COMMUNICATION IS KEY
by Samantha Stewart
We all hoped that 2020 would be the only year of cancelled plans, postponed events and rescheduled holidays – and 2021 would be the year we could celebrate. Unfortunately, it hasn’t started that way.
Instead, we are back in lockdown, living through the second wave of this pandemic and can’t begin to even think about, let alone book, a holiday or plan an event.
Citigate Dewe Rogerson conducted research among consumers to seek their views on how well sectors have been communicating with them during the pandemic. Many people have spent money with companies so we wanted to know how they had been kept informed about their options.
The research found that less than half (44%) of companies had proactively contacted consumers, while in 16% of cases customers were still waiting to hear from a business currently holding their cash.
With many of us having booked holidays, planned weddings, birthday parties, organised tickets to go to gigs, concerts, the theatre and so on, few sectors have escaped the responsibility of communicating a plan to consumers.
The ‘experience’ sector emerged as the worst at communicating as a quarter (25%) of consumers had not heard anything in the first half of the pandemic, followed by event and travel companies (both 18%). In contrast, cultural (61%) and sports events (55%) companies have been proactively contacting consumers about their options.
When asked what we wanted to do with the money originally, quite a few of us would have happily agreed to reschedule, preferring to have something to look forward to.
However, as the pandemic continues to cause chaos across the world, we may have changed our minds or no longer be in the same situation and therefore would prefer a refund. Companies must keep this in mind and be open with consumers about their options.
While there is an appreciation and understanding that industries could not possibly plan for a pandemic or know when they will be able to offer the products and services that so many of us had paid for pre pandemic, an open line of communication is essential.
As our research underscored, it is vital that businesses which currently hold money from customers for events which have had to be cancelled, provide information, reassurance and, when possible, updates about what they are doing to deal with this unprecedented situation.
From a trust point of view, it is important to stay visible and reassure to the best of your ability. When the crisis is over, consumers will remember those brands which kept in touch and treated them well, being as flexible as they could be and making it easy for them to change plans.
If businesses are able to manage a crisis with minimal negative public perception, even when they are unable to provide a product or service, then they have done a very good job. In the court of public opinion, brands tend to be punished for not getting the simple actions right. Don’t let that happen to yours.