Social distancing |­ secure the connection with the consumer and build toward the future

foto van Sander Harryvan
Sander Harryvan
Marketing Manager

March 26th, 2020

The Coronavirus has a major impact on society and economy, worldwide we see deserted streets and life seems to have largely moved to online. We are called upon to keep our distance from each other in order to prevent the spread of the virus, the so-called "social distancing". Fortunately, we are responding to this en masse and the health of the collective is being put first. But there is no denying that it has a major impact and brings new challenges.

Due to social distancing, digitization has gained momentum in recent weeks. Schools, sports facilities and restaurants are closed for the time being, and many shops also keep their doors closed or have adjusted opening hours. People are advised to keep a distance of one and a half metres from each other, often work from home and follow the advice on scaling down social contacts to a minimum. This requires a considerable amount of adaptability. People are by nature social beings with the urge to belong and to be connected with others. This rapid adaptation in social structures and the media violence that accompanies it brings with it uncertainty. This intensifies the need for information, certainty and the desire for authentic and personal interaction.

The measures not only create physical distance between people, but also between companies and consumers. Companies need to be creative in the new digital context that has arisen in order to be able to reach and continue to connect with consumers. It makes me proud to see how the Dutch are dealing with this: digital initiatives are popping up like mushrooms and the sense of belonging seems to be greater than it has ever been.

However, it is uncertain how long this situation will last, which is why it is important to secure consumer loyalty and to keep the service levels personal and relevant, especially now and at distance. In this way you avoid losing the loyalty of your customers in these times and at the same time build a strong foundation for your proposition in an increasingly digital world. But what are these consumer expectations and how do you deal with them as a company? In this blog we explain a number of opportunities for you.

Thinking differently in other sectors: digitize the offer

The consumer sits at home, but that doesn't mean he forgot about you right away. We just have to find a new way to meet (again). The first step is therefore the digitization of the offer. Restaurants are massively joining platforms such as Uber Eats and Thuisbezorgd and gyms offer their teaching offerings digitally. We see the supply of online content grow enormously, from libraries that now offer their audiobooks digitally to large festivals that stream various shows from the past online. These are great initiatives that are aimed at keeping the connection with each other and continuing to provide each other with what we are accustomed to.

The real digital challenge lies in interaction and understanding

We went through the first step well. By digitizing the offer at a fast pace, the consumer can also be reached and served in the new context. However, this offer is mainly focused on sending information. The real challenge is: strong relationships only emerge when there is interaction and understanding. When we communicate with each other and understand each other's needs. By analyzing the digital interactions well, these needs can be mapped out and the possibility arises to not lose the personal touch in this new context. After all, this is what the modern consumer expects. The challenges that await us in this respect are:

  • Give an extra: we are all in the same boat and have to get through it together, therefore understanding and compassion are crucial. We have to support each other and make the situation as pleasant as possible together. Enhance your consumer's love by showing that you understand them and give them a little extra, especially in these times. In this way you stay top-of-mind and you adopt a humane attitude as an organization. This can be done by, for example, making trial subscriptions or (new) pieces of content available free of charge.
  • Don't lose a personal touch: when we can look each other in the eye and easily ask questions, it is relatively easy to identify each other's needs. It becomes different when you have to derive them from website clicks and other implicit information. However, this does not make it any less important. Therefore, make sure that you continue to provide individuals with personal content and advice. Guide the consumer through your offers and put what is relevant to him or her in the spotlight. In this way, you prevent service levels are deviating too much in comparison with the physical situation.
  • Stay fast and accurate in your services: consumers and patience, it remains an unhappy marriage. Certainly when the factor uncertainty starts to play a role and the need for information increases, it is important to be there for your consumers and to reassure them. Fast response times are a must, especially now that everything goes digital, which puts a lot of pressure on our customer service centres. Despite the fact that we know that many employees operate from home, this does not change expectations. Fortunately, many first-line interactions can also be handled automatically with chatbots. This reduces the pressure on the contact center, ensures human focus on the most emotional and important interactions and helps the consumer get the right answer faster.

The above shows that we all ended up in a new reality at lightning speed and were able to adapt to it within a very short period of time. We now also find each other digitally, and especially now we must not stand still. It is uncertain how long this situation will last, but realize that all the knowledge and experience that is now being gained will also make you stronger in the long term. Let's not forget that findability is one thing, but interaction, personal approach and authenticity are the key to digital success.