what do customers want in this crisis?

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Customers want companies to act in 3 broad ways in this crisis

leadership tip week #111

adapted from HBR

In a fast-moving crisis, it’s important for leaders to communicate with empathy and honesty — not just internally, but externally as well. Of course, customers require a different approach than employees.

Recent research by Kantar was clear that customers wanted organisations to communicate how they act in three broad areas :

  1. For their customers
  2. For their colleagues
  3. For their wider community


1.For their customers

In the current crisis Asda CEO Roger Burnley and Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe recently sent out a note to customers describing how they were acting in all three areas and have gained widespread plaudits, whereas Tim Martin Wetherspoons CEO has come under high levels of criticism for the video message he sent to his colleagues suggesting they take their skills to Tesco!

2. For their Colleagues

Grocery Retailers are focusing on protecting  colleagues with social distancing, perspex screens at check-outs, in-store cleaning procedures , increase limit on contactless to £45 and supporting colleagues with sick pay and Asda even committing to a bonus in June.

3. For their wider community

Coop are doing some great work supporting Food Banks with a guaranteed donation of Food. Iceland, Sainsbury’s and Asda have led by opening shops specifically at times for older customers or NHS workers , and many online retailers are prioritising delivery slots for older or vulnerable customers. M&S and Coop even starting local delivery services to vulnerable people.

Overall the focus that is working to build trust is

  • Focus on empathy rather than trying to create sales opportunities.
  • Deliver great Basics in store.
  • Rethink advertising and promotion strategies to be more in line with what’s happening in the world otherwise you risk sounding tone-deaf and alienating your customers ( removing multi-buys) or Coles in Australia shot an ad with their brand spokesperson encouraging its customers to stay safe
  • Look at your messaging from the perspective of your audience, and let your compassion drive your communications, rather than fear of doing the wrong thing


This tip is adapted from Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis,” by Paul A. Argenti

Author: Andrew Mann

Managing Partner at NorthBailey. Having had senior marketing & insight roles at Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Coop and M&S, I'm now using my experience & network to solve strategic marketing problems for NorthBailey clients

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