Customer Engagement during a Time of Crisis – a Southeast Asian perspective
COVID-19’s profound far-reaching impact has been rippling across every industry, with individual businesses responding to its effects in their own way. At present, marketers and brands should engage with and nurture users and audiences while all stakeholders are in collective isolation, in order to let them know they are still there for them.
Given this new situation, how can marketers optimize their outreach? They’ll need to consider three main questions:
- What should your interactions with customers look like during this time?
- What customer engagement initiatives are prudent to take in order to support the community and keep your business afloat?
- How should you reassess customer engagement during this time?
1. Deep focus on the customer
While we know there’s no fixed roadmap for responding to COVID-19, the first point of departure should always be the customer.
Communicate with empathy and compassion to all stakeholders—that includes your clients, staff and your local communities. Think about the critical information they will want to know about your business: How does the current situation impact the customer? What is the company doing to address this?
And get to the point—everyone’s inboxes are now flooded with messages about COVID-19, so it’s best to narrow-focus on the customer’s specific connection with your brand. Talk about policy changes that might potentially affect them. For those with a physical presence or offer delivery services, outline the sanitary measures that have been taken. Your customers may have dramatically different priorities during this time, so remember to take this into account.
1.1 Open, Transparent and Regular Updates
Make sure you’re transparent about the processes you’ve taken to ensure customer and your team’s safety—more than ever before.
For example, when describing hygiene measures taken across your supply chain, vagueness is not recommended. Be specific about what you’ve done.
In addition, talk about what measures you’ve taken, if any, to help your local communities. Develop a regular cadence of (relevant) customer communications, as news around COVID-19 is moving fast, and information can fall outdated quickly. Finally, be quick about communicating with customers when there are new developments that might affect them.
1.2 Strike the right tone
As this is a sensitive time for a majority of stakeholders, brands should avoid coming across as trying to take advantage. Your first instinct should not be to merely market or stay ahead of your competitors—focus rather on just reaching out and showing that you care. That can also mean an audit of your schedule of communications to ensure that all messaging and tonal choices are appropriate for the current climate.
While some levity is acceptable—especially when showing care and support—your company’s typical tone may not be appropriate for COVID-19-related updates. If your brand is typically irreverent and quirky, slightly modulate that when talking specifics about how you’re addressing the crisis. This can mean involving a senior-level spokesperson such as the CEO to personally communicate high-level messages. Again, think of your customers first, and how you can empathetically address their needs and anxieties during this time.
1.3 Equip yourself and your team with the right messaging and tools
Staff worried about job security during this time will also need regular, transparent and open communication about their ongoing role within the company.
Addressing these anxieties can go a long way to shoring up employee morale, and lead to more satisfying customer experiences and interactions in general. Ensure your people—particularly front-line and customer-facing employees—are also equipped with the right tools and messaging while interfacing with clients and partners during this unique time. Send out reminders and train your team on best practices in customer communications, particularly in response to customer complaints and needs.
1.4 Two-way communication
Customer interactions with a brand during times of crisis can have an emotional and lasting impact on brand loyalty.
Listen to what your customers are saying to you on social media, across your various platforms and from your front-line staff. Their feedback can help you optimize your value proposition, messaging and customer experience in a way that helps meet their needs while conveying the appropriate level of care and concern for their health and well-being, and also offering brands a better sense of how to help their customers through this crisis. This feedback might also offer a window into how your customers can help you to manage your way through this crisis while building long-term resilience.
1.5 Ensure relevant messages reach the right audiences
During the COVID-19 pandemic, app marketers should be acutely sensitive to the daily barrage of marketing communications that their customers are now being exposed to, from family, peers and friends, as well as the brands and personalities they follow. It may even become necessary to segment your user base, reserving the most important notices to all customers, while limiting certain messages to more engaged audiences.
AppsFlyer users can better engage with their customers through solutions such as the Audiences feature, which allow you to accurately and granularly segment your users to engage in more meaningful conversations. With AppsFlyer Audiences, users can visualize the size and overlap of their segments in real-time before going live. They can then separate casual and occasional users from their most loyal customers and customize the right segment with the right message. Use the tools you have available.
2. Customer engagement initiatives
As the number of communications channels have narrowed somewhat, now may be the time to get creative in how you engage customers. Deploying the right customer engagement initiatives during this time can also help with business continuity. Here are a few options:
- Your most loyal customers certainly don’t want to lose their favorite business. Give them the option to support you by offering gift cards that can be redeemed at a later date. Social tech ventures such Chope and Save have expanded on this concept, helping local businesses stay afloat by listing gift cards on their site. Businesses may also wish to offer points, special discounts and loyalty programs for your biggest supporters during this time. You might have to prioritize your most loyal customers, whom you can reward with value-added services.
- Brands who can afford to can also donate a percentage of their revenue or even offer donations in kind to organizations fighting COVID-19. In Singapore, ride-sharing company Gojek launched a “GoHeroes” campaign, partnering with hospitals to offer their staff ride vouchers to show solidarity.
- Some have even chosen to temporarily change the scope of their business. For example, Malaysia’s mTouche, which provides mobile value-added services to operators across the region, has begun marketing and distributing medical equipment instead.
- Another popular initiative is to offer free or discounted shipping and returns, with brands taking strategies to remain profitable while ensuring their customers’ purchases arrive quickly and safely. Keep both customers and drivers safe by minimizing interactions as much as possible. Delivery companies like foodpanda have instituted options such as offering contactless drop-offs, as well as safer ways of making payments. Some companies, such as Thailand’s ShaRe, have even cut commission fees altogether, helping merchants as well.
2.1 Measuring engagement impact through AppsFlyer
Throughout all this, brands still need to ensure their messages and initiatives are resonating with users. As app marketers reach out to users across a number of channels (push, advertising, email, social media), it’s necessary to connect all the dots in order to properly measure and optimize your cross-channel customer engagement wherever possible. Solutions such as AppsFlyer’s People-Based Attribution can make these connections, while measuring the impact that engagement has had on various channels, calculating the real value delivered by the media source that successfully re-engaged an app user.
AppsFlyer’s In-App Events API can also bridge in-app and out-of-app touch points through server-to-server integration, matching and merging AppsFlyer attribution data with individual customers. This helps you better understand user needs and behaviors during the COVID-19 crisis, and decide on how to engage effectively and with authenticity.
3. Conclusion: Continuous reassessment
Marketers don’t operate in a vacuum, so you and your colleagues should work closely to coordinate a full range of internal functions (human resources, supply chain, operations sales etc.) as part of a wider COVID-19 response task force. This way, you can perform situational assessments and develop a cohesive action plan. We recommend appointing a member of your marketing and communications team to take the lead on setting guidelines for internal and external communications across all platforms. Continuously reassess the effectiveness of your campaigns through your task force or existing processes.
The situation remains fluid, however, so communicate quickly when things change. Make sure the right messages go out to the right users and measure the impact of their outreach efforts to identify areas where they can do better.
While times may be difficult, businesses can still make the most of the situation. Engage closely with customers, and take this opportunity to experiment with initiatives while measuring their impact. Successful customer engagement will involve transparency, openness and authenticity while incorporating robust feedback and internal communication—always remember to work closely with colleagues, and continuously reassess the impact of this situation as needed.
Interested in reading more about how to navigate your marketing in times of uncertainty? Read our other articles!
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