Reassuring customers is the top priority for every single business at this time, especially travel and tourism companies. The coronavirus pandemic is said to be the most significant global crisis since World War II. Your customers are in various stages of coronavirus emotions, ranging from grief to anxiety and uncertainty to boredom.
Tripadvisor recently ran a webinar on Impact & Recovery Strategies for addressing the COVID-19 crisis. Damian Cook, CEO E-Tourism Frontiers, and Justin Reid, Director of Destination Marketing EMEA, said that consumer spending and traveller confidence has been eroded to an all-time low. Financial losses will potentially exceed 100 billion dollars.
Now more than ever, we need to show our human heart to customers.
Here are five practical tips to show customer empathy during the coronavirus pandemic:
1. Communicate and give useful information
First and foremost, customers look to companies they trust for reliable information. Provide relevant information and keep them up-to-date.
Share your flexible cancellation policies and guidelines for safety and hygiene. Make it easy to find this information on your website and social media channels. Be proactive and calm their anxiety by pre-empting their questions. For example, even if you’re an SMME, you can easily add a FAQs page to your website and link to your social media channels.
Make yourself the one-stop-shop for all reliable information about your destination, product and area of expertise.
The tone of all communication should be empathetic and helpful. Reiterate the message that we’re all in this together.
2. Support, not sales
It’s ok being upfront about business challenges. Encourage customers to support you, especially as an SMME, but do so sensibly. The stay home, travel later messaging is a perfect example.
Trust us. No one is looking for a 2-for-1 deal on their trip right now, or 30% off of their accommodation. What they are looking for are information and guidance.
Think support and answer these questions:
- When customers are ready to travel again, what’s the best time to visit your destination?
- What need does your property fulfil for customers?
- What health and safety guidelines do you have in place?
For trade partners, run webinars and FAQ sessions so that they’re equipped for sales and support post-COVID-19.
In every communication with your customer, ask yourself: How does this meet my customer’s need?
3. Empathy without action is meaningless
It takes a global pandemic for customers to separate the companies who talk the talk and those who walk the talk.
While empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, empathy without action is, well, meaningless.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the thought that you may not be able to give your customer what they need most at this time. That’s ok. Action means you are taking the effort to understand and communicate that information to them.
Turn empathetic thoughts into action by:
- Pick up the phone Perhaps you’ve only ever liaised over email. If you know they’d appreciate it (check first – millennials may not!), a personal phone call goes a long way. Especially when trying to show empathy. It’s much easier to convey understanding in tone of voice than in tone of email.
- Listen to your customer You may not be able to respond with an answer to their question immediately. Again, that’s okay. Send a quick email or message acknowledging receipt and give them a timeframe for when you will respond in detail. And stick to that deadline (so be realistic).
4. Ask what they need
Sure, this is a question you should always be asking. But now, more than ever, ask every single customer what they need. Don’t assume they all need the same thing. Ask, and you’ll equip yourself with the knowledge to answer that need. And be honest and transparent. Perhaps you’re not able to give them what they need. And that’s ok. They’ll appreciate your efforts and honesty.
5. Keep things positive
Focus on the positivity of experience. It’s a rollercoaster of emotion out there but remember, there will always be change. And there will always be hope.
Be realistic and practical. Don’t let your messaging seem that everything is hunky-dory. Simply put, it’s not. But don’t turn into a perpetual rain cloud either. You want customers to keep on checking in, and they’ll do that if you’re positive and focus on the brighter times ahead.
In parting, the one thing your customers will remember will be how you treat them at this time. Show genuine and heartfelt empathy. It will prove to be immensely more valuable than any advertising spend.
Show heart, and when they do travel again, your empathy in this time will prove priceless.