The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people and organizations to change how they live and interact in their day-to-day lives. This is why connecting with colleagues and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic is more important now than ever.

Adjustments, such as work from home and social distancing, that many thought were short-term have been extended for the better part of the year now. With the uncertainty of when a vaccine will be readily available, it appears that these lifestyle changes will remain for the foreseeable future.

Companies have scrambled to adapt to this crisis. Early supply-chain issues were felt in every grocery store and Walmart aisle in the US.  Implementing safety measures for employees and customers left large and small businesses rushing to enact changes that were previously unheard of. While these problems are far from over, attention must also be paid to the connection between businesses, customers and employees.

We are now living in a very isolated environment. By building and maintaining an emotional connection with customers and colleagues, businesses have the opportunity to provide needed care and goodwill to their communities at large.

Connecting with colleagues and customers while maintaining these connections isn’t easy, but it is necessary in today’s world.

Fortunately, technology exists today that allows us to survive the abrupt changes COVID brings. Sure, Zoom calls are not the same as brainstorming around a conference table or making small talk in the elevator. And masks make it nearly impossible to recognize regular clients.

Despite so many odds being stacked against us, we have seen how resilient and innovative we can be in these unprecedented times. Business leaders who explore opportunities to meet both their customers’ and employees’ needs will out perform leader’s who don’t once re-emergence takes hold.

First and foremost, companies need to maintain trust by connecting with colleagues and customers…  and employees.

Back in March, many business leaders sent out emails regarding COVID-19 with a promise to stick together. They announced efforts to make masks, promised to create safe, clean environments and many enabled their workforce to work remotely. By addressing customers directly, these companies created a sense of trust and openness.

Moving forward, it is important that this dialogue continues throughout the rest of the pandemic and beyond. Through email and social media, there has never been more opportunities for interaction.

This activity has the potential of benefiting companies in the long-run. Research shows that consumers want brands to share similar values as them. There is no better way to communicate an alignment in values than through intentional and constant interaction.

Expect growing pains throughout the connecting with colleagues and customers adjustment process.

Most everyone is still adjusting to the new normal. While new challenges are presented, everyday struggles still remain. With the now added obstacles that COVID brings, simple errands and chores can feel near impossible. While balancing their new remote responsibilities, there is also the continuing concern of family and health issues. It’s crucial to give consumers options to be able to accommodate to new guidelines as well as a new way of shopping.

Providing practical solutions is a giant step to connecting with customers. Understanding their needs and immediately adapting is key. There are hundreds of solutions out there that make life a little bit easier. With apps and online services enabling families to better manage chores, such as cleaning or grocery shopping, consumers and employees alike are easily able to have productive days as well as positive experiences with companies. For example, opting to have cleaning essentials delivered to the doorstep of the consumer not only reduces the risk of spreading COVID, it also solves many problems that have sprung up over the past year.

Companies should return to the status quo as much as possible, when possible.

Routine can be a really good thing. It allows us to improve by trial and error, especially with tasks that are done on a weekly basis. There is comfort in knowing what to expect and when to expect it. Living in a COVID world has changed how we go about doing much of what we do.

This can be stressful for employees and customers alike.

For employees, an office environment can inspire creativity. A brainstorming session around a conference table can lead to the next big idea. Friendships that form at the office help curate a sense of purpose. Without the office culture, these practices — that are at the core of a company — can disappear. To counteract this, leaders should make it their goal to keep office culture alive, so that there can be a semblance of normalcy, especially for those working remotely.

Celebrate the successes of your employees. Give virtual shoutouts for the big and small victories. Finally, try your best to bring back old traditions from the office. Office pets, happy hours and company-wide lunches can all be done virtually, with a little imagination. Whatever you do, make sure you aim to create a positive work culture for all of your employees. Afterall, happy employees are good employees.

Leverage the feeling of normalcy.

Customers also need a return to normalcy. Whether you manage a restaurant, a store or a software company, valuing customer service is key to creating an overall positive experience. For the service industry, maintaining stringent cleaning standards and safety precautions is most important in restoring trust. Center the customer experience around safety and comfort.  For companies that do not require in-person interactions, be available to clients through video calls, and be sure to stay actively engaged through clear communication practices. At the end of the day, no matter what industry you are in, stay reachable and treat customers with respect and care.

2020 has proven that staying connected throughout COVID is a challenge, but not impossible. We have the technology that allows for communities to thrive without being in close proximity to each other. Maintaining formal and informal socialization is fundamental in cultivating strong connections between employees, businesses and customers. As long as we remember that we are in this together, we can push boundaries and create communities like never before.

Care to dig deeper into the conversation about connecting with colleagues and customers During COVID-19?

The following resources shed more light on the topic.

Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Claudia Craven

About TIGERS Success Series

TIGERS provides a comprehensive, multi-pronged and robust system for improving your workforce behavior, work culture, profitability and project management and team leadership success.

We specialize in building cooperation among employees and collaboration between departments for profitable agile, high performance team outcomes.  Scaled to  grow as your organization and leadership performance improves, our proprietary TIGERS Workforce Behavior Profile, Micro-Training technology and group facilitation methods result in your high performance team outcomes and change management success. We also license and certify elite internal and external consultants and project managers to use our resources for similar outcomes.