10 fantastic Belgian examples of great Customer Experience in the horrible 2020
The year 2020 has been hard on all of us. The pandemic took us by surprise and has had a devastating effect on many people and many companies. At the same time, every crisis holds the opportunity for building new solutions, starting over or even ‘just’ displaying heartfelt kindness. In these trying times, I wanted to share some really positive stories about Belgian companies (as I’m from Belgium myself) that were able to reinvent themselves to stand the tide of COVID-19, that looked for ways to give their customers a better experience and try to help those that were less fortunate.
Now I know that this is not the definitive list, but that’s an opportunity too, right? Let me know what your favourite feel-good business and customer stories are, to help inspire others out there that may be struggling. I’m really curious!
Like a lot of restaurants, the pandemic had a devastating effect on Lieven Vanlommel’s healthy fastfood restaurant Foodmaker. The number of sold meals dropped from 100.000 to 10.000 and at the very beginning, they were looking at a loss of 1 million euros per week. But they turned the tide around with their brand new Vedge-bags concept: healthy mealboxes in several types and sizes that can be ordered online and delivered at home. They kept to their core philosophy of healthy food, yet were able to transform themselves – in just two weeks’ time – into a service that was relevant for these COVID-19 times.
Proximus & Telenet
When the Belgian schools closed down because of corona and they started to teach their lessons online, about 2% of the pupils had no access to a PC that was connected to the internet. When the Digital for Youth organization started looking for laptops for these unfortunate youngsters, Proximus decided to donate 700 laptops, asking their business partners to do the same. On top of that, the company provided login codes to municipalities, welfare offices, schools and youth organizations to offer those students without internet access free Wi-Fi signals in their neighbourhood.
During the pandemic, Telenet launched a basic internet offering for only 5 Euro per month to make sure that everyone could get access to internet in Belgium. As internet connectivity is a basic right and a primary need these days, they want to contribute with this very cheap offering. With this offering, they are lowering the digital divide in the Belgian society.
Rombit is one of the most inspiring examples of a company that was able to turn the corona crisis into an opportunity. Pre-COVID-19, the company had been working on a wearable to measure the distance between man and machine with very accurate ultrawide-band (UWB) technology in order to make industrial sites a lot safer. When the pandemic hit, a customer asked them if they could develop a similar solution to measure the distance between people and signal when they would be getting too close. Rombid immediately grabbed the opportunity to create a wearable that enabled both social distancing and contact tracing. When the Port of Antwerp jumped on board as the first big customer, the solution became an immense success.
Each year, Saint Nicholas visits the clothing retailer JBC as of November 11. This year, a real-life visit was out of the question, and so they decided to organize a digital alternative instead, with a personalized message from the blessed man to each child. So, as of November 11 up to and including On December 5, customers can fill in the personal details of their child on jbc.be. Just a little later they will receive a personalized video of Saint Nicholas and his helpers.
Supercolor was in the business of printing advertising panels and stickers for shops, banks, airports and events like The Tour of Flanders. Needless to say that they lost a lot of orders when the pandemic measures were introduced. In just a few days, Michel Verheughe and Philippe Staelens came up with an alternative that would allow them to use most of the machinery they had been using for the advert panels before to make plexiglass screen dividers instead. Not long after the orders from Beobank, BNP Paribas and KBC started rolling in and the rest is history.
Smartphoto, Cartamundi and bpost
The pandemic has been very hard for the elderly. Not only because of the higher risk of very serious corona complications but because of the complete isolation from their loved ones. To help battle their loneliness, Cartamundi, smartphoto and bpost launched the ‘I’m Thinking About You’ card game that grandchildren could personalize themselves for their grandparents. How did it work? On the Smartphoto website, customers could design the back of the cards – for free – with a drawing or photo. Once ready, Cartamundi prints the cards and bpost delivers them to the grandparents. A simple solution to brighten the day of grandparents all over the world.
Upgrade Estate is the development company behind the creative student housing company Upkot which not only provides students with rooms, but embeds them in a community of peers and offers coaches to give them advice when needed. Though they have always gone up and beyond to support their student tenants, they took this human approach one step further in corona-times: to help students stay mentally healthy during the lockdown, they provided them with free psychological counselling in a test project in the city of Ghent. Since then, they have even expanded the project to the cities of Kortrijk, Brugge, Antwerpen, Hasselt, Mons and Brussels.
Energy Labs offers healthy coaching services for individuals as well as corporate wellbeing services. BC (before-COVID-19) a lot of their activities took place in the physical realm, so it’s only logical that they had to reinvent themselves, and fast. One of their initiatives was KeepMoving, which was at first a B2C-platform as an alternative for live sports events. But when they started to receive requests from companies to help them organise sports-challenges for their employees, they decided to re-orient the platform towards B2B with an online corporate wellbeing trajectory. And with great success.
When the pandemic hit us, Delhaize tried to improve the customer experience by making shopping a lot safer for those who needed that the most. It offered exclusive access to its shops from 8.00 until 9.00 to the most vulnerable group of shoppers, the people aged 65 years and beyond. Perhaps a simple intervention, but one with quite a lot of impact.
Total-e was a supplier of event materials with about 50 employees. It used to have major customers like Werchter festival, Tomorrowland and Pukkelpop, but the pandemic took all those opportunities away. So Total-e launched the spin-off Stay Alert and used its broad expertise in the event industry to support different businesses in their reopening and help deal them with the strict coronavirus measures: from building temporary installations, organising queues and pedestrian flows, and informing people to helping them keep safe. One of their solutions is STAY COOL, a unit which can be at the entrance of shops, offices, factories and events and which measures real-time temperature of passers-by, offers instructions and contains hand sanitizer devices.