As a small-business owner, cultivating trust in your customers has always been a top priority.
But then, the COVID-19 pandemic comes along and puts your business on the line. When you’re focused on survival, it’s tough to keep that in balance with the trust you want to maintain with your customers. While fighting for your business is stressful and all-consuming, when it’s time to return to full-strength, you want your customers to be there!
Though we’re all in this COVID-19 pandemic together, the actions you take to respond to the pandemic will affect how customers perceive you. Let’s take a look at some things you can do to cultivate and maintain trust with your customer base, especially during these uncertain times.
Revisit your values
When times are uncertain, it can be easy to lose yourself in the stress. One thing to focus on is your reason for being, the core values that guide your company. They may not, on the surface, pay the bills. But they can guide your steps in the right direction. So what does your company stand for? Now’s a time to reconnect with these values and resolve to stick to them. If you’re all about helping pet parents make the most of their years with their furry friends, continue to keep that front and center with everything you do. As you make the necessary operational changes, you can and should present these changes as a part of your core values and communicate that with your customers. Doing so can provide a valuable reminder to customers of who you are, and of the fact that their support very much matters.
Respond with agility to retail shifts …
You want to be responsive and agile in a rapidly evolving world by anticipating your customers’ needs. For example, maybe you’ll want to order extra leashes, toys and treat puzzles, to help pet parents who are spending extra time at home with their pets. If you’re looking for an e-commerce solution you can implement quickly, eTailPet can help you do just that. In fact, if you sign up for eTailPet, NutriSource will pay for your second month of service. When you sign up, use the promo code “NutriSource – Support Local.” We’re big believers in community-based businesses, and this is one way we can help when times are uncertain.
… but don’t be opportunistic
Let’s say you want to connect pet parents with plenty of gear to help them spend that extra time at home with their pets. If your lighthearted pitch comes off as tone deaf to the serious concerns people are facing, well, that’s a swift path to destroying trust. This is a memorable time, and no one wants to be remembered for the wrong reasons. Still, anticipating needs is something you’ll want to cultivate. When you’re adding products and services in response to the new normal, ask yourself a few questions. Does the new product or service make life easier for pet parents? Is the pricing fair? How can I promote this in a way that’s appropriate and speaks to everyone in the current climate?
Be one of the good guys
When people are going through a shared crisis, it can be scary and unsettling. As Mister Rogers would say, this is a time when you look for the helpers. Identifying a need and responding to it during a crisis speaks volumes. It shows you have the health and welfare of the community in mind, and you recognize the important things in this world. Whether you launch a pet food drive or collect change to support a local cause, providing opportunities for pet parents to help others in need great way to build trust. Even if it does nothing to help your bottom line today, it does shine a light of hope that people need when times are bad.
Practice transparency with customers
Being upfront and honest about what people can expect is always the way to go when it comes to building trust. Over the weeks and months, your policies, procedures, supplies and operating hours will change and evolve as the pandemic progresses. Keep customers updated, and emphasize how these shifts are beneficial to the health and safety of everyone. Make a list of the safety procedures you’ve implemented in-store, and cite the source of the recommended practices (i.e., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). When you have updated information, get it out there right away, especially on your online channels. This article has great tips on improving your online presence.
Show that you care about employees
The way you treat employees during a crisis matters a lot to your customers. Doing a little extra to show that you care can go a long way in fostering goodwill with your staff, and it can also carry over to your customers. On the one hand, you may be working to find flexible options to help your employees when they need it, whether they have fears of contracting COVID-19, or need to stay home with family members. But there are others faced with the unpleasant task of shortening schedules, due to curbside pickup business models and shorter business hours. Whatever happens, be human and show empathy. Meet with affected employees individually, in a place without distractions or interruptions, be prepared to answer questions, and give them the time they need to process the bad news. In the meantime, be transparent with everyone about what you need to do to keep the business afloat, and why and what you’ll need from everyone going forward. (Hopefully, when the crisis abates, everyone will have a chance to get together and celebrate.)
There’s no perfect way to navigate through a pandemic. But it often helps to err on the side of compassion and do what you can to keep staff and pet parents safe.
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