In today’s digital era, consumers hold very high standards when it comes to brand experiences. From premium websites and personalization to flexible services and fast response, brands must master all aspects of the consumer experience to retain loyal, long-term customers. Those that achieve this can drive revenues 5.7 times greater than their competitors who don’t, but how does this practice apply in the midst of a global crisis?
Extraordinary events, such as the recent Coronavirus outbreak, dramatically change consumer behaviors, but not their expectations of quality brand interactions. If anything, they are only heightened. While crises of this nature aren’t easy to anticipate, brands can be prepared if they have a complete understanding of the customer journey. This knowledge enables them to identify risk points and mitigate them ahead of time, to ensure the consumer experience remains both positive and relevant. By implementing the following guidelines, brands will be well prepared for any form of crisis management.
Deliver Information Fast
In this highly-connected age, word of a disaster spreads like wildfire, but this can quickly turn information into rumors and gossip. Added to the ongoing issue of fake news and less reputable platforms, this issue leaves consumers with more misinformation than answers. As a result, timing and speed are key to keeping customers informed through constant adaptation of company websites, which typically are the first ports of call for consumers searching for answers. To take today’s rapidly moving pandemic as an example, travel booking sites, insurance sites, and medical health sites have no doubt seen a spike in traffic.
Similarly – due to individuals being more reluctant to travel and work in crowded spaces – companies providing remote work services, such as teleconferencing software and collaboration tools, and home deliveries, would also have experienced an uptick.
To handle this influx of users, website operations need to be designed for fast updates and quick service, providing factual information and ensuring a continuous experience. Serverless technologies are designed to distribute content to hundreds of locations globally and deliver timely, relevant information that addresses an individual’s personal predicament. With the travel industry currently under pressure, brands, for instance, should prioritize information for someone who is stranded abroad and needs to rebook a flight home. It’s crucial for brands to have a system in place that can cope with both timelines and scale to support all consumers in these difficult situations.
Reduce Cybersecurity Threats
Ahead of a calamity, another aspect that brands need to fortify is security. Consumers demand the ability to readily access their online accounts and personal information, but – as often happens in times of disruption – vulnerabilities are exposed, giving bad actors the chance to exploit the situation. The immediate impact on brands from crises such as global virus outbreaks, geopolitical instability, and natural disasters are highly visible and echoed by global headlines – as with the sudden collapse of the already vulnerable airline Flybe. However, the reported cybersecurity issues are few and far between despite their effects being equally devastating. The impacts can include not only costly fines in some cases but also severe damage to consumer trust that resonates long after the initial attack.
Cybercriminals may take advantage of crises to spread malware, potentially causing data breaches, regulatory violations, brand hijacking, or distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which compromise a website’s availability. Businesses must be aware of, and prepare for, common and emerging attack methods to protect both their brand and their customers.
For this, it is important to address cybersecurity measures on a regular basis and not just in exceptional circumstances, by leveraging technology that can continuously scan and identify vulnerabilities ahead of destabilizing events.
Use Brand Identity to Create Empathy
During life-disrupting events, humans seek reassurance and connection. Brands can provide this through fast and regular communications. Consumers will want to know how a company is responding to a major event. But every so often in these scenarios, many businesses have a tendency to turtle up and adopt a wait and see approach. In the absence of information, customers will doubt a brand’s ability to fulfill their needs and might interpret the silence as an attempt to hide something negative. Even if brands aren’t able to provide instant resolutions to customer issues, clearly and proactively communicating how hard they’re working towards them will earn appreciation and trust.
Following the outbreak of a crisis, it is important to be agile, open, and accessible to customers wherever they may be. Launching blogs, video content, and microsites are all potential methods of achieving this. Continuous updates on the company help page and mobile app are other effective ways for brands to maintain a close relationship with their consumers.
By leading with transparency in their communications, brands will be able to reach and reassure customers throughout trying times. Companies that offer a strong, reliable service in these situations will generate a more authentic brand identity by demonstrating they are genuinely capable of delivering their service wherever their customers are, across all digital channels.
For consumers to have high expectations of brands is fair, and a sign that they trust brands to provide truthful information, protect their assets, and help them in sensitive situations. While it’s easier for companies to be fair-weather captains, customer trust is strengthened if brands are a beacon in the storm and show they can walk the talk.
In trying times, brands need to show a forward-thinking approach, define clear plans, and adopt advanced technologies to manage their normal operations and services, while handling a higher demand volume. With these in place, companies can lead through a crisis and build positive, memorable experiences that consumers will repay with loyalty.