Running a business is challenging at the best of times, but in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic it may seem all but impossible. How do you pay the bills and respect your customers’ financial constraints? How can you be a part of improving their lives in the midst of an international crisis?
Knowing how to engage with vulnerable customers has never been so important as it is now. Read on to learn how you can connect with these communities in these unprecedented times.
Identifying Vulnerable Communities
When you’re working to engage with your most vulnerable communities, the first thing your team will need to do is identify those communities. When we think of COVID-19, our minds go to the elderly, and for good reason. Adults over the age of 60 are at high risk of catching COVID, and residential communities have been some of the hardest hit areas in this pandemic.
But there are also other communities who are at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. Black communities are at higher risk, as are some other people of color. And people living in poverty are also at higher risk of more serious cases of COVID-19, due to their limited access to health care.
Additional Challenges of COVID-19
Although COVID-19 certainly poses serious health threats to a variety of communities, it has also caused some other challenges. For one thing, many people have lost their jobs or businesses or have been furloughed since the start of the pandemic. This has created a serious financial strain for millions of families across the country.
COVID-19 has also caused an epidemic of loneliness and isolation unlike anything we’ve seen before. Parties, sports, fitness classes, nights at bars, and gatherings with friends have all been canceled. This has left many people isolated in their homes, shut off from their usual social activities.
This increased loneliness can put people at greater risk of anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges.
Recognize Financial Constraints
When you’re engaging with vulnerable customers during this difficult time, the first thing your team needs to do is remain aware of financial struggles your customers may be facing right now. Hard sales pitches may seem callus and drive away your customers. Instead, take an angle of compassion and doing what you can to help your customers during these difficult times.
Do what you can to work with your customers on payment plans, discounts, and other such accommodations. This may also be a good time to run sales and giveaways you’ve been planning. This generosity during difficult times will build your customer loyalty and bring you additional sales down the road.
Offer a Sense of Community
When your customers can’t afford to buy as much from you, you need to find other ways to offer them value. One great thing you can offer is a sense of community. Not only will building this keep your vulnerable customers engaged, but it will also improve your word of mouth marketing.
Set up regular live videos doing Q and A sessions or giving tours of your company headquarters. Arrange for virtual meetings and events that your customers can safely participate in from their homes. And don’t be afraid to ask your customers what sorts of events and offerings they would like to see from you.
Brainstorm Creative Ways to Stay Connected
It’s important for your team to brainstorm creative ways to stay connected with your vulnerable communities. Right now, this may take the form of offering safe ways for your customers to continue to use your business. One great way to do this is to offer contactless delivery or curbside pickup services when possible.
You can also work to become a resource for those in your community who need additional information or support. Act as a go-between for volunteers making masks and healthcare workers who need the additional PPE. You could even host community events (safely, of course) to give people a sense of wider connection within your area.
Teach Your Team to Focus on Empathy
Perhaps one of the most important things to focus on when engaging with vulnerable customers right now is empathy. Your team’s focus for customer interactions shouldn’t be on upselling or making a sale to customers no matter what. Instead, you should focus on making every single customer feel heard and valued.
This is a great time for your team to focus on listening to customers’ pain points and improving your sales model. Conduct customer surveys, ask customers how you can help, and continue to be a voice of compassion and empathy. When you make customers feel as though you truly care about them, they will be more likely to spend their money with your brand.
Follow All Safety Precautions
The most important thing you can do during this crisis is to follow all recommended safety precautions.
If an at-risk customer walks into your business and sees an employee’s mask under their nose, it tells them that that employee doesn’t care enough about their safety to wear a thin piece of fabric over their face. Likewise, if social distancing is not enforced, it shows your customers that your profits are more important to you than their lives.
Make sure every single one of your employees and customers wears a mask at all times when inside your business. Social distancing should be strictly enforced.
You should install barriers between staff and customers anywhere you can. Also put regular cleaning schedules in place to keep your employees and customers safe.
Find New Ways to Engage with Vulnerable Customers
Trying to interact with customers is always difficult in a time of crisis. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, learning to engage with vulnerable customers has become more important than ever. Teach your team to focus on empathy, find new ways to stay connected with your customers, and spend this time building your customer loyalty.
If you’d like to find the kind of care your business needs during this pandemic, check out the rest of our site at Gallagher Basset. We have teams on hand to help support your clients with the empathy each individual claim deserves. Connect with us today to learn more and connect with our experts.
Mary McGurn has 30+ years of industry experience and leads the Retail Practice at GB. Find her on LinkedIn.