2020 was a landmark year. From the pandemic’s far-reaching impact, to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, to a US President unwilling to concede, it will certainly go down in the history books.
Thankfully, these types of momentous years don’t come frequently. So much change in such a short space of time creates a natural breeding ground for uncertainty and anxiety. None of this is helped by recurring headlines of slashed budgets, sweeping job losses and graphs constantly showing going the wrong way. It’s enough to make even the most positive among us waver.
But with the arrival of 2021 and a new national lockdown in the UK, what can we do in such difficult times?
The case for empathy
For many, 2020 was simply about survival. With guidelines and restrictions changing from one day to the next, it’s been tricky for anyone – whether a global brand or an individual – to plan for anything. What started out as something we’d have to live with for ‘just a few months’ is likely to have an impact for years to come.
The pandemic’s effects have been felt in myriad different ways. There are not many certainties right now, but one thing is a safe bet: COVID-19 has affected everyone – professionally, personally, or both.
Supply chains in turmoil. Miscommunications. A sudden, dramatic shift to total digital reliance.
Even cherished social milestones and rituals have been affected. Funerals, weddings, buying and making a home. There is little that has escaped the pandemic’s effects.
Humans are incredibly adaptable – but it’s one thing to take change in your stride, and another to have normality turned on its head.
How can you demonstrate empathy?
At Redweb, we often emphasise the importance of customer experience and putting your audience at the centre of your strategies. In the digital sector, we often use terms like ‘visitors’ and ‘users’ to describe audiences. In the depths of analytics, reports and funnels, it is easy to forget what all of these numbers represent: Real people.
And those people have needs. The experience you provide needs to help and empower them, or you risk losing them. Start with the following:
Make your journeys seamless
Remove the obstacles, skip the waffle and get to the point. If someone is trying to access information, a service, or a product: make it easy for them.
Importantly: make your customer service team accessible. Not everyone has time to sit in a phone queue – how can you digitise the ways you provide help?
Ask them what they think
Don’t assume you know everything. The pace of digital can be relentless and the wider social context of 2020 has only fuelled this. Pre-pandemic insights are out of date.
Show empathy by acknowledging that things have likely changed for your audience. Show interest by providing opportunities for feedback – surveys, polls, or simply inviting engagement on your social channels can all help you paint a picture.
We’ve written about the power of language before and the point still stands. Consider your customer communications – how inclusive are they? How far does your tone of voice go to relate on a human level? How easy is it for people to understand your content if they’re under pressure or stress? Go the extra mile.
Consider your comms
Now that you’ve looked at how you’re talking, consider when you’re communicating. Experiencing delays? Short-staffed? Waiting for answers from your own suppliers?
The most empathetic brands are the ones that quickly realise they are not the only ones dealing with massive disruption – their customers are too. Be transparent. Tell them what’s going on, thank them for their patience, give them options. This isn’t difficult, but it’s amazing how many brands don’t do it.
Put yourself in their shoes
Your customers may have been through the wringer this year. In some markets, they may be less receptive, more easily frustrated, or just fed up. In others, business is booming and customers are eager. Use our earlier points to understand where your brand falls on that spectrum and act appropriately on your insight.
And if you’re still not convinced a more emotional approach would benefit you, consider this: Customers who feel an emotional connection with businesses have a 306% higher lifetime value than those who don’t.
If 2020 taught us anything, we’d be willing to bet that’s truer now than ever before.