Why Organizations Should Take A Customer-First Approach During Unprecedented Times

Throughout this period, the way organizations engage and interact with their customers is critical.

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By Pilar de Miguel Viera

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The rapid outbreak of COVID-19 has caused a serious health crisis with significant commercial impact around the world. Throughout this period, the way organizations engage and interact with their customers is critical. Companies focusing on customer experience (CX) may stand the best chance of protecting their own business, while also planting the seeds for future growth.

With 4.5 billion people, half the world's population, under lockdown in the past few months, businesses have had to find new ways to connect. Firms need to understand evolving consumer and community needs and react to them– fast. This means both reassuring their customers and adapting quickly to provide the right products, services and solutions. By treating consumers in the right way now, organizations can continue to nurture their relationship, and will likely retain clients in the long-term.

As the global situation becomes more complex, determining how and when companies lend support is not easy. Unlike disaster relief, there is no roadmap or recipe for involvement. However, organizations must keep their employees' trust, understand evolving consumer and community needs and provide products, services and resources as appropriate.

KPMG Nunwood's Six Pillars provide a framework to help businesses navigate challenges by taking a customer-first approach. They help shape successful, sustainable and ethical businesses in normal times and can be an invaluable guide to corporate behavior in uncertain times. During the COVID-19 outbreak, two pillars –integrity and empathy– play a more important role than ever before. Integrity is one of the most important aspects of CX. People want to do business with companies they trust. While those that act responsibly and ethically will likely prosper, some organizations may take advantage of the situation, by raising prices or mis-selling, and quickly lose customers' trust. In the wake of the coronavirus, with job uncertainty clouding the retail sector, the UAE's Majid Al Futtaim group pledged that it would not lay off or reduce salaries for its 44,000 workers, and announced a rent freeze for its mall tenants. Staff from locked-down businesses, such as cinema and leisure, were retrained and redeployed in grocery businesses. By acting with integrity, MAF is likely to win over more customers during this period.

Source: KPMG

At a time when all of us are worried for the safety of our loved ones, organizations that demonstrate empathy by putting themselves in their customers' shoes and adapting the way they do business, are likely to ensure loyalty. Now is a time for firms to show they care and demonstrate to customers how their activities are changing based on a sense of understanding. For instance, as a show of support to frontline medical workers, UAE hotel group JA Resort & Hotels provided 1,200 medical staff with free stays across its temporarily closed properties.

Across the world, COVID-19 is affecting people in different ways and organizations in all sectors are innovating apace to respond to their customers' changing needs. In our research, airlines ranked highly as CX leaders were some of the first to undertake swift action as countries closed their borders. Some waived rebooking fees and deep cleaned aircraft to maintain the safety of passengers and crew. Emirates Airline became the first to conduct on-site rapid COVID-19 tests for travelers. These organizations have been listening to the changing needs of their customers and responding with solutions to make people's lives easier during this troubling time.

Keeping the above in mind, it's safe to say that to be successful in the long-term, organizations would be advised to:

Be a forward thinker / Adapt to this rapidly changing situation, combining intelligent insight with technology and vision.

Be everyone-centric / Walk in customers' shoes to understand what they need and where. And be prepared to be flexible to the needs of different groups.

Be human / Keep language simple to explain what steps are being taken, why and how it benefits customers. Providing clear and ongoing communication is vital in a crisis.

Listen and respond / Continually monitor the situation and the response of customers to measure your success. If it's not working, change it!

Companies can survive and even grow through this crisis. Those that display real integrity and empathy will maintain customer loyalty and weather the storm.

Related: Six Tactics To Improve Collaboration For Remote Teams

Pilar de Miguel Viera

Partner and Head of Customer Experience, KPMG Lower Gulf

Pilar de Miguel Viera is Partner and Head of Customer Experience at KPMG Lower Gulf

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