Building resilient customer relationships is essential. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining loyalty through great customer experiences is more important than ever. So how can businesses build resilience into the way they maintain a seamless relationship with their customers?
The fifth and final episode of our Resilience Recast five-part podcast, in partnership with Reuters, explored how businesses can keep their customers engaged in a post-pandemic world. Joining host Nisha Pillai were Helen Bierton, Chief of Banking, Starling Bank, and Stefano Perego, Vice President of EU Operations, Amazon.
Gavin Patterson, President and Chief Revenue Officer of Salesforce, explained that the best way to maintain customer loyalty is through customer experience.
“Whether your business is B2B or B2C,” Gavin explained, “having a trusted relationship with your customer has become absolutely critical. With that is a great opportunity.”
“Focus on your customer, create a great experience with great outcomes and it will lead to new levels of growth and more success in the long term.”
Starling Bank was born out of the financial crisis of 2008. Its founder and CEO Anne Bowden used her experience of working in banking during challenging times to launch the digital bank in 2014.
Reflecting on business during the pandemic, Helen explained, “It’s been a tough year. This pandemic has hit everybody. We’ve had to adapt, we’ve changed, and we’ve launched new products, and we’ve been there for our customers throughout.”
The bank has certainly innovated to build resilient customer relationships during the pandemic. Helen shared how they spun up products such as their Connected Card to create customer loyalty. This allows customers to give a separate card (which has a limited spending capacity) to someone else to shop for them.
They also designed fund application journeys with convenience in mind. Users can complete the application quickly from anywhere.
Helen explained, “Sometimes I think customers don’t know what they want. They know what their problem is. And then you have to try and take that problem and adapt and find a way to make it work.”
Resilience Recast host Nisha Pillai and Helen Bierton, Chief of Banking, Starling Bank
Starling Bank started building resilient customer relationships by focusing on serving all customers, both new and existing. The bank’s Bounce Back Loans for businesses, for instance, were designed to get money to businesses very quickly. And Starling made sure that they were available to all business types and sizes.
“It’s not just been about keeping existing businesses alive, there have been people just starting out and founding new businesses.”
As part of the launch, Starling sidestepped some traditional loan checks and permitted businesses to self-certify their credentials. Although this opened up an element of risk, Starling’s key focus was on its customers.
“We felt that we had to get the money to our clients fast,” said Helen. “We wanted to support as many businesses as possible as it’s hugely important for the economy.”
In the thick of the pandemic, Starling Bank recorded its first profits last year. Its customer base also grew from one million to over two million during that time. Building resilient customer relationships is at the heart of what the bank does, Helen explained.
“It’s been fundamental to our experience. If you’re reliant on technology, having resilience in your platform and design is incredibly important to be able to continue to serve your customers.”
Stefano Perego shared how Amazon entered ‘peak mode’ in the early stages of the pandemic. Peak mode is an event when demand spikes very rapidly. Amazon realised they needed to respond quickly and effectively.
“We’re used to having challenging systems in terms of volume and demand,” Stefano explained, “but usually they don’t come with a virus.” The company delivered a fast link across the chain, from global to region, country to local operations.
To build resilient customer relationships Amazon had to handle rapidly rising demand. Technology played a huge part in giving priority to the shipping of certain products such as hand sanitisers, office products, and children’s books.
Resilience Recast host Nisha Pillai and Stefano Perego, Vice President of EU Operations, Amazon
Amazon also built resilience for its people by introducing extra safety measures. For instance, reducing operating procedures to be compliant with COVID-19 restrictions. This included installing temperature checks, ensuring extra cleaning of workspaces, and facilitating social distancing within daily processes.
“We usually are very focused on safety as our first priority,” said Stefano, “but this was unprecedented. We needed to have a dedicated team to start working on trying to shape what is an unprecedented set of measures to counter the virus.”
Stefano reflected that Amazon has taken many lessons from the crisis. These new lessons helped build resilience throughout the organisation and adopt new ways of working.
“Out of necessity you discover things that then become part of your modus operandi,” said Stefano. “For example, you stagger shifts and have one-way passages within the building. It creates a sense of flexibility, a sense of proper process flow. There are things that we will carry on with because they represent an advantage to the workforce."
Stefano also learned a lot personally from the pandemic in terms of how to embed resilience within his team. For instance, he prioritised continued interaction for team members working from home or “out on the field”.
Sharing a sense of purpose has been important across the organisation. “For me, it’s motivation...If you can create the right environment with your people, I think the pressure becomes less of an issue and kicks in motivation…to know that what you’re doing matters is very important.”
Listen to the ‘Keeping the Customer Engaged’ episode to hear more about how organisations can build resilient customer relationships in a post-pandemic world.