When pricey gifts and in-person experiences aren’t viable options, consider these thoughtful alternatives for engaging your business’s customers.
Pre-pandemic, connecting with clients and customers was limited only by your own imagination and budget. Now the typical ways you might have once wowed clients, like dinner at a new restaurant or concert tickets, are out the window.
And that’s good news.
No longer does big, fancy or expensive hold the most weight. Instead, everyone is looking for authentic connection as we all navigate uncharted waters, from online schooling to how to get our pet groomed. In this new environment, care, connection and communication are key.
Companies from big to small are thinking about how to connect with clients and customers in new and creative ways. Small gestures with big impact, demonstrating solidarity that we’re all in this together, and offering special gifts for kids are just some of the approaches companies are taking.
Zappos, the online shoe retailer known for its high service standards since its founding in 1999, opened an “Anything” customer service hotline, email and Twitter feed. On standby are representatives who will answer any questions about anything at all, or just chat. Brian Kalma, an executive at Zappos, says they actually plan to keep the service running post-pandemic, stating in The New York Times, “We’re seeing signals that this is something we may want to maintain as the world reopens.” Customers can ask about things like how to take a great photo, what moving companies are near them, or more practical fare like finding a local hospital or locating household supplies.
Salesforce, a tech firm in San Francisco, launched a video series called B-Well Together for customers and anyone else who wants to tune in. These videos feature notable experts on everything from pandemic parenting to the art of compassion. Drew Barrymore offers her perspective on keeping her business running during the pandemic and strategies for being at home with her kids. Jane Goodall offers her thoughts on the climate crisis and the pandemic, and there are practical tips from leadership strategist Greg McKeown on learning how to focus on what’s truly essential.
A Midwestern convenience retailer called Sheetz launched a Kidz Meal Bagz program, where kids get a free, healthy bag lunch of a turkey sandwich, chips and a drink when they come into the store. They averaged 80,000 lunches a week across all of their 600 stores. The outpouring of loyalty on social media was overwhelming – harried parents could take one meal prep off their plates, and kids who might be missing school lunches benefited as well.
Now is the time to use all those traditional ways of reaching out to clients and customers just to connect – calling people on the phone or sending an email simply to ask how they are doing. If you have an email list, consider organizing an email campaign around checking in and encourage responses by asking customers to reply and share what’s on their minds.
Consider how you can make life easier for clients and customers, or maybe just more fun. This might mean pivoting your services – e.g., dining in may become a meal-kit pickup service or delivery. It could also mean a fun and simple gift like shipping ice cream to clients so they can have their own ice cream social with their families at home.
Tip: Create a video chat where you can all weigh in on your favorite flavor.
If you don’t have one, now’s the time to create a simple customer relationship management (CRM) system – this is a way to track your contacts with clients and customers and what kinds of connections you are making and when. While there are dozens of CRM software and cloud-based services out there, you can also start simple with an Excel spreadsheet. Create columns not just for the names, phone numbers and email addresses of your clients, but potential conversation starters you can use when you reach out.
By now you have a safety protocol in place for your business, and you’ve communicated out to your clients and customers what you are doing to keep them safe. Of course, it’s still important. Build on your efforts by asking clients how they experience your safety protocols and service. Begin by asking what changes they’d like to see and include them in the evolving conversation.
Tip: Social media or anonymous comment cards are low-cost ways to continue strengthening your relationships and find out what customers want.
Share online resources that have helped you get through this time – inspiring videos, podcasts or well- ness articles come to mind.
Tip: Put it in a personal email when you connect one-on-one with clients, or send to your entire email list with a personal note.
C. Krueger’s cookies has launched a “We’re All in This Together” line of cookies with everything from “Virtual Hug” to “Stronger Together” messages. A two-pack in cute packaging is under $10.
Deliver food from local restaurants to clients’ homes or send them a meal delivery gift certificate. Everyone needs help with meal planning and you’ll support other local businesses as well.
Tip: If you own a restaurant, consider randomly surprising a customer with free food delivery and post the surprise on social media.
Thinking through how to wow for your business:
Sources: people.com; zappos.com; salesforce.com; hbr.org; wral.com; zapier.com