Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Tiffany St James: Reconnecting in a socially-distanced world

Tiffany St James is one of the UK’s most experienced digital transformation specialists, the founder of Transmute and former Head of Public Participation for the UK Government. She is also NDA’s monthly columnist.

We well understand that the world has changed, but some of us are still struggling with how best to reconnect with customers, in a socially distanced world.

You may only have engaged them digitally beforehand, but now that people are more tired on Teams and Zoomed-out than ever before, how can you start to build relationships when your customers are more accessible than ever, but ironically can be harder to reach?

Here are some high-level practical tips and good practice to help you work through and hone your plan of approach.

Do you understand how your customers are?

Since lockdown, have you called your key customers directly? Do you know how they are faring?

Understanding what is going on personally and professionally in your customers’ lives is key to the bedrock of future relationships. Not rocket science, just authentic personal connection.

How we are all treating our customers and employees in this changing period of pandemic, lockdown and social distancing will remain with people for a long time. People and organisations are being judged on how well they have treated their employees, community, and customers. The largely US-based Did They Help shows this in a leader board system only too well.

How have you treated people? How have you extended yourself (no matter your own changing situation) to really understand your customers and what they need right now?

  • Build better and stronger relationships by understanding how your customers are, what do they need now, and strive to understand what they need over time.

Do you understand their overall specific needs?

Your customers may be at different stages in their digital maturity. Knowing and understanding where they are, where they want to get to next, how that has changed and helping them to get there, even if the immediate solution is not something that you can provide for them, builds much deeper relationships.

How are their field sales staff faring in a time where relationships may have moved, even temporarily, online?

Do they have the skills, processes, technology, and cultural mindset to pivot?

How are you customers dealing with their client hospitality or brand engagement experiences now that we have strict rules around social distancing?

What are they doing? What do they need to know? How can you help them? Who else do you know that could help them?

  • Unpack the wider picture and other parts of your customers’ business and understand how you, or new partners you can introduce them to, can help them.

Some practical solutions

Advance Digital Options 

How can you help your customers better enable the delivery of their services online? Whether that’s backend process-mapping or digital front-end delivery, helping them to have a tighter digital delivery will better serve their business. Sometimes this can be as simple as how you help them construct a ‘Do It at Home’ package for their customers. 

Serve you customers’ in their homes

Whilst most of us are still working remotely part-time or at home, consider what can you help your clients to do from their home? I’m reminded of the car repair company that picks up, fixes and returns their customer’s cars. What can we learn from this change in service delivery that we can apply to our own work?

What can we do remotely for clients in their homes or help them to perhaps galvanise a working group online whilst they are still socially distanced?

Physical protection

Social distancing is easing in some places. If your customer’s products and services are delivered at physical locations, consider how best to enable those products and services to be frictionless whilst best protecting your customers and the people who take up their services.

Whilst touch-free payments are the most used, and sometimes only, form of payment, one-way flow and courtesy screens will help. We have seen the digital delivery of stencils for business for one-way flows and downloadable designed packs to ease social distancing in physical spaces as good provision by online providers.

Consider what you can provide remotely or digitally to help your customers with advanced digital options, self-service from home and digitally delivered physical protection.

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