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Strategies to Meet the Needs of Customers During Disruption
Workplace

Strategies to Meet the Needs of Customers During Disruption

by Brian J. Brim, Ed.D., and Jillian Anderson
Strategies to Meet the Needs of Customers During Disruption

Story Highlights

  • Up to 70% of consumer behavior is attributed to the emotion behind it
  • Customers are feeling extremely high levels of stress and worry
  • Leaders must keep in mind trust, compassion, stability and hope

Our decisions as consumers are primarily driven by emotion. In fact, in a normal economy, up to 70% of consumer behavior is attributed to the emotion behind it. We buy the car because we love the brand or because it feels safe. We go through the drive-thru of our favorite coffee shop each day because they deliver the exact experience and order we crave.

Our emotional needs only intensify in a disruption. Customers will make decisions based on how they feel.

Right now, customers feel the highest levels of stress and worry as well as the lowest levels of enjoyment Gallup has seen since the 2008 recession. Meeting customers where they are requires acknowledging and managing this emotional state.

Leaders who lift the burden of stress and worry for customers -- and strive to add enjoyment -- can alter the way customers feel about, and respond to, their company and employees.

The Emotional Fulfillment Cycle

Because employees are central to the customer experience, leaders need to understand the dynamic relationship between the employee experience and the customer experience. In fact, Gallup finds that business units with the highest levels of performance outcomes (revenue, sales, financial performance, etc.) have both high employee engagement and high customer engagement. Focusing on one or the other will yield results, but the real power comes in managing them together.

There's one other partner in this system: The leader. Through a study of 10,000 employees, Gallup has found four things they need most from leaders -- a sense of trust, stability, compassion and hope. When those needs are met, employees are far more likely to be engaged and to engage customers, too. This emotional fulfillment cycle can ignite a virtuous circle of engagement, as well: When customers have their needs met and feel emotionally invested, they make it easy for employees to go above and beyond.

Leaders who lift the burden of stress and worry for customers -- and strive to add enjoyment - can alter the way customers feel about, and respond to, their company and employees.

But, as noted at the top, today's emotions are much more negative than they've been in a long time. To meet the needs of employees and customers, leaders need to keep the four needs of followers top of mind and meet them with precision. Here's how.

Trust: Leaders must be open and honest.

Trust exists when there are openness and honesty in communication. Leaders should consider the following strategies for cultivating trust.

To meet the needs of customers, leaders should be transparent about the potential impact of COVID-19 on products and services; highlight their flexibility in making customers feel safe; educate them about the "new normals" for interacting together; and provide frequent opportunities for customers to share their input, ideas, and solutions.

To meet the needs of employees, leaders should share guiding principles behind decisions made about safety to build employees' confidence in their approach, empower local-level managers to have open discussions with their teams about areas of concern, and invite them to be a part of the safety solutions and protocols.

Compassion: Leaders must be caring and thoughtful.

Compassion is demonstrated through acts of caring. The following practices can help organizations convey to employees and customers that they genuinely care.

To meet the needs of customers, leaders should provide compassionate connections that demonstrate care over commerce; explain to customers how employees are cared for at work; demonstrate compassion with thoughtful, well-placed service for the community; and offer thoughtful service to customers that goes beyond the expected, basic transactions.

Because employees are central to the customer experience, leaders need to understand the dynamic relationship between the employee experience and the customer experience. Focusing on one or the other will yield results, but the power comes in managing them together.

To meet the needs of employees, leaders should hold more frequent check-ins between managers and employees and ask how employees are feeling during this time; reinforce employee assistance programs that provide holistic care for employees; and share stories of employees' compassionate care of customers.

Stability: Leaders must be consistent and committed.

Leaders can strengthen stability by providing a sense of control -- especially during times of disruption and change.

To meet the needs of customers, leaders must emphasize what does not change for customers: mission, values, commitment to their care; help set expectations for what has and will change, where customers have control, and how the organization and customers can navigate the change together; and provide stability through consistent communication at a regular cadence through multiple channels.

To meet the needs of employees, leaders must provide psychological stability by communicating with calmness, emphasize what does not change for employees (mission, values, their talents) and create stable touchpoints for sharing information and capturing feedback.

Hope: Leaders must inspire belief and set clear goals.

Hope is the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so. Organizations can foster hope with the following tactics.

To meet the needs of customers, leaders must acknowledge how the challenge aids in growth and making the organization stronger, help customers see how they can be better on the other side of the challenge, partner with their customer to create a plan for a new way forward together, reinforce how their partnership can move forward through stress and worry toward wellbeing.

To meet the needs of employees, leaders must establish clear goals that employees can contribute toward, create opportunities to experience small wins that build momentum, explain your vision for the future in a new normal, and encourage innovative collaboration to create that future together.

Our emotional needs only intensify in a disruption. Customers will make decisions based on how they feel.

Most customers rarely see an organization's leaders -- their needs are almost always met by customer-facing employees, whose needs are met by others, whose needs are met by others still in a chain that links all the way up to the C-suite. The way everyone in that chain feels is powerfully influenced by its leaders.

Leading with the four needs in mind allows leaders to connect more meaningfully, authentically, and influentially - and, in turn, it encourages employees to do the same with each customer interaction. As Maya Angelou said, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Learn more about leading your employees and customers with the four needs of followers in mind:

Brian Brim, Ed.D., is a Senior Practice Consultant at Gallup.

Jillian Anderson is a Subject Matter Expert at Gallup.

Jennifer Robison contributed to this article.


Gallup https://www.gallup.com/workplace/312881/strategies-meet-needs-customers-during-disruption.aspx
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