The unprecedented Covid-19 crisis has made it all the more relevant to take special care of clients and employees. How can companies combine taking care of their employees, their clients and their employer brand?
Interview with Benoît Meyronin, a professor at Grenoble Ecole de Management, the president of the school's foundation, and general manager at Care Experience (DOMPLUS group). He is also the co-author of « Replacer vraiment l'humain au cœur de l'entreprise : le management par le care » (Vuibert, 2019).
What is "care management"?
"Care management" is a unique approach that focuses on the relationship to others, the challenges of interdependence and reciprocity. It was inspired by the "care ethics" movement that started in the 1980s in the USA. This approach starts by setting up the foundations for a management style that takes care of clients, employees and managers. You can think of "care management" in global terms in which clients and employees are first and foremost "people". The guiding principles are trust, listening, responsibility and recognition. This approach matches current challenges in customer experience and the issue is to understand how to improve this experience thanks to special actions to care for clients in a way that distinguishes the company from competitors.
What are the challenges of customer care in times of crisis? What evolutions are necessary?
The key point is that clients, and therefore employees and managers, will recognize and appreciate specific attention given to them by the company. During the post-covid-19 period, the challenge is to create additional means to reassure clients in a way that goes beyond official health guidelines. This is an opportunity to transform a negative experience into a positive, and even, surprising experience.
The idea is to gloss over the limitations of this current situation by providing particular attention to clients: how can you create an agreeable relationship with masks, gloves, social distancing…? This is particularly true for hotels and restaurants which will have to find ways of demonstrating empathy, a warm and welcoming posture despite unwelcoming healthcare guidelines.
The second issue is to question how you can support teams as a manager in order to create a reassuring feeling within this unusual context. For example, train stations that welcome many passengers every day are areas that foster important feelings of fear. How do you create an employee experience that is reassuring and agreable in such a context? That's the real challenge.
What are your recommendations in terms of best practices for care management?
First you have to be aware of the Covid-19 context and its implications. This will enable you to act as an adult. You cannot sidestep present health issues, you have to open dialogue and listen to employees' fears all the while operating in a way that respects health guidelines.
The next step is to work together in order to find ways of ensuring the employee and customer experiences are as agreeable as possible. You have to anticipate the customer experience (on the internet before opening and then in the store) in order to create a positive environment. All of this must be prepared as a team: how do we want to re-open? What can we offer before customers come back to the store? etc.
There is also a challenge to be met in terms of creating agreeable spaces that are essential for customer relationships. The current crisis offers a unique opportunity to create a space that reduces anxiety and demonstrates concrete actions to support customers in hotels, restaurants, banks… All such locations can compete in terms of how they implement signs and design for new health guidelines. Physical spaces can play an important role in perceptions and behaviors.
Finally, the "care" logic invites us to pay special attention to at-risk individuals, whether customers or employees: seniors, pregnant women or disabled people.