Reinvent relationships

Running a business during pandemic restrictions is tough. Your staff tell you no one has money, so sales are down. Staff productivity is down too. But the worst thing you can do is to do nothing.

Now is the time to reshape your relationship with customers. Focussing employees on this task will give them something fresh to think about and success will create opportunities for recognition and reward.

Business leaders cannot effect this kind of change top-down. Their role is to set the vision. It needs to be bold and simple. I like the ambition to change customer experience from transactional (next-time brand loyalty) to relationship (lifetime brand loyalty).

Start a cross-disciplinary team to review what your brand promises customers. Form another group to plot the customer journey. Drawing a timeline that shows how your business touches the customer – from initial impressions created by advertising, to sales and customer service, through to delivery and settlement. Bring the two groups together to identify gaps between promise and delivery.

In my experience, two pain points are common. The first is the disconnect between what the sales team promised and the delivery team is capable of doing. The second is the way payment collection is handled (by a finance team otherwise uninvolved in the conversation). Both of these can easily turn customers from repeat purchasers to one-time sales.

Most employees feel that following set procedures properly will fix any problem. That poor internal communication between colleagues is all that prevents success. How many times have you heard the excuse ‘sorry, there was a communications breakdown’?

But they’re wrong. The only thing to focus on is ‘how we’re making the customer feel’. In reality, customers will put up with any number of functional issues, but the moment they feel let down or ignored they just won’t come back.

Many businesses are using this difficult period to drive two parallel agendas. The first is to protect the business. But, to be honest, most of us took those actions three months ago. The second is about creating innovation that benefits the customer and changes the way they feel about the brand.

Online ordering and home delivery is changing the way many of us feel about retail and hospitality brands we thought we knew. The best of these innovations involve both functional and emotional improvements. Kenya’s most famous producer of chicken is reshaping brand relevance and likeability with a home delivery service, initially for Greater Nairobi. doesn’t just deliver chicken efficiently to your doorstep efficiently. It’s backed by a former telesales operation, repurposed to create a better emotional experience. Marketing effort has also been flipped – from traditional broadcast to more intimate social media groups.