Raise your hand if your inbox is full of emails from brands you bought something once from in 2013 telling you they’re “here for you during this uncertain time.” 🙋 While I’m sure we all appreciate this level of communication to a certain extent, it has become a little redundant and meaningless when every single brand is saying the same thing with little to show for it. The messages have started blurring together.

We have so many companies telling us they’re with us and that we’re in this together – but how many of them have asked YOU what you need or want? And how many have actually shown they’re here for us rather than just saying it?

The key piece many major brands are missing right now: Listening.

Customers are so tired of being talked at. They want to be heard and to have two-way conversations – especially now. What might have worked well for them in December might now be what they need now. Brands need to give customers the opportunity to express these needs and then actually make changes based on that feedback.

Luckily, we’ve been able to identify a few stand-out companies who have embraced a listening-first approach and welcome two-way conversations with their customers.


At Apptentive, we talk a lot about using customer emotion to help drive product decisions. Facebook has done exactly this. They noticed the social media community expressing more and more care, appreciation, and empathy for one another during this time. In order to allow customers to truly showcase that emotion, Facebook is adding a “care” reaction emoji to help people express this sentiment.


USAA put their members first by returning a large portion of insurance premiums to members due to reduced mileage. Their data revealed members driving less due to stay home orders, so they’re offering a 20 percent credit on two months of premiums to everyone. Actions certainly speak louder than words, and USAA just showed their members how much they care about their needs. Because they were listening to the data and monitoring their customers’ behavior, they were able to be proactive in this time of turbulence.

“We understand the impact this pandemic is having on our country, and especially our military community and their families, many of whom also are working on the front lines of the crisis. Returning premiums provides timely help for our members,” said USAA President and CEO Wayne Peacock. “USAA has been facilitating the financial security of military members for nearly 100 years, and this is another way we can serve them well.”

Burger King

We’ve all seen it – companies taking advantage of the current situation and creating robust advertising campaigns to capitalize on the new messaging. But PR stunts and fancy new commercials don’t actually make a difference in customers’ lives. Burger King, on the other hand, came up with a practical solution geared toward actually helping their customers. They’re offering two free kid meals with any purchase made via the Burger King app. Yes, they then created fun ads to share the news, but only after they decided to take action and make a difference.

“I think that before jumping on ads, brands need to take action. There are lots of good examples of brands helping people via concrete actions that help communities. In times like this, we all need to help.” – Fernando Machado, Burger King global CMO

Burger King’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International, released an open letter on March 30th outlining additional measures they were taking to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of their employees after the QSR industry received quite a bit of pushback from these essential workers.

Ally Bank

In a revolutionary move, Ally Bank forgave all overdrafts without asking for repayment so their members could receive their full stimulus check. They also have increased payment leniency on loans after hearing from 25 percent of their members asking for assistance with auto loans.

“At Ally, we recognize there has never been a more critical time to deliver on our promise to ‘do it right’, and we are committed to supporting the people we serve safely and confidently through this crisis,” Jeffrey Brown, Ally Bank CEO


Well-known for its stellar customer service already, Zappos has set up “customer service for anything” to help assist customers at this time. They’ve advertised this service as support for anything and everything – no purchase required. By putting the customer (and even people who aren’t customers yet) first, they’re showing – rather than telling – the world what they value.

Instead of talking at their customers and assuming their needs, Zappos instead simply asked, “How can we help you?” That has made all the difference.

Book of the Month

The Book of the Month has always been a customer-centric company – asking for feedback after each book in a very non-invasive way. When this crisis happened, they didn’t wait for customers to come to them trying to cancel subscriptions or delay payments. They proactively anticipated this and sent out swift communication letting people know they had options if they had lost their job and needed support. When you have a consistent VoC listening system in place, you can accurately predict when customer feelings start to shift in a downward spiral and get ahead of the issue.

Book of the Month Coronavirus message

Shake Shack

We saved the most controversial example for last. Hear us out – Shake Shack is a great example of making a mistake, listening to their customers, and making changes according to this feedback.

While most restaurant chains – specifically QSRs – quickly pivoted to offer to-go ordering amid the coronavirus pandemic, Shake Shake shook things up even more when they returned their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) $10 million small business loan to the Small Business Administration. This move was fueled largely in response to the disapproval from their customer base when it was first awarded.

They listened to what their customers had to say and made a strategic decision to address these concerns. Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti wrote an open letter to customers, employees, and community members letting them know that they wanted to help out smaller, local businesses and would be raising the money they need from selling shares.

The transparent move won big points – building trust with stakeholders, customers, and employees.


Although there are many companies doing the right thing during these times, these were the few that have stood out to us the most. Have you seen any other brands listening to their customers well? We’d love to hear about it!