Cultivate a customer-centric mindset In The Time Of Covid-19

Covid-19 has brought with it an onslaught of unexpected economic impacts, beginning with the February stock market crash and the International Monetary Fund’s declaration that 2020’s recession will be far worse than even that of 2009. Customers have tightened their wallets and become more frugal in their spending.

Business leaders hence need to zero-in on what makes their target audience tick, and how to reach them better. This can be done by adopting a customer-oriented approach that accurately recognizes and meets the needs that customers are facing. It is a proactive stance on the part of companies that requires us to carefully study what customers need and actively demonstrate how our services can meet those needs.

Now more than ever, customers are pessimistic about the future outlook and experiencing increased mental stress. Adopting a customer-first approach will help companies develop the requisite empathy to engage your worried customers and acknowledge their burdens. McKinsey has released a seven-step guide on how to better show empathy for your customers here.

The competitive landscape today is ever more complex and intricate due to advanced digital technologies that complicate the stakeholder map – we never know who is the influencer of our targeted decision maker. Competition is everywhere and it’s what drives innovation and differentiation- ultimately benefiting the customers.

Right now, customers’ key priorities are meeting their primary needs. Hence, they mainly prioritize necessities over luxuries. They have also pivoted towards digital services and entertainment, in light of physical constraints during the pandemic. Bearing your customer’s new needs in mind is crucial at every stage of your business, from ideation, execution, branding, to sales. When your customer is at the forefront of every decision you make, you will be able to make the best choices under pressure.

In contrast, a competition-oriented approach will be a distraction during this period. You should not be trying to market yourself to your customers by emphasizing your difference from your competitors. When you do so, you inadvertently set your competitor as the gold standard, and your strategy becomes that of playing catch-up rather than innovating. It advertises your anxieties and lack of confidence in your product to your customer, who might look elsewhere for the same service as a result.

In this time of crisis, everybody is quickly adapting and changing their strategies on the fly. Your competitors are just as likely as you to be trying out new ideas and new tactics to maintain their customer base and support. This rate of technological advancement, coupled with the pressures to innovate to stay competitive, has made even the best features and benefits temporary as well as tenuous.

The competition is so nimble that any slight product edge will not last long. Relying on a differentiative edge will likely get you locked in a quarter-to-quarter game of marketplace leapfrog. Given that we are all scrambling to forge a path forward in these difficult times, your vision should be securely fixed on the customer’s needs, rather than the choices your competition is making.

The ultimate endpoint of a customer-oriented approach is to successfully provide the most suitable solution to specific problems faced by customers. In doing so, you will impress your customers with your sensitivity and care for their needs, and they are likely to continue using your products as well as to recommend them to other people of their own volition.

In these times, it is good to remember the words of Jack Ma, former CEO of Alibaba Group: “Customer first, employee second, shareholder third.” Prioritizing customer-driven innovation has been the most reliable marker of success for many companies, one in which you set the standard and will continue to be so in this time of crisis.

Keep your customers close during times of crisis, and provide customized solutions to solve their individual problems. Focus on eliminating the customers’ discrepancy and provide a solution that enables betterment and will not be easily replaced. A proactive customer-oriented strategy puts you on track to building strong trust with your customers.

Helena Ma brings with her a wealth of experience and a truly cosmopolitan perspective, having lived and worked in Shanghai, China; Gothenburg, Sweden; and London, UK. Her stints in Europe and China has armed Helena with a potent blend of ancient Chinese wisdom and contemporary Western knowledge which she incorporates into business management and client project