Many small businesses have been faced with worry during the COVID-19 outbreak. While the lockdown measures appear to be easing, businesses may be unsure of what to say or how to put together a crisis communication plan.
Just because you don't have all of the answers doesn't mean you shouldn't be learning how to create effective customer communication plans to keep customers in the know as much as you can! Making them aware that your business is monitoring the situation and that you will err on the side of caution when it comes to resuming services is essential, as is giving out any updates of changes to your business during this time. It's an uncertain time for all and communication really is the key to managing expectations.
Letting your customer base know you're still here, ready to responsibly offer your services, updating them on product availability, shipping statuses and changes to contact hours, are all areas to reach out to your customers with, keeping them in the know.
Consumers have turned to shopping online with the brick-and-mortar sellers even more during lockdown but there's particually been a huge suge in support for small & local businesses during this crisis. Some small businesses have started selling or expanding online as a refuge, learning that this platform is key to survival even when we return to the new 'normal'. There has never been a more important time to use effective communication methods to connect with your customers.
Getting the message right
During a crisis, businesses may be wary of using channels they previously used for marketing to now communicate with customers, not wanting it to come across like a sales pitch. But keep in mind, customers understand how difficult these times must be for small businesses, so will be primed to help you where they can! These strange times have seen businesses change strategy, in many cases for the better. Enhanced communication and targeting new audience types are two positive steps that has come out of this 'new normal' for many companies.
Learning how to create effective customer communication isn't so difficult when you think about how you would like your favourite businesses to communicate with you! When writing up a message via email, blog or social media these are the things to consider -
- Be empathetic: acknowledge that we're all struggling with uncertainty together, let them know that you're thinking of them
- Be personable: speak to your customers on a conversational level, not like your a brand sending an automated message
- Be clear: give customers concise information about products, services, and shipping measures that have changed to protect them
- Be caring: don't focus your communication on your products, base it around the people you sell to! Keeping your customers, suppliers, and employees safe should be your top priority
To create the best business communication strategy you should always approach it gently. Don't push customers to buy or write dramatically about your reduced revenue, you don't want to appear to be capitalising on the situation or alternatively virtue signaling.
It's OK to tell customers you're unsure of what will happen, they'll understand! The current situation changes quickly, even hourly, so calm, clear communication is key!
What channels can I use to communicate with customers?
You may have had to make small changes or big alterations in your businesses running, either way, you'll need to update the channels you already have.
Update your 'About Us' information
Customers will be searching for businesses online to find contact numbers, opening hours and business statuses so make sure your basic information page has the correct information for:
- Your opening hours: this may be for a physical shop opening restricted hours or for your customer service contact lines
- Your safety measures: for your staff, couriers, and customers the steps you're taking to ensure safety
- Your contact numbers/addresses: provide customers with numbers and emails needed to contact you, make them aware of changes if you're working from home
Keep your social media community in the loop
Taking an active role on social media is one of the best ways to show customers your business is listening to the government guidelines and your customers to provide the best business communication strategy. Social media is always top of the communication plan examples and can also be a great place to encourage sales. By simply engaging more, your business will effectively begin to make customers aware of changes and start to put into place your crisis communication plan.
- On Instagram: use the question and answer stories feature to reach out to customers and ask them what they would like to see from your business
- On Facebook: share links to small business support avenues and show your brands support of other small businesses
- On Twitter: promote your change in services, perhaps changes to shipping offering contactless collections and deliveries with shipping services (like us!)
Social media can be an excellent way to create effective customer communication instantly. This way you can ask your customers for feedback on what they would like to see to learn how to improve business communication - they'll appreciate your effort and consideration of their thoughts!
Don't forget to email customers!
Although smaller businesses may neglect emailing customers as a way of marketing, it is a very effective avenue for sharing information.
- Let customers past and present know you're still here and ready to provide them with anything they need, safely
- Offer them discounts on products bought in bulk or on shipping fees (we can help) to acknowledge that they may be struggling too
- Be honest! If there are delays, tell them clearly what is to be expected to avoid processing refunds or getting negative reviews
For us at Interparcel we always want our customers to be in the loop, so we have extended our contact hours to 8 am - 8 pm via email, telephone and live chat! We know how fast-changing our current situation is and delivering safely has always been our main priority, as well as keeping our customers updated with any delays that certain areas and couriers have experienced. By creating a free account with us you can receive all the shipping information you need ahead of time, putting you in control.
Consider live chat for quick communication
After listening to our customer's needs, we installed a live chat feature so our customers can get the best advice and information about low-cost shipping services. The live chat feature can be a very effective means of conveying information at a fast rate.
- Customers can get answers immediately which is very useful as circumstances often change rapidly
- New potential customers may feel more inclined to proceed with a purchase if they can ask about products without a wait time for replies
- As a speedy means of communicating, this feature is also great to ask customers for some quick feedback to improve services
At Interparcel, we've benefitted a lot from using a live chat feature. It's the next best thing to a phone call with an instant response and another great way of collecting customer thoughts. It's certainly been invaluable to us and customers love it - if you have any questions about shipping or our services why not give it a try!
Create blog posts to communicate more
Blogs can be a great space to talk at length about the surrounding topics of your business (well, you're reading this!). It may be that you're finding it hard to source your usual sustainable packaging supplies or you're struggling to fulfill your orders with a reduced staff. Or write about how you're coping with the lockdown by sharing your employees 'WFH' set up and how they're staying sane!
- Expand your communication on your blog. Talk about your product safety measures or guides that other small businesses to use.
- Use your blog to convey your business's personality! It doesn't have to be all neutral informative posts, why not put a few posts up about your boozy office Zoom calls on a Friday night and other ways to have fun safely!
- Link your blogs to your other social media platforms to keep the communication cycle going!
Customer communication is key
Your customers simply want to know you are there to help, to be reassured that if needed, you will be able to provide them with the services they're looking for! When learning how to make a crisis communication plan and setting up the best business communication strategy, be honest, clear, and don't force sales. By doing this, your business will go a long way to ensure that customers stick by you long after this has passed!
At Interparcel we want you to feel supported and informed, so take this time to do as much as you to enpand your business with the changing market whilst staying safe and well. If you have any questions about our services or want updates on any COVID-19 related changes, you can contact us from 8 am – 8 pm Monday to Friday via live chat, email or telephone and even 9am-1pm at weekends too! We'd love to hear from you.
In the mean time, stay safe & connected, it's the way forward!