A webinar by SLIM
By Naveed Rozais
The Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) hosted a live webinar on 21 November to talk about how the service sector can fine-tune their service and respond to customers effectively in a time of crisis.
The panel was moderated by compère and show host Thilina Udayaratne to discuss issues with John Keells PLC Head of Corporate Affairs and Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts Vice President of Marketing and Events Dileep Mudadeniya, Sampath Bank Consumer Banking Senior Deputy General Manager Tharaka Ranwala, and HSBC Sri Lanka Head of Marketing and Communications Tharanga Gunasekara.
The panel discussed the importance of building and trading on brand value in times of crisis. Mudadeniya shared that building a brand is a long-term exercise and that when something negative affects the brand, like in times of crisis, the positive impact of the brand’s value should be able to offset the negative effects of the crisis. He said times of crisis, like what we’re currently facing with the pandemic, are opportunities for brands to create and strengthen positive values, to build reputations, and become a stronger brand through careful action on the ground.
Mudadeniya also explained that with technology, science, and human needs rapidly evolving, a brand cannot hope to satisfy everyone, adding that brands that try to do so will fail. Brands that understand their purpose and values will be the ones who make a strong impact on their target audiences.
The panel shared that brands need to understand their customers and what their customers are going through, and deliver experiences and services that add value. There are various ways of doing this. Mudadeniya explained that in hospitality, adding value can be as simple as pointing out an unusual animal to a guest or as intensive as rushing a forgotten passport to the airport so a guest doesn’t miss their flight.
Ranwala, speaking from the perspective of Sampath Bank, shared that one way Sampath Bank adapted to the crisis of the pandemic was to partner with PickMe to allow customers to receive cash delivered to their doorsteps in a mobile ATM format. Gunasekara shared that HSBC launched HSBC Premier 2.0 which effectively removed the need for customers to have to visit a bank for any transaction, including international transactions like setting up accounts abroad for their children studying overseas.
The panel also shared that maintaining trust with customers is vital, especially in a crisis, and that marketing should not go dark in times of crisis. It’s also very important that brands stay truthful in their communications, both in terms of brand values as well as their customers. Tips that the panel shared in terms of maintaining clear, open communication included controlling the brand logo and associated branding; quickly addressing even the most minor complaints is also very important, especially in times of crisis; paying close attention to social media, how things are moving, and what is being said about you; and using technology to monitor the chatter about your brand, addressing the negatives of your brand’s image and highlighting the positives.
The panel also stressed the importance of trust. Customers need to trust brands, especially in fields like banking. When responding to crises, brands should remember to react to the crisis, even if other people within the industry are not reacting, pay attention to what customers are experiencing, and introduce new services or procedures that respond to customer’s needs during the crisis. When responding to crises, it’s also important to remember that the crisis will pass, and how you establish your brand during the crisis will affect how you rebuild for the long haul.