While understanding how customers are reacting to conditions around them is always critical to small business owners, the COVID-19 pandemic make assessing these conditions and the subsequent reactions more difficult and more important than ever. Looking at recent research and insights to help better understand these conditions and the customer landscape is as important as ever to make smart business decisions.

Start with empathy 

Understanding reactions to COVID-19 can help you understand how your customers are feeling as the crisis evolves. You’ve likely seen COVID-19 become a (if not “the”) primary topic of conversation in many places in 2020. With the economic hardships the pandemic has caused for so many, it’s important for business owners to be aware of the power of positivity and the impact this can have on employees and customers. While the crisis can’t and shouldn’t be ignored, building positivity into things like marketing, social media interactions or even face-to-face customer interactions can have a wider impact now than ever before.

Give the people what they want: help 

As the pandemic and its effects continue to shift and evolve, people maintain a wariness of those businesses that seem to want to “capitalize” on the situation. However, research also shows customers do want to hear from businesses, because it can provide a sense of normalcy.

This dichotomy highlights the importance of how you talk to customers. Multiple surveys indicate people’s desire to see companies putting people first, be they employees or the wider community. Whether it is offering discounts to first responders, providing special resources for employees whose personal lives have been impacted or even just having a safe space to discuss these issues, thinking about how you express the values of your business can demonstrate consideration beyond profit margins and a desire to be an active part of your community.

Recovery considerations

When it comes to views regarding the reopening of small businesses and wider economic recovery, the fact is there are a number of different perspectives to consider. Many are concerned about opening too quickly, while a strong segment of people also seek movement toward a sense of normalcy with more rapid re-openings. Unsurprisingly, these attitudes can have a major impact on how to interact with your customers,

In short, careful observation of your surroundings and awareness of the attitudes in your community can help to properly address customer concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and ultimately be an asset in rebuilding your relationship with your customers and that wider community.

The lens of the customer has always been at the heart of commerce, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more critical than ever that business owners carefully consider this lens and adjust their businesses and actions accordingly. In a time of many unexpected changes coming more rapidly than ever, maintaining this focus on the customer is critical to successfully navigating the current environment.

For more information on how to approach the challenges of the current environment, please visit the Wells Fargo Small Business Resource Center.

SOURCES: Pew Research, Google Trends, Twitter Insights, Ace Metrix, Pew Research, Bankrate survey, Associated Press, CUNY


Joe Trimble is a Wells Fargo Small Business Leader.