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Smarter Working: How Covid has Changed Customer Engagement

In this third and final blog in our ‘Smarter Working’ series, our Director Stuart Pearce, considers how customer engagement has changed or been impacted during the Covid-19 pandemic.

One of things the global pandemic will be remembered for will be the reintroduction into the English language of words that had not been in regular use, particularly in the context of business. Words like ‘furlough’, ‘lockdown’, ‘’hybrid’ and my particular favourite ‘pivot’.

The dictionary definition of ‘pivot’ is “a fixed point supporting something that turns or balances”. During the pandemic is has been used to describe the tipping point when a business changes direction in search of sales and growth.

I like to think of the fixed point as the customer, as that should be the one thing that underpins and supports the business and its strategy. When the customer changes the business needs to adapt, turn, and rebalance to continue to meet the needs of that customer. This is not new thinking as it has been the essence of marketing for years, but what is surprising is that so few companies do this well and some not at all.

Covid has forced organisations to ‘pivot’ at unprecedented speed in order in some cases to survive but in other cases to take the opportunity for growth. For example, we all know that the hospitality sector has been worst hit during the pandemic.

Pubs and restaurants have been forced to close and some of them have responded by offering take away food or becoming the local shop. They have been forced to do this to survive but in doing so they have understood what the customer wants.

Other companies like Zoom have seen massive growth during the pandemic.  In fact, Zoom is reported to have been the fastes growing brand in 2020 and has seen its brand awareness grow by 34%.  It was growing already but Coronavirus has been its tipping point that has capitulated the business forward.

You may be forgiven for not recognising the brand AEcorn, already one of the leading brands in the low or non-alcoholic beverage sector in the UK. It launched only 2 years ago, unbeknown to them into the teeth of a global pandemic.

Their route to market was classic ‘on-trade’ channel through pubs, restaurants and hotels, the very sector that was going to be worst hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. Rather than feel sorry for themselves and rue their bad luck they choose to pivot.

They evaluated the changing customer needs and the evolving rules in the market and understood that their target audience was still their but had moved to a different model of home entertaining, combined with heightened understanding of well-being, creating an exciting opportunity for low and non-alcoholic drinks.

The pandemic has highlighted and accentuated the need, more than ever, to be customer-focused and to ensure you always engage with your customer. Being a customer centric business requires a strong customer first culture and must be one of your core values of your business. The company’s vision should have the customer at its centre, with a clear purpose for the business and communicated effectively throughout to ensure that vision is embedded.

It has also demanded that we listen to our customer needs and demonstrate relevance to the changing marketplace and demonstrate empathy with what your customers are dealing with. This includes interacting better with the consumer, directly and indirectly, not just about the product but about the lifestyle and impact during Covid.

Successful brands during this period have understood the need to communicate about the wider societal impacts of the pandemic and not just focus on their product or service. Being in step with your customer is the key to a successful customer centric model.