Gartner: 5 actions to help customers through the Covid-19 crisis

Times of crisis are a defining moment for executive and IT leaders as they work to keep their organisation afloat, simultaneously ensuring they are truly helping customers with their urgent needs. The biggest changes in an industry happen during a market downturn. Therefore, executive and IT leaders must focus on helping customers to improve customer retention and protect revenue, as customers will remember how you treat them for years to come.

As leaders navigate through countless unknowns, these times of uncertainty make it all too easy to appear ‘tone-deaf’ to customers while trying to manage falling demand. Executive and IT leaders should implement five actions to help customers through crisis and recovery.

Action No. 1: Deliver “how we can help you” options

Organisations must go beyond providing information on how they can help their customers, by offering tailored advice and options. For example, Wells Fargo advised customers to beware of scams, which often increase during a crisis.

Focus on how to meet customers changing needs. Customers are now more than ever seeking human interaction, and this will be vital in delivering on customer expectations. For instance, organisations can double down on self-service options to enable a scalable response, but also provide customers with options to connect with you “live” even if it’s through a digital channel.

These actions can be carried out simply utilising basic technologies such as email, websites, mobile apps, and collaboration software.

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Action No. 2: Remove reasonable gotchas

Give customers a sense of control during a time of very limited control and certainty. This can be achieved by removing reasonable crisis-related ‘gotchas’ relating to a product or service. For example, DNV GL granted postponements for renewal and annual surveys.

Regardless of industry, it’s likely your customers will be experiencing various degrees of Covid-19 gotchas. To remove them, adapt policies and utilise basic technologies such as email and websites. This can also be actioned in a B2B context, through relationship managers leveraging CRM systems that flag which customers need to be contacted.

Action No. 3: Reach out to your most valuable customers with personalised advice

Executive and IT leaders should implement three actions when addressing customers with personalised advice:

1. Have all employees participate in providing some level of personalised advice by picking up the phone or sending an email. Targeting the larger and more profitable customers.

2. Analyse the value of implementing personalised advice rather than one-size-fits all advice.

3. Use existing technology to contact your customers. Whilst reaching out to customers with personalised advice can be done using sophisticated AI and predictive analytics, it can also be done using basic technology including email, phone and mobile apps and other technologies.

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Action No. 4: Orchestrate proactive action

A differentiating capability for leaders, as they work to offer tailored advice for their customers, involves taking the next step in providing an “easy button” to accept a next action. This can be a digital tool, for example mobile apps powered by AI are helping patients self-diagnose Covid-19. However, it doesn’t have to be digital and can be as simple as a friend preparing some meals for an overworked healthcare worker. These are proactive actions after identifying the change in needs. Maersk provided custom logistics solutions as its customers struggled with abnormal supply chain issues.

By taking the next step and orchestrating proactive action, regardless of the technological capabilities, this can also uncover new revenue opportunities.

Action No. 5: Decide what becomes permanent post-crisis

The crisis response taken by organisations can be an effective business component, post-crisis. Organisations shouldn’t dismiss the efforts they’ve put in, considering what customer practices to keep in place after they to return to business as usual.

Organisations can decide which changes to make permanent using the following steps:

1. List the practices your business has (and will) put in place in the framework for the crisis.

2. Identify the practices that you believe should continue post-crisis, which will evolve into normal operations and services. For example, customer “freebies” that were considered extra during Covid-19 such as free shipping may become permanent services.

3. Assess the competitive benefits of keeping these new customer services/freebies against the cost of maintaining them, whilst considering competitors may have made similar changes and could continue offering them.

Helping customers navigate the crisis

As a crisis can understandably create internal stresses around survival, remaining focused on helping customers will help you improve retention and mitigate potential revenue losses.

Advanced technologies can help but require investment you may not have. Even “old” technologies like email, websites and mobile apps can help improve outcomes. Stand out by reaching out to customers, now.

Written by Kristin Moyer, distinguished VP research analyst at Gartner

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