Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last six weeks, you’re probably well aware of the pandemic known as the Coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19. The outbreak began in December in Wuhan, a province in central China, and has since spread to nearly every corner of the globe, with South Korea, Italy, Iran, and France being the hardest hit regions outside of the origin of the virus.

While the fatality rate has remained relatively low as compared to other pandemics like SARS, bird flu, and Ebola, there is still justifiable cause for concern, as much is still unknown about the short- and long-term effects of the virus and disease. Paranoia has struck, as minds instantly race to scenes from "Contagion" and "I Am Legend", as they stock up on bottled water and toilet paper.

Illness and disease aside, the Coronavirus has struck fear into the eyes and minds of investors worldwide. On Monday, March 16, US stocks dipped nearly 13%, the greatest single-day decline since ‘Black Monday’ in 1987. Governments are restricting how businesses operate and are encouraging you to reconsider non-essential travel. Companies, especially in the travel and hospitality industry, are taking measures to limit their downside and protect their customers. Others are banning non-essential travel by their employees and mandating work from the home office. Maintaining consumer trust can be an extremely difficult task in a time of crisis, and even more difficult when that crisis teeters on hysteria.

This pandemic will cause consumers to think twice about where they spend their time, and money, when outside of their home. The uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus is tightening the purse strings of every consumer, as they are not sure if they’ll need to dip into their savings to survive, if the situation escalates. Thus, businesses need to be extra vigilant on how they engage with their customers.

"Without customer data, there is no opportunity for a business to proactively educate their customers about how they are handling the Coronavirus situation."

Without customer data, there is no opportunity for a business to proactively educate their customers about how they are handling the Coronavirus situation. It is impossible to send a communication to an individual without their contact information. Mass media is the obvious exception, but this costs far too much when the message is not targeted to existing customers. A simple email telling your customer about extra cleaning, flexible refund policies, expanded or restricted hours etc, can go a long way in restoring trust in the brand and potentially encouraging customers to spend their hard earned money during this trying time. Businesses need to collect data in a sensible way in order to achieve this. 

Tighter purse strings and restrictions on dining out can mean fiercer competition. People will be looking for the safest and most convenient options – but if you're not able to communicate that to them directly, don't expect that you'll get the benefit of the doubt. The way to ultimately differentiate your product or service is to offer an exceptional customer experience for the current context. That may be home-delivery, reduced/spaced out seating, special deals for elderly or vulnerable people, or simply gift cards that can be used at a later date. The way to understand customer needs is to learn from and listen to your customers in real-time. Without this actionable feedback and visibility, your business will make critical business decisions based on hypotheses rather than data.

The good news is, it’s not too late. You still have the opportunity to become the ‘preferred and safe restaurant’. 

While there’s no exact antidote, Local Measure can certainly help you lessen the fallout of a grim situation. You can use Local Measure to tap into the channels your customers are already using and collect the data needed for a thoughtful, personalized message. You can also leverage Local Measure Pulse as a digital solution for collecting during-visit feedback, to ensure that those customers who are visiting your locations have the best possible experience. These approaches, combined with active listening, bolster consumer trust.  

Perhaps you can also take this time to focus on a particular part of your strategy or a big project you haven’t previously had the bandwidth to tackle, so that you will be in an even stronger position when normalcy returns. Is your WiFi infrastructure up to date? Do your public spaces need a fresh coat of paint? Or do you need better ways to listen for real-time customer feedback? Now is the time to put in the work to prepare for better days.

While the situation is undoubtedly unfortunate, especially for those families directly affected, it’s not all dark clouds and rain drops. Coronavirus provides a chance for your business to find opportunity amidst adversity. With these measures, a holistic view of your customer, a deliberate CX and data strategy, and trusted partnerships, you will come out at the other end of this saga with brand advocates and fiercely loyal customers.

For more information on how Local Measure can help enhance your customer and employee experience in today's virtual world, click here.