Providing a consistent brand experience across locations amid varying COVID-19 state guidelines

Brian Dennis | Aug 12, 2020 Brian Dennis 08/12/20

Now that we’ve entered phase 2 of the pandemic and most businesses have reopened their doors to in-store customers, non-essential retailers are facing a new challenge: a consistent brand experience.  Not only do COVID-related guidelines and restrictions continue to change quickly and frequently, they can differ greatly from state to state—and it can be difficult to provide your managers and front-line staff with up-to-date protocols and procedures.

But delivering a consistent customer experience is a key component of customer loyalty—especially in this volatile time when customers have heightened safety concerns and brands are having to regain their trust. The good news is there are ways to navigate these changes with agility and close the gap on location inconsistencies. Here are 3 steps all non-essential retailers should take now:


Field a pre-visit survey

By getting an early read on customers’ changing perceptions, expectations, + future intent for in-store shopping, you can better understand varying levels of concern and implement practices to meet those evolved demands.

Here are a few survey questions to consider:

  • What health + safety measures do you expect a brand to practice (i.e., wear mandatory PPE, have plexiglass at checkouts, require physical distancing)?
  • What actions do you think are most important for retailers to take to ensure customer safety (i.e., have staff clean frequently touched surfaces, place hand sanitizer at entrances + exits, provide a contactless experience)?
  • Compared to before the pandemic, which factor matters more now when you decide to visit (i.e., convenience of location, cleanliness of location, previous positive experience)?

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Customer feedback will also help shed light on common themes across varying state guidelines, providing insight to build a more holistic approach to your brand’s COVID-19 response.


Communicate updated health + safety protocols

As mentioned above, this is a sensitive time in the brand-customer relationship. Customers are concerned about being exposed to COVID-19 in public and even the most loyal consumer will drop a brand if they think their health is in jeopardy. SMG research shows 1 in 4 customers have stopped shopping a brand because they felt unsafe during their visit.

It is your responsibility to put customers at ease as much as possible and prioritize their health and safety. But the first step in that process happens before they even set foot in your store—it begins with your digital platforms.

Most customers are turning to your website for information on your brand’s response to the pandemic. These details should be front + center, easy to find, simple to understand, and up to date. But it shouldn’t stop there—customers are expecting emails from your brand, checking social channels for updates, and turning to search engines for location-level information. To avoid confusion, frustration, and, most importantly, lost business, it’s vital your messaging is consistent at every touchpoint.

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Deliver on your brand’s promise

Words don’t carry any weight without actions to back them up. Customers are paying attention, and if one location’s health + safety efforts fall short, the entire brand could suffer. Our data shows 76% of consumers who are less than satisfied with a brand’s health + safety measures have not returned within 30 days.

To earn trust and drive loyalty, you must put processes in place that protect employees and customers. Here are 3 things to consider when implementing these procedures:

  1. Operational practices must be nimble and not overly complicated: As I mentioned earlier, state guidelines continue to evolve. Your brand must be ready to pivot and adjust operations quickly in order to keep up. If your processes are simple, it will be easier to adjust as needed.
  2. Differing state guidelines should be accommodated in your action plan: While it can be challenging to keep track of varying protocols across the country, remember your customers are turning to brands that genuinely care about their safety and are taking authentic actions to protect them. If each of your locations provides that kind of service, customer loyalty is within reach.
  3. Continuously collecting feedback will provide ongoing insight: These are unprecedented times and with each step, we learn more. The only way to stay ahead of evolving expectations, remain agile, and continue to provide exemplary service is to ask employees + customers about their experiences—and take action on the feedback they provide.

You don’t have to face these challenges alone

A truly effective XM partner helps brands use real-time feedback to act with agility and embed the voice of customers and employees in all areas of the business. To see how SMG is providing retailers with the necessary feedback to navigate uncertainty amid the pandemic, visit our COVID-19 Resource Center or download the Interactive XM Playbook: How non-essential retailers can manage customer and employee experiences during COVID-19 + beyond


Brian Dennis | Senior VP, Retail Customer Engagement

Customer Experience Update