How Customer Focus Can Drive Innovation

“The source of innovation comes from having a deep sense of empathy.”

This viewpoint from Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, is especially relevant given the global community’s current fight against COVID-19. Many businesses have rapidly shifted to new processes and incorporated additional programs to accommodate social distancing. Across the board, behaviors have changed including persons embracing a more digital lifestyle than before. It’s a time for learning and understanding where we are and where we go; after all, COVID-19 will not last forever. It’s also a time for empathy, to use Nadella’s word, for the communities around us and the many challenges we’re all facing.

Being customer focused is the core of any good business. In the midst of a pandemic, it is an essential step in bridging the many gaps that have been created over the past few months. This isn’t the time to be complacent. There are many ways that companies can approach their customers without leaning into advantageous messaging and use this moment to map a more customer focused future. As I wrote in my previous blog: “Republic Bank’s number one priority is the safety of our staff and clientele...Our community comes first; it is our duty to create and uphold an environment that reflects as such.”

Digital transformation was given a massive push with the onset of the virus; in other words, an opportunity to build on already familiar basics. Technology, for one, is at the forefront of our COVID-19 experience. Whether it be creating a comfortable work-from-home environment, keeping in touch with family, friends and peers, seeking reliable new sources and updates or escapism through entertainment and other stay-at-home activities, we’ve all turned to tech to help weather this storm.

From a day-to-day personal and business standpoint, customers want to know that they still have safe and reliable access to the essentials. When we introduced our mobile app in 2016, for example, it was in response to an on-the-go customer base wanting more transactional flexibility. Now the app (and our range of electronic banking services) are a contactless need as we limit our in-person interactions. The app includes a range of options that supplement our adjustment in services, including the introduction of interbank transfers which can be made to any local bank to facilitate easy access to funds.. Using this time to educate customers on their digital options is key; this kind of flexibility goes a long way in providing some sense of normalcy and peace of mind.

We are all aware of how cluttered our information intake has become in the past few months. Keeping track of all the details can be very overwhelming. I believe that companies need to use their digital channels to ease customer stresses where they can. Updating your website with relevant details (such as our COVID-19 hub) and using social media to share regular and meaningful content humanizes the situation and all stakeholders involved. Talk with your customers to determine what’s most important to them. Digital has always been a source of one-on-one conversations, and it’s no different in these times.

Being customer focused does not necessarily mean adopting the newest technology or taking on unnecessary risks. It’s a mindset, one that’s fostered internally so that the external experience is organic. Data gathered at this stage can drive future ideas and plans, and building on existing initiatives can ultimately bring more value in the long run. Now, more than ever, is the time to listen to your customers; listen to their needs, their pain-points, their feedback whether it be positive or negative. Take this opportunity to be their confidant. Remember - a little empathy goes a long way.

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