your appreciation to your customers.
Points and referral programs are tried-and-true techniques. You could launch a value program, where you donate a portion of sales to nonprofits. Another idea is to host an exclusive virtual event like a training tutorial, product demo, or concert livestream. You could also keep it incredibly simple: Square refunded software licensing fees during this pandemic because this is when its customers need its products most.
4. Prioritize your team's health and wellness.
Richard Branson once tweeted, "Take care of your employees and they'll take care of your business. It's as simple as that." When you take care of your teammates, they're healthy, happier, and more productive. As a result, they'll be less likely to leave and will become your biggest advocates. They'll also be more engaged and helpful -- if you don't think that's important, just think about the businesses you support. I'm positive one of the main factors is how likable the employees are.
Most important, it's the right thing to do if you want to run a moral and humane organization. Unsurprisingly, that can affect your company's reputation. Companies like Amazon and Instacart have received backlash regarding how they're treating essential workers; these employees have begun striking. No matter their position, the health and wellness of your employees should always come first.
If you don't think customers are paying attention, consider the several studies that have shown that consumers expect brands to be socially responsible. Amazon will be fine, even if people cancel their Prime memberships. But for a small business, this could be a make-or-break situation.
How can you prioritize your team's health and wellness? An obvious place to start is by offering your employees unlimited sick days or flexible scheduling. You should also provide health insurance, access to mental health and fitness apps, and standing desks to counter the effects of a sedentary lifestyle if possible.
5. Keep your customers safe.
For a majority of business owners, that means protecting your customers' privacy and data. You can achieve this by only collecting the data you truly need and explaining why you need it, as well as what measures you've taken to protect it. Make sure it's stored in an encrypted network and backed up. Train your team in basic cybersecurity prevention to prevent breaches.
The bottom line is, if you build trust with your customers by doing your part to make their lives easier, you won't have to worry about them leaving during uncertain times.