Customer Relations In A Time Of Crisis

Customer behavior and expectations have changed rapidly and permanently. The physical world has become smaller and the digital transformation has reached a key stage. Customers expect to be able to do everything digitally. Brands and companies must therefore focus even more on innovation. The customer experience should not only be more personalized. It must also demonstrate the empathy of the company toward its customers.

A Time Marked By The Crises

Crises in the economy, health, social justice and climate have recently affected all aspects of our lives. This is leading to a change in the way customers connect with brands: Personalization, convenience and digital transformation are key drivers in customer relationships.

The Salesforce study "State of the Connected Customer" sheds light on the impact of the crisis on customer relationships and on customer trust in companies. The survey was conducted among more than 15,000 end and business customers from all over the world and examines the profound change.

Customer Relationship – A High Priority

The relationship between customers and brands has been turned upside down by recent events. Despite times of uncertainty and confusion, brands can use this as an opportunity to strengthen or build trust with new and existing customers. In a study (State of Connected Customer, 4. Edition), Salesforce found that 90% of customers base the trustworthiness of a company in times of crisis on its behavior.

Digital transformation has hit companies and customers at an unprecedented pace and scale. As a result, the customer experience has become an even more important differentiator. Another Salesforce study shows that digitalization in combination with employee experience is even a revenue driver.

Another study (The Experience Equation“, Salesforce cooperating Forbes Insights, Oktober 2020) shows that 80% of customers attach great importance to smooth interactions and product quality. Exceptional shopping experiences not only drive sales, they build relationships. 53% of customers have formed an emotional bond with the brands they buy from most often.

Every company must adapt to new customer demands and expectations. These requirements are primarily reflected in digital aspects: 88% of customers expect companies to accelerate their digitization initiatives in the wake of Covid-19. In addition, around 54% of all customers believe that companies should offer new products and services in response to Covid-19. At 69%, a larger proportion would like to continue to have access to existing products and services - for example, through a digital version of the previously analog shopping experience.

In addition to the significantly stronger digital orientation of companies, they also have to deal with other trends: 78% of customers perceive the crises as a motivation for business improvements and a contribution to society. This can be in dealing with nature, the services and support offered, or the business model.

The Trust Between Customers And Company

In order to build comprehensive relationships, trust - between customers and companies - is essential. 99% of customers believe that companies need to improve their trustworthiness. The relevance of trust has increased in times of crisis. In addition, it is more difficult to gain the trust of customers today: 90% of customers say that the behavior of a company in a crisis reveals its trustworthiness.

Companies are under close scrutiny. Their actions have a greater impact on public opinion. Based on the decisions made by companies, regular customers decide whether to continue a relationship with a brand and potential new customers decide whether to enter into a relationship with the brand.

Even though the majority of the population generally trusts the honesty and proper interests of companies, a significant minority has doubts. In addition to customer orientation, the social responsibility that companies take on is also questioned: Only around 48% of customers trust companies in general.

In this respect, there are strong differences between the various generations. The most skeptical generation with regard to the actions and motives of companies are the "baby boomers. This could be attributed to their life experiences. The youngest generation is just as critical. The so-called "Generation Z" has even greater doubts about the honesty of companies. Millennials, on the other hand, place the most trust in companies.

Conclusion

Alongside the challenges that crises bring, opportunities are always on the horizon. Companies that respond to customer requirements can not only maintain customer relationships, but also strengthen them. Digital services can create competitive advantages in the process. However, those who fail to respond to customer expectations risk damaging or even losing trust in the company or a brand.

Photo by Heidi Fin on Unsplash

About The Author
 

Christopher Schröder is a marketing specialist at Snabble. He has a masters degree in corporate communications and coaches a football team.
Contact Chris on LinkedIn.

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