It seems that every business in America is asking itself the same question right now: How can our company survive in a post-Covid-19 world?
The answer, or at least part of it, can be found in an unlikely place: an old video clip showing a wall in one of Amazon's offices. (You can see the clip at the 21-second mark in this tweet.) The wall displays five simple principles for how to satisfy customers:
1. Answer the question asked.
2. Reduce customer effort.
3. Treat every customer as a friend.
4. Escalate systemic problems.
5. Solve the problem.
We can easily remember these five tenets with the acronym ARTES. (Hat tip to the folks at BolsterBiz for that simple hint.) ARTES is more than a customer service strategy. It's an example of how to use emotional intelligence in your business--a way to make customers' emotions work for you, instead of against you.
Let's break down each of the steps of ARTES to see how it can help your business not only to survive but to thrive.
1. Answer the question asked
Every successful business provides a solution to a problem.
But some problems are more complex than others. If your customer gets in contact, the last thing you want to do is give them the runaround, or try to sell an unrelated product or service--especially right now, when the need to establish trust with consumers is greater than ever.
Rather, you need to focus on carefully listening to the customer, and then being helpful. You might need to repeat the question back to the customer in your own words, to make sure you understand it properly. Then, "answer the question asked."
Taking it further, you can attract new business by identifying questions your target customers are asking, and then incorporating this into your marketing efforts. For example, if you're a restaurant that's suddenly limited to takeaway, you want to answer target customers' most important question, namely: Where can I get takeout food right now?
Invest in making that answer come through loud and clear, through physical signs, adjustments to your website, and online ads.
2. Reduce customer effort
It's important that you try your best to empathize with the customers' feelings and relate to them. This will inspire you to help customers in a quick and effective manner, which further builds trust and keeps them coming back.
This could mean extending your services, at least for the time being. Going back to our restaurant example: Takeout is great, but it also limits your reach. Is it possible to offer delivery, at least temporarily?
Anything you can do to make things easier on the customer will encourage them to keep giving you their business.
3. Treat every customer as a friend
Remember, people do business with people.
Unfortunately, we're living in especially stressful times, and that stress affects even how we deal with friends. And that's why it will take even more effort than usual to be patient, friendly, and empathetic when dealing with your customers.
But empathy begets empathy. So, if founders and team leads treat their teams with kindness and empathy, they'll treat your customers in the same way.
One more thing: In the times of this pandemic, remember to take a moment to ask your customers how they're doing, and listen carefully. Not everyone has family or friends to talk things out with, so you may be able to fill a need your customer can't find elsewhere.
4. Escalate systemic problems
Especially complex problems often require help to solve.
When that's the case, let your customer know that they've identified a major problem that needs to be fixed. Again, empathy is key--don't minimize the problem, but don't overpromise, either. And make sure to communicate to the customer when you'll get back to them, and make sure you have their contact info.
Then, escalate the problem to your team lead. If you're a small business and you're the principal, don't be afraid to ask your employees for ideas. In fact, doing so could end up saving your company.
5. Solve the problem
You may do excellent at steps one through four of the process, but if you don't actually solve your customer's problem, you've failed.
So, exhaust the resources you have available to make things better for your customer. If you're the boss, give your team freedom to focus on principles instead of rules, all with the goal of keeping the customer happy.
Finally, in the face of the current pandemic, remember that the situation is far from "business as usual." Don't be afraid to break policy or make exceptions to get through this time. Your customers will remember once things get better.
In the meantime, ARTES is a simple, brilliant strategy that can help your company get back to the basics--and make emotions work for you, instead of against you.