Texas Tech Business professors, Ted Waldron and James Wetherbe, propose a HEART framework to strengthen relationships with consumers when social distancing due to the pandemic has minimized or eliminated personal interaction.

Humanize Your Company
Education About Change
Assure Stability
Revolutionize Offerings
Tackle the Future

This HEART framework provides guidelines on what to say and what not to say to consumers during sustained crises. It emphasizes making current and potential customers aware of your company’s plan for supporting them and providing new value.

Humanize Your Company

Your goal is not to get on Sixty Minutes with the level of charitable donations and support you’ve done, but to make your customer understand how the compromises you and your staff have made have been done to support them. For example, a restaurant the redeploys front-of-house employees to deliver food sends a friendly face to patrons and reinforces loyalty of the patron and the employee who didn’t lose their job to a delivery service.


There are the obvious things to let your customer know like changes in hours, closing of facilities, changes in phone numbers and availability, but also what your customer can do if their “normal” process isn’t available. Lululemon and Apple reached out to geographic area customers of closed stores to encourage them to online shop. As full-time placement, contingency recruiters we’ve helped some clients hire contractors to sustain them through reduced demand, providing them with a service and maintaining and reinforcing our relationship.

Assure Consumers

Make it clear that your firm is going to make it through this rough economic patch, and you will adapt and support their needs in any way you can. An automotive repair shop started picking up cars at customer’s homes and returning them at the end of the repairs saving customers the need to venture out and creating a level of appreciation that leads to ongoing loyalty.


Sun Tzu in The Art of War said chaos presents opportunity for innovation. Liquor companies pivoted to using their alcohol for hand sanitizers combating an early pandemic shortage. Helping our clients recruit and hire through remote only services, and feel good about the resulting remote hire was a new and necessary service for us during the pandemic.

Tackle the Future

Set specific period goals for evaluating the changes that have occurred in your company’s operations. Highlight what you have learned, how you have implemented changes and what you envision being able to do in the future. Make sure the message your sending is your company will come out stronger at the end of the changes induced by the pandemic.

Relationships built in a crisis environment can often magnify the importance and depth of the relationship. Constant and careful listening to customers and employees who have been hard hit by the pandemic changes will lead to sustained relationships. By making sure people’s voices are heard and needs answered you will form the foundation for your company’s future.

Could your company use HEART to improve your customer relationships? Contact Smith Hanley Associates‘ Market Research and Consumer Insights Executive Recruiter, Lindsey Bartlett, at [email protected] to discuss your career or your company’s hiring needs.

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