The recent outbreak of novel coronavirus has driven many businesses into a frenzy of the unknown. The potential spread and CDC recommendations have affected every industry’s operations, customer service, and potentially their bottom lines. Large national and global organizations have begun responding to these concerns with email and social media communications. Follow our best practices to help your small- or medium-sized business effectively communicate with your customers and employees during this time.
- Remember that the current state of affairs is temporary. Similar to previous national crises, the current marketplace fear is only temporary. The markets have been through similar scenarios before and know that this too shall pass. Maintaining your place in the market is vital to moving forward.
- Stay positive and empathetic. The businesses that forge on ultimately will be the ones that choose a path of empathy and positivity. Acknowledge the issue at hand, state the preventive measures you’ve put in place, and give your customers options, whether those are drive-up pick-ups, moving meetings to video conferences or phone calls, or communicating changes in operations or hours on multiple channels. The worst approach is to not communicate.
- Communicate effectively to your internal teams and ensure their safety. Your team is your family, and your business is your house. Make the appropriate operational changes to protect them the same way you would protect your at-home family.
- Update marketing messages that may include products that are out of stock or events that are cancelled. Contact us for help; we’re here for you.
Communicating to Your Customers
A multitude of companies have already released statements to their customers to help ease tensions and acknowledge current events. These messages help us draw conclusions on best practices about what you should include in your communications to your customers.
- Ensure safety and security by communicating with local officials, and relay that information to your customers. Stay on top of preventative measures being released by the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and local health officials.
- Put additional measures into place for cleanliness, hygiene, and sanitization. This could be as simple as increasing cleaning rounds in your store or restaurant, using a higher-grade disinfectant, or having your employees wear gloves when handling monetary transactions.
- Reassure customers that employees are taking additional measures as a precaution. These measures can include increasing frequency of hand washing, social distancing, reducing crowd exposure, staying home when sick, and pausing all non-essential travel.
- Stay positive in your communications, and follow through on your commitment to safety. Acknowledge the potential in delays, and cite the importance of safety as a commitment to your customer base. A business can’t exist without customers, so take care of them like they are family. Stock up on cleaning supplies as part of increased sanitation efforts.
- Examine your policies and consider temporarily modifying them to make cancellations or returns easy for customers. Your customers might not want to travel to your business and may fear that products and services are not safe to handle or purchase at this time. You can’t control this part, but how you respond is key. You’ll earn lifelong customers by making the process easy.
- Have a plan for customers who may not receive paid sick time or who go without a paycheck for a short period of time as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This demonstration of empathy showcases the humanity of your business and an understanding that times may be hard for individuals who are personally affected by coronavirus.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an uncertain time for all of us. No one will be immune to its impact. Stay positive, be empathetic, increase communication with customers and staff, and most importantly, stay the course. These temporary safety measures and communications practices will improve outcomes for all of us.