Beyond Social Responsibility: Building Relationships with Customers During a Global Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic raises the question about social responsibility: the obligation of the public sector and governments, as well as big corporations and the entire economic fabric. Beyond the legal and economic stakes, the society’s expectation on the private sector is pushing companies to involve themselves in establishing social responsibility practices based on their commitment to the environment and society.

Even marketing firms are helping companies to develop marketing strategies during this pandemic. One example is brand-tracking tools to understand consumer’s behavior and perspective in social responsibility practices. This helped companies adopt a philanthropic nature by offering immediate support through their products and services.

The COVID-19 health crisis offers an opportunity for companies to strengthen relationships and connect with customers. Many have started their cause in small communities by focusing on trust, safety, stability, security, and convenience. If you haven’t started yet, here are some ways to address current consumer needs during this pandemic.

Observing limits in physical interaction

During this pandemic, people have to set limits in physical interaction to prevent the spread of the virus, especially in high-risk communities. Companies can do their part by following social distancing measures when operating a business and other critical tasks that involve their customers and employees.

Retail companies have responded to this call by observing safety precautions, such as offering free delivery service to senior customers and extending business hours for healthcare staff and the elderly. Meanwhile, on-site businesses are limiting the number of visitors inside a store and putting up signs and warnings to observe physical distance and ensure compliance.

For food-delivery and e-commerce industries, companies worldwide are offering delivery alternatives to limit physical contact between delivery workers and customers. Contactless deliveries and curbside pickup have become standard options for food businesses and logistics companies.

Those companies that require close proximity to customers (i.e., airlines) are taking steps to minimize risks by observing safety and health practices to protect employees and customers. It also includes strict guidelines for work processes and cleaning, such as removing drink refills to prevent touching of high-contact surfaces.

Introducing product innovations

The current health crisis offers opportunities for companies to actively contribute products or services to cater to the urgent needs of their consumer base. This approach will help companies discover their strengthens in providing essential services and products outside their current product portfolio. A great example are distilleries producing hand sanitizers for local communities. Others are offering ethanol supplies for the production of sanitizers through refineries and partnerships.

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In the healthcare industry, companies are exerting efforts to meet the growing demand for medical supplies and equipment (i.e., personal protective equipment). Apparel manufacturers and clothing companies are also responding by producing more cloth face masks. It became their strategy to meet their decreasing sales by shifting their production to essential items. The same goes for automotive companies who focused their manufacturing efforts on producing ventilators and medical devices.

Companies outside the manufacturing sector are also changing their brand portfolio by contributing to safety practices. Rideshare applications are now offering services to transport essential goods, such as food and medicine. This proves useful for people who need access to medicines, but cannot go out because of their condition or the quarantine.

These examples demonstrate how business leaders are expressing their commitment and empathy to their customers and local communities. They are also pushing their efforts to provide meaningful and rewarding work for employees despite reductions in current operations.

Bringing emotional and financial support to customers

The economic distress brought by the pandemic has put massive pressure on everyone’s finances. As big companies employ cost-cutting measures, small business owners have to close their businesses permanently while millions of people lost their jobs.

To relieve customers from any financial pressure, financial institutions removed penalties for missed payment obligations. Meanwhile, telcos lifted termination policies and late-payment fees while utility companies continue to provide services for non-paying customers.

Companies are also doing their part to bring support and joy to customers stuck at home. Telcos offering free data for two months for unlimited access to the Internet and online content. On the other hand, entertainment companies are offering free virtual shows for families, such as movies, operas, and virtual art tours.

During this global crisis, companies are doing their part to support customers and communities by shifting their focus on meeting urgent consumer needs. This paved the way for socially conscious companies to become more involved in the current social climate and establish lasting relationships with their customers. But with or without COVID-19, big companies must maintain their duty in serving communities as they do business.

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