When people aren’t sure what to say in times of trouble, they fall back on clichés. “We’re here for you.” “Anything we can do to help.” “We’ll get through these hard times together.” Sometimes it’s the best we can do, and that’s okay.
But when brands do the same thing, it seems insincere.
Of course, we assume most brands have the best intentions and are just unsure how to act. But right now, customers need authentic support, not empty sentiments.
There’s a lot of depression, anger and sadness out there. Your customers may be feeling isolated and alone; they’re experiencing a hole in their lives and they’re grieving its loss.
How can your brand be there for customers and stay authentic? It may not be as hard as you think; simply do for your customers what you might do for a grieving friend.
Recognize that it’s not about you. If you’re comforting a friend, you don’t compliment yourself for “doing our part.” (Hey, remember that time I was there for you? Yeah, we feel pretty good about that.) And don’t presume that your experiences are equivalent—this is not your story. Any marketing should reflect a complete customer focus without ulterior motives or self-congratulations.
Take something off your customer’s plate. Lessen the burden by helping them in specific, practical ways—and don’t put the ball in their court by saying “whatever you need, we’re here.” Figure out what could make their life better and do it. For example, BJ’s wholesale clubs recognized the chaos of family meal prep (on top of homeschooling and working remotely, etc. etc.) and responded to a need for sanity with family-size delivery packs.
Show that you get it. Potbelly sandwich shops, by creating tongue-in-cheek “alone time” parking spaces—where children and conference calls are prohibited—clearly understand stressed out parents simply want a place to eat in peace. Don’t tell customers you understand what they’re feeling, show them with gestures.
Offer yourself as a sounding board. Your brand doesn’t always have to be a hero; sometimes customers just need to know someone is listening. For Mother’s Day, Molson-Coors opened a “judgment-free venting hotline” for moms who just want to let loose about squabbling kids, irrational bosses, messy spouses or anything else that’s driving them crazy. Be that shoulder of comfort for your customers.
Be the one they can turn to for anything. Zappos recently rolled out “Customer Service for Anything.” And we mean anything—where to score a hard-to-find computer part, how to get stains out of clothes, what to do when your youngest spills paint all over the dog. Strategies and resources are changing daily, and so will the asks. Be prepared to say “yes” a lot.
Right now, the natural thought of any brand might be “how do we make it through all of this?” To be authentic, what brands should really be thinking is “how do we help our customers make it?” Because that’s what any good friend would do in a time of need.