“Companies must put customers first!”

Tanja Laub is an experienced community, social media and project manager who specializes in the development of company-owned platforms with her agency Walkabout Media. In addition, she is chairperson of the Bundesverband Community Management e.V. for digital communication and social media. In our Blog interview, Tanja explains why customer centricity and customer experience are becoming increasingly important for brands in the corona crisis and what contribution communities can make.

What are your recommendations for companies that need to manage the current crisis?

Companies that are prepared for mobile working and with a crisis communication plan have great advantages now. Unfortunately, this is not the case everywhere. Companies that do not yet have a crisis communication plan should learn from the current situation and develop one. In the areas of community management paying attention to communication has always been important. How do I address my users, can a word be misunderstood? Currently, companies must be very aware regarding their tonality. Many people are worried. They do not know what the future holds professionally, financially and in terms of health. Online communities can be a place where people find distraction and diversion. But people are also more irritable than before, so companies have to analyze how to communicate and show empathy. It is important to communicate transparently and constantly, to update customers and to react quickly. In this way, brands show that people can trust them even in times of crisis. And trust is the most important asset that a company can receive from a customer.

In your opinion, what role do customer centricity and customer experience play for brands struggling with the crisis?

Customers are thinking very carefully about whether they are still buying something and if so, what and where. So it is very important for companies to put the customer in the center and build a strong customer relationship. Brands that focus on their consumers know exactly how they can best reach and address which person with which offer. And this knowledge will pay off – now and after the crisis.

What are the specific problems that companies have to deal with in their communities because of the Corona crisis?

The current situation is different. On the one hand, the Corona virus is an all-dominant topic. This makes it difficult for brands to address customers with other topics. In addition, companies are currently receiving many more inquiries via their online portals, because customers are worried and insecure . Besides that, other touchpoints like shops are breaking away. Our BVCM study for Germany shows that most social media and community teams are staffed with less than three people. The increasing number of enquiries is meeting with teams in which companies are often structurally not prepared for home offices regulations or where teams are sometimes understaffed due to illness or the care of children.

Are specific sectors more affected?

At the moment, almost all industries are affected. Particularly, small companies, the tourism industry and organizers of large events are struggling harder. The crisis is a global problem, nobody knows when and where traveling will be possible again. That certainly varies from country to country. And even if the measures are eased and we will hopefully soon be able to get together again in small groups, go to a café, shop or to smaller events: Large happenings with 1,000 people are, as it sounds to me, not feasible in the near future.

How can communities help brands in the current economic crisis?

If companies have previously built a strong community and invested in good community management, it pays off now. Customers are loyal by e.g. buying vouchers. Communities are more important now than ever before. They help to retain customers and give decision-makers valuable insights for their product development. But all this can’t built overnight. Companies that have a strong community benefit in the current crisis through the support and backing of their members.

Where do you see the winners?

I believe that in the long term, the entire digital communications and community industry will benefit. Digitization will progress faster. Companies will rethink their structures and focus more on digital collaboration and communication. Currently, we are talking about “social distancing”. But in my opinion this is the wrong term. People are coming together socially much more. They help each other. Like, for example, in neighborhood assistance. People are making more phone calls and online communication tools are booming, both privately and professionally. It is more a physical distance, but the community idea is stronger than ever.

Is your brand also affected by the Corona crisis? Then perhaps our initiative #staywithyourcustomers is interesting for you. Because for the duration of the crisis we provide 10 interactive customer platforms in 10 of the most affected industries without obligation and free of charge. Please feel free to contact us!