Customer Relations in a Post-COVID World

By Jeff Baker, posted on April 20, 2020

Jeff Baker chairs Future Branches

When you look back at recent history, one can make an argument that, since 9/11, there has been a growing awareness of the breakdown of this country’s traditional institutions.

In just 20 years, our society has experienced:

  • The first attack on the US since 1814
  • The collapse of emergency preparedness after Hurricane Katrina
  • The mass loss of housing after Hurricane Sandy
  • The near-collapse of our banking system in 2008
  • The 11-year political log-jam in Washington
  • Personal information security breaches across industries
  • The challenges of handling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic turmoil

The result has been a growing public distrust of institutions of all types – even proven performers like the CDC.  The attitude of mistrust touches all parts of daily life – the military and intelligence communities, public health and emergency services, finance, government, and consumerism.

The pandemic has both accelerated and intensified this trend.

What’s next?

Image 4’s Agency team has been actively considering how this trend will change marketing, communications, and Brand Presentation as the world comes out of isolation. It is likely that “trusted cohorts” will take the place of the reliance on institutions in our lives. People increasingly rely on trusted relationships, self-filter content, and choose to take direct action to help, rather than trusting institutions to do that work. Witness my own company’s rapid pivot from marketing and fabrication to producing medical safety gear.

We think this imminent behavioral shift enhances the themes we’ve worked on with our clients for years. Relationships, Experiences, and Known “Cohorts” will be the touchstones of marketing – perhaps as soon as this summer. When we look at how the best of organizations have responded to the incredible health and economic challenges presented by the pandemic, we see Commitment, Support, and Assistance – to staff and communities as a whole. As I talk with clients, suppliers and even competitors, the emotion I most feel between us is a sense of Empathy – we are all in this together right now, and the best of us are sensitive, thoughtful and supportive.

We propose these words as key touch points:

  • Trust
  • Support
  • Assistance
  • Empathy
  • Safe
  • Valued
  • Committed

Organizations who make their customers feel “Safe” and “Valued” will be able to “bend the curve” of business in their direction fairly rapidly, as both businesses and consumers look to entities they will respect and can trust to deal with them fairly, respectfully, and with empathy.

What does this mean for our clients and businesses in general?

We see a tremendous opportunity in reviving and amplifying relationships and communities. These relationships will need to be discovered, nurtured and consummated in new ways, because there will be a societal reluctance to interact in situations where risk cannot be managed. Social media, broadcast email, radio, strategic media placement and managed P.R. will all be part of the mix. Even our physical spaces – stores, banks, corporate offices – will undergo re-design focused on creating a risk-controlled, nurturing environment. Brand Authenticity will be crucial to creating trust. Those entities who create this level of trust – that “You are looking out for Me” – will engender long-lasting loyalty.

Image 4 has doubled-down on our philosophy and methodology of “Authentic Branding”. We’re working with a number of clients across our vertical markets – from Finance to Manufacturing to Healthcare – to refine their response to the challenges, and to communicate to their customers and employees in an authentic, truthful fashion. We are encouraging candid talk from their leadership, and crafting honest messages that share current situations and future plans. The phrase “How can we help?” should become a natural response to every communication and sales interaction.

How can Our team help Your team make your customers feel Safe and Valued?

Let me know. We‘re here to help.