Investing in Your Customers Is Investing in Your Company’s Innovative Potential

smiling customer service representative with headset at computer

Investing in your customers is investing in innovative success—for the present and the future.                                                                     

Carter Liebscher|
April 8, 2020

As local and federal governments declare service-oriented businesses and workers as “essential” during the coronavirus crisis, other industries should take note on how they’re proceeding for the health, safety, and success of the public.

Focusing on customer needs is always (or should always be) the guiding principle of any organization. Whether you’re B2B or B2C, whether you provide a service or a physical product, your success depends on successfully meeting consumers’ current needs and trying your best to meet their future desires.

Currently, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, only a handful of business types are up and running with limits—those essential businesses that provide goods and services necessary for—well, living.

The United States Department of Homeland Security has categorized such essential industries, including but not limited to:

Health care and public health: Professionals including nurses, doctors, and caregivers providing direct care to coronavirus-related cases and other medical care.
Food and agriculture: Grocers, farmers, restaurants, and other establishments and personnel selling and/or preparing food and beverages.
Financial services: Personnel needed to maintain financial processing systems and fulfill consumer financial services.

Some of the other industries include law enforcement, transportation and logistics, and some manufacturing sectors, but the above industries have something in common: They’re dependent upon customer well-being.

This is the case during all social and economic climates, but the current situation means that customer-oriented service is even more crucial than before—even though, unfortunately, employees of these essential businesses are the hardest hit.

Business whose doors have shuttered, either entirely or only physically since enforced remote work policies, can use this time to reevaluate their approach to providing customer service.

We’ve compiled a list of the most innovative initiatives in each of the aforementioned essential industries, how they’re approaching the current health crisis, and what other industries can take from their approach.

Expanded telehealth access and services

A number of health care providers are implementing greater access to telehealth services, among other innovative pieces of healthtech.

As ICUs are unfortunately filling to capacity with COVID-19 cases across the country, offering telehealth to non-emergency medical needs is a proactive measure. Patients with non-life-threatening medical questions and concerns can meet with their doctor over the phone or video chat, the latter of which attempts to match the sympathetic benefits of in-person care.

This initiative opens the opportunity for other industries to start investing in virtual business fronts. While most have a foot in the virtual—whether it’s a chatbot on their site’s home page or a webstore—the expansion of virtual care is a manifestation of changing to meet consumer demands and unforeseen circumstances.

Food and grocery delivery—with reduced fees

A litany of food, grocery and other essential goods delivery services have upped their workloads, for better or for worse. As many members of the public either limit the number of weekly grocery store visits or entirely avoid going to them, delivery services understood this as an opportunity to step up.

Grubhub has taken a number of initiatives that benefit consumers from two sides: purveyors and individual consumers. Commission fees for independent restaurants have been deferred, and contact-free delivery is being offered to those wanting or needing to take precautions.

These pledges and new processes show the necessity of the agility of change management, as well as how necessary frontline employees’ and consumers’ input really is.

Reduced and deferred fees and loan repayments

A number of financial institutions are taking measures to help those who have been laid off, including waiving overdraft and excessive transaction fees and deferring a variety of types of loans.

While some of these initiatives are tied up in federal regulations, the extra measures some institutions are taking—such as Ally offering home loan deferrals up to 120 days and Bank of America offering small business loan deferrals—show that they understand the situation their consumers are in.

Similarly, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion have made a joint decision to offer consumers free weekly credit reports for the next year, an initiative to help consumers protect their credit scores amidst economic hardship.

Even as companies and entire industries enter survival mode, others realize that thinking in the long-term means taking some short-term losses.

No one knows how long the coronavirus crisis will last. Affected industries—which is, in short, every industry—should use this period to reflect on their current policies and processes for consumers and employees alike. Many will realize that the two are one and the same.

Gallup found that organizations in the top quartile for employee engagement realize higher customer engagement, better retention, and 21% higher profitability.

This correlation points out the obvious: High employee engagement positively impacts your bottom line. Investing in employees means investing in customers, means investing in your organization’s present and future potential. A Culture of Innovation is foundational for success.

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