Customer Engagement during the COVID Pandemic – a case study


Share on LinkedIn

Customer engagement was thrown into a whirlwind when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. Sales and Marketing departments were faced with a wide range of unprecedented challenges – how should they reach out to their customers and prospects? Were they still going to be in business or have jobs? How did they want to place orders? Receive shipments? What precautions did they want to make the product shipping and receipt safe and timely?
Executives at Gusmer Enterprises, leaders in products for making beer, wine and spirits, were genuinely concerned about their customers – and wanted to reach out on a personal level. They initially reached out with a heartfelt message about the health and safety of each customer. But they knew their customers were doing more to help out their communities in this time of need.

News reports of hand sanitizer being made from brewing and distilling equipment started popping up when hand sanitizer became immediately out-of-stock everywhere. Marla Jeffrey, President of Gusmer Enterprises noted “Our brewing and distilling customers realized they could convert their normal production operations to produce alcohol based hand sanitizer.”

Gusmer decided to reach out to all their customers to inquire about what they were doing to help make the pandemic situation better. Dave Gusmer, EVP of Beverage Sales stated that “this is was a very stressful time for our customers, both personally and economically. Many saw significant drops in sales, and they still struggle today to keep their business viable. However, having the ability to help produce hand sanitizer was a very clever way to make a valuable contribution to their communities, and enabled them to be part of the solution.”
Jenna Hanneman, Corporate Marketing Manager led the outreach program. “We simply sent an email out to all of our distilling customers and asked them a single question: ‘Are you using your equipment to produce hand sanitizer?’ with YES and NO buttons. We got an email open rate twice the average of our normal open rate and received nearly a hundred responses.”

“We followed up with every contact that answered ‘yes’ so that we could personally thank them in an email and get their permission to give them a shout-out on social media. In response many of them shared details of how they rushed to transition from making distilled spirits to making sanitizer, the vast majority of them were doing this out of their own pockets and donating the sanitizer for nothing in return. Almost all the sanitizer was being donated to people working on the frontlines of the pandemic, and to local nursing homes. The distillers shared photos of their sanitizer and employees who were donating their time to make it. The impact that they were making in their local communities made them proud and made us proud to have them as customers. They told us what they had been doing to produce hand sanitizer and support the local businesses in their communities. They sent pictures of the product and their families. The stories they told made them feel proud – and made us proud to have them as our customers”.

Every week Gusmer would share the names of 5-10 customers who were pitching in to help out during the pandemic on social media and ask local companies to support them. In addition, Gusmer would spotlight a single customer story who represented the most impactful effort. Initially designed to go for 2-3 weeks, it lasted for an entire quarter. “We had so much great content to work with – we had to share it and it kept coming in. We were proud to send out the stories that resonated with some many customers at a time of crisis.” said Hanneman.

Customer relationships seem to be strengthened due to the approach. “Several customers said they would put us at the top of their consideration list for their next purchase and we are looking forward to seeing the results of our next customer relationship survey to see how our customers feel about Gusmer” noted Hanneman.

“Our customers’ speedy and generous response to the critical needs of their community further increased Gusmer’s pride in being a supplier to the alcoholic beverage industry for over a century. We look forward to making a positive impact together in the years ahead” said Jeffrey.

Greg Tucker
Greg Tucker is a Who's who of Customer Experience and award-winning CX practitioner, advisor and leader for more than 15 years. As CEO of Tucker & Company he consults to Fortune 1000 enterprises and emerging companies on Customer Experience strategies and programs, delivering transformational business results. As a CX Officer and CMO at Copart Auto Auctions, he implemented an end-to-end CX program across all channels that delivered a 20% improvement in Enterprise profitability and received the 2012 CX Innovation Award for delivering a powerful ROI from the CX Program.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here