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Learning to value emotional connections with customers

  • Tuan Doan
  • |
  • Nov 4, 2020
Learning to value emotional connections with customers

Tuan Doan is an MBA candidate and problem-solver who seeks to make the world a better place. His professional background is in business transformation, strategy and program management. Most recently working as an Assistant Vice President at the second largest bank by assets in South East Asia, he led strategic initiatives and transformed the business models of the bank. His goals while at Ivey include learning the business environment in North America, practicing the decision-making process at C-Suite levels, and fostering relationships that will last a lifetime. In his blog below, Tuan writes about lessons learned from Sarah Davis, President of Loblaw Companies Ltd. who spoke to students on October 27 for the MBA Teachable Moments Virtual Speaker Series, a program designed to provide Ivey MBAs with unprecedented access to accomplished leaders.

Communication is key during crisis time

The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges for businesses. The challenges which Loblaw is facing are even greater since most of its employees within stores still work in person. Ensuring the safety of employees and customers while maintaining smooth operations became the top priority. Right after realizing the threats of COVID-19, Sarah Davis, President of Loblaw Companies Ltd., reviewed the business continuity plan for different scenarios. Communication was always a key part of the plan.

During the first month in the COVID-19 lockdown, Davis sent a daily communication to all 190,000 employees. She also ensured there was a daily feedback loop from employees and customers to help refine the messages and take necessary corrective actions. She expressed frequent encouragement to staff in her communications and was not afraid to point out the areas that the organization got it wrong.

Davis often reminded all staff about the mission of Loblaw and that they were here to help Canadians Live Life Well, especially given the fact they were in essential businesses to the community. This approach of communication conveyed not only the necessary information, but also made staff feel proud of their work.

Value of emotional connections is often ignored

Davis recognizes the power of emotional connections. Organizations which develop these connections with customers have a competitive advantage, especially in the age of booming e-commerce. Loblaw has been actively developing emotional connections with its customers, aiming to be the ultimate curators in meals, groceries and health products.

In my opinion, the value of emotional connections is hard to deny. However, building emotional connections with customers is a difficult journey. This requires a robust customer segmentation strategy, a deep understanding of customer segments, and long-term investment in brand development.  This is probably the reason why many firms have not been able to unlock the value of emotional connections with customers.

Being uncomfortable can be a good thing

Feeling a little bit uncomfortable in your job can be a good thing. Davis shared that learning happens most effectively when people go out of their comfort zone and try new things. Failure is part of the process but the most importantly it’s critical you learn from your failures. In any endeavour, it is vital to stay positive as long as it is not blind optimism. Davis affirmed treating feedback as a gift will help you grow as a leader. All the while remembering that people will stop giving feedback when they stop caring.

Being a go-getter is a great career strategy

Regardless of the role that you work, being a go-getter will advance your career in the long term, Davis shared. People who are rising up to challenges and finding ways to solve problems in their organization not only learn more, but also tend to be happier in their roles. Not surprisingly go-getters tend to be passionate about their work.

Defining what success means for you

Finally, Davis talked about what success meant for her. This was a reminder for me to start thinking about this matter. If we do not define what success means for us at the individual level, we will not be able to find happiness in our lives. After health, what is more important than the pursuit of happiness?