The Covid-19 pandemic has put the global economy in the line of fire. Brands are either burning out or metamorphosing. What happens with the metamorphosing ones is something only time will tell – will they do something different to enhance their brand value or will they burn out? There’s no better time to find out how customers perceive your brand than in times of distress.

More often than not brands tend to shy away from conducting surveys during crises fearing negative responses or no feedback from respondents. But on the contrary, in my experience of recovering a severely damaged brand and helping several others establish themselves, I have found there’s no better time to collect feedback from both customers and employees than during times of distress. This is the time when brands can actually make a huge impact by acting on feedback about what’s working and what’s not with their customers and staff, and take strategic action.

Essentially, all organisations across the world that are affected by the pandemic fall into one of the four categories listed below. Of these, two categories fall onto the extreme ends of the scale:

Category 1 – Business has shutdown completely or partially due to Covid-19 regulations, with no scope for recovery, so surveys don’t come into the picture here.

Category 2 – Businesses that are not greatly impacted by the crisis, like telecom companies, cable TV entertainment, superannuation brands, insurance companies, etc. Considering that such businesses are impacted less by customer grievances, they should focus more on their staff and develop strong employee engagement initiatives. Staff surveys in this instance are powerful, considering a majority of their employees are probably working from home. This is a good time to understand employee anxieties, impact of working from home, and also to establish a strong infrastructure that could be put to use in case of a similar situation in future where their industry might possibly be affected. (Read about important infrastructure options here.)

But it is the businesses that fall in between the above two categories that definitely need to survey both their prime stakeholders – customers and staff. I explain how and why below:

Category 3 – We all know and have been hearing about businesses that are impacted and are hanging in the balance. They are still servicing customers with non-essentials probably… AND… if they do the right things, they can survive this economic crisis.

If your organisation falls under this category, whom and how should you survey?

Employee surveys: Your staff are probably going through anxieties of layoffs and pay cuts, uncertainties and worries about their future. Even as you are making allowances to stay afloat, this is the best time to survey your staff and identify employee anxieties, especially in situations where staff are working from home and have little social interaction with their peers. This is the time for you to show that you care for your staff and build on their goodwill.

Customer surveys: You may not be selling essentials, but it doesn’t mean that your customers wouldn’t need your products if they are available. Hence, now is when you should ask customers how your brand can help them in these difficult times and perhaps also when business goes back to usual in the future. You may be surprised with the kind of new services you may identify that you could possibly offer customers and also build goodwill in difficult times.

Category 4 – And then, there are brands that are facing increased work pressure owing to the crisis, such as banks, healthcare, pharmacies, government welfare departments and groceries to name a few.

With new policies and procedures coming into play, it could definitely have a great impact on the CX.

But here’s the BIGGER concern. Staff of these organisations are probably the most stressed at this moment with an overload of work and probably emotionally troubled by risks to their health while serving customers, and even facing customers’ wrath. Also, customers are emotionally charged with the stress of their lives being turned upside-down by the lockdown.

If your organisation falls under this category, whom and how should you survey?

In such circumstances, it is a good idea to get a pulse on the mental wellness of your staff and also the emotional needs of your customers. These brands should definitely survey both its important stakeholders. So, here’s what you can  do.

Employee surveys: In this category it is extremely important for you to understand the impact of increased workload on your staff. It will be good to check if they have all the resources required to work comfortably, and if they require any specific training to manage irate customers. Are the new processes working at the ground level? Are safety measures up to the mark for frontline staff? Questions like these make your surveys empathetic and powerful to identify core problem areas.

Customer surveys: It is also necessary for brands that fall under this category to continue conducting customer surveys. BUT… the important aspect is to be cognizant of the crisis and tailor the survey accordingly.

Understand that despite the crisis, your staff and customers are still interacting with your brand. Their communication channels may have changed, but they still trust what you offer. So here’s your chance to respond to their needs via empathetic surveys.

Regardless of which survey, I would advise the following guidelines:

  • Reduce survey length
  • Reduce open comment questions. Opt for a “choose many” or “choose one” questions instead as they are faster to respond.
  • Reduce mandatory questions unless they are used for survey logic.
  • Don’t ask questions where the client believes you should know the answer
  • Empathetic messaging. Ensure your customers understand these are trying times and you are doing your best to offer the best service.

Once you have the results in place, modify your CX strategy, policies and procedures to suit the times. Remember, a period of crisis and economic downturn provides brands the opportunity to make the greatest impact on their stakeholders. If you look after your customers and staff during this period and do what’s right by them and the brand, you are sure to build on goodwill and grow your brand into the future.