COVID-19: Six Ways Service Companies Can Respond

As Things Begin to Reopen, What Now?

The first half of 2020 has been quite a rollercoaster to say the least.

The year started out so beautifully …

Homeowners were very confident about spending as we entered 2020 (See 2020 Trends article).

The stock market reached an all-time high in early February.

And then COVID-19 hit in mid-March and in a matter of days and weeks …

Stay-at-home orders were put in place throughout the country.

Businesses closed and unemployment reached a record high — over 40 million people were out of work.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues and things begin to reopen, what can service companies do during the back half of 2020 to salvage the year?

It is now more important than ever to think and act like a “Challenger Brand.” The business and social environment is rapidly changing. Even if you think you are the category leader right now, that could soon change if you don’t act decisively. Competition is going to be fierce in the back half of 2020. Everyone will be fighting for the same customer. And will do just about anything to secure a sale. Now is the time to be laser-focused and simplify the choice for the consumer.

Below are 6 tangible ways service companies can respond to drive revenue in the back half of 2020 and keep the momentum into 2021.

1. Promote Value

Right now, many service companies are communicating the same things — lowest price, largest discount, deferred payments and more. Challenger Brands make an emotional connection with the consumer. Be a thought leader and create an emotionally based rather than rationally based relationship with the consumer.

A competitive and compelling offer is a “must-have.” However, make the conversation not just about price or offer, but also about the value of your service and the relationship the consumer can expect. Show the customer truly means something to you. Make it personal, go beyond the expected.

2. Make it Safe

A recent study by McKinsey indicated that consumers want to see an ongoing emphasis on cleaning and safety. As consumers determine what company to select, they will prioritize cleaning and sanitization.

They will be looking for the usage of masks, gloves and barriers. Physical distancing will also be important. And when COVID-19 testing is more universally available, it will likely be important to regularly test home service representatives.

Get more tips on navigating COVID-19 safely.

3. Make it Easy

Challenger Brands make sacrifices and are singled-minded. During this time, a service company must “out-service” their competition. Convenience is king. Be completely transparent and set clear expectations with your customer.

If you have not already, embrace technology to enhance the customer experience.

  • Make it easy to schedule appointments — give customers an exact time for their appointment, or make appointment windows very small.
  • Make it easy to communicate with customers prior to, during and after appointments — keep customers informed with when you will arrive or when their job will be completed.
  • Make it easy to pay.

Be sure your customers are completely satisfied by following up with customer satisfaction calls, texts or emails. Happy and satisfied customers lead to referrals. There is no better endorsement than a happy customer.

4. Reward Loyalty

Loyalty in service categories is often low. Express your appreciation to current and previous customers. Give them something a little bit extra. Surprise and delight them with an added discount, a free upgrade or more personalized service.

5. Establish Trust

During normal times, service companies have a tough time establishing trust. There is a perception that the service category often lacks integrity. Consumers simply don’t know who they can trust, and typically only think about needing service when they have a problem.

With COVID-19, consumers are likely to turn to companies they trust. Who am I going to let in, or near, my home? Who do I want near me and my family? Who is going to do the job correctly and to my liking? Who is going to charge a reasonable price? Who is going to make it easier for me?

 Challenger Brands use symbols of re-evaluation to let the consumer know they are doing business differently. It’s the perfect time to show and tell consumers what you are doing differently than your competition during this challenging time.

  • A new app
  • New convenient personalized service
  • Enhanced no-contact safety precautions
  • Unique payment plan options

6. Generate Awareness

Challenger Brands are disruptors. It is not the time to be passive. With more competition than ever fighting for a piece of the consumer’s dollars, it is imperative for service companies to break through the clutter and drive top-of-mind awareness. However, committing to top-of-mind awareness for the remainder of the year can be very expensive.

You cannot afford to do everything. And given the economic conditions, you likely have a more limited budget than usual. Explore amplifying your digital and social efforts. They offer a significant opportunity to engage consumers very efficiently. And it is a great way to differentiate because not many of your competitors are doing it very well.

In summary, the key to navigating and thriving in the new normal is to think and act like a Challenger Brand. The business landscape and consumer sentiment will continue to evolve. Service companies that have success will be the ones that win on their own terms by breaking from their past and changing the way they present themselves in the marketplace.

Chuck Fischer

SVP, Account Director

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