The COVID -19 pandemic has affected the majority of businesses that would normally welcome customers with interactions and experiences that have the power to brand a business in positive ways. Unfortunately, despite best efforts, many companies and their employees are asked to work and perform in environments well beyond what would be considered normal.
All it takes is a few minutes on social media or even a quick conversation with friends or acquaintances and you can see and hear what individual consumers have been experiencing as they interact with businesses. People are sharing the experiences they have with businesses today more than ever.
Cleanliness, customer service, quality of the product has always been part of the mix when people talk about a positive or negative experience. Now the conversation includes health and safety, including social distance enforcement, mask policies and adherence to recommended and required protocols.
Companies throughout the entire world are working on vaccines and decisions are being made, both quickly and gradually, to return our communities and commerce to a level of normalcy. For the past six months the business have been closed, reopened, some closed again and asked to work through a myriad of workplace health protection guidelines, developing and placing new signage, in many cases revamping service area designs and even moving operations outside of normal spaces.
Whether consciously or unconsciously, the experiences that people have affect the way they feel about, and in the case of business branding, the way they speak about businesses. There is a real risk that these feelings and experiences will be the current brand of businesses that customers create and share with others.
It is my understanding there are three ways a business gets branded. The first is to create your own brand. That seems to be the best situation, because you let people know what you want them to know about you or your offering. Unfortunately, during COVID-19, many of the added required guidelines and protocols for businesses took much of the control of experiences that can lead to positive self-branding out of the hands of business owners.
The second is that your employees brand you. The brand is created by how your employees treat your customers. During COVID-19, this element of branding became critically important for ensuring that consumers felt safe. The way in which employees handled day-to-day interactions with customers while adhering to guidelines and protocols have the real potential to increase the comfort level of customers. Also, when any potential problems arise, whether during a time of COVID-19 or not, how the employees handle that problem is also part of the equation when consumers brand a business.
The third and most common way a brand is created is the customer brands the business. This form of branding actually takes into account the branding attempts of the business and the employee branding. This form is all about how the customer views and feels about the business.
It is difficult enough to get and keep people’s attention and convince them to patronize a business. During a time of COVID-19 the question is, what can businesses do to ensure customers have the most positive experience possible that meets or exceeds their expectations?
To answer that question it is extremely important to understand what is necessary to serve customers while making them feel comfortable and safe. When combined with all of your other best practices, these elements of comfort and safety can made a big difference.
That may be the best businesses can hope for when it comes to the immediate and foreseeable future aws we all work to seek normalcy.
It is important to remember perception and reality are reality when it comes to branding, even during difficult times. The best way to keep a strong positive brand and perception by customers is to create an experience that includes comfort and safety.