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With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many radio stations to rethink the customer experience, the best strategies are sometimes rooted in personal touch.

“I think the first thing that we asked everybody to be was empathetic,” Cressy Walton, Director of Sales at Alpha Media in Portland, OR, said of the earliest days of the pandemic. “Understand that people are having to go through some pretty major changes right now — everybody. We’ve got people homeschooling their kids. We have people concerned about keeping their doors open. So just start with, ‘What’s going well? How are you doing?’”

Walton made her marks Wednesday during a Radio Show webinar, “Rethinking the Customer Experience.” The event focused on connecting with consumers to enhance clients’ overall customer experience.

Also taking part were Melanie Martin, Senior Account Executive at Cox Media Group in Tampa, FL; and session moderator Katie Gambill, President/General Manager for Saga Communications in Clarksville, TN.

Walton also said the economic chaos gave sales staffers time for “sharpening tools.”

“We decided that we would use the time to go back and really get everybody educated and trained up on what’s new in the digital world,” she said. “Then [it was] just back to basics — cold calling… It’s very different to cold-call in a virtual world. You have to be very conscientious of what the customer is going through when you make those cold calls. It’s just a different kind of pitch.”

Martin said CMG launched an education series focused on different digital programs, assets and products in the company’s toolbox. CMG also encouraged reps to gain certification on Google Ads and Facebook Blueprint.

In terms of assisting clients, Martin said CMG has employed category-specific webinars that focus on major categories like automotive, home services and health care — all of which have surged during the pandemic. The webinars provide insights, in addition to creative direction for clients who need it.

“We have also transitioned many of our clients to endorser and influencer advertising — meaning we’re using the voices of our personalities to convey their message versus trying to go back in cut new creative,” Martin said.

Gambill, meanwhile, touted the virtues of adaptability — a characteristic she thinks will be relevant for the foreseeable future.

“I think the businesses that were able to shift and figure out a way to service those customers in quarantine are the ones that are going to come out on top,” she said. “The automobile industry, they’ll bring a vehicle to you now — you don’t even have to go to the dealership. I think that everybody had to figure out, ‘How can we really serve our customers?’ Because we don’t want to lose our customers.”