In these uncertain times with pandemic restrictions affecting our lives and businesses, communication with your customers is even more important but needs to be done with care.

While you should be sparing with your communications, as people are feeling overwhelmed by the massive communication since the outbreak of the epidemic, it’s vital you stay in touch. 

Regular update communication to advise your customers how your business is dealing with the current situations; how you are still there for them; and what precautionary measures you’re taking are crucial now that we live in a limited world of “bubbles”. 

The communications can be published on your website, as an email or on your social media – in fact, preferably all the mediums you have to contact your customers. Think of other ways of communicating (see ‘Have a conversation with your customers below).

For example, in recent times SMS messaging is gaining in popularity amongst businesses, large and small. It’s a way you can reach your customers more immediately – important with the state of flux we are experiencing. 

However, as text messaging is a much more personal way to get in touch with your customers, it requires you to think critically about how often you’re communicating through this channel and what you’re choosing to say, especially in the present crisis.It’s also useful to have a Question & Answer and/or Frequently Asked Questions link on your website, so you can regularly provide updates as circumstances change. This avoids sending a barrage of emails. 

“You should be closely scrutinising all your customer messages to show you are sensitive to how people are feeling at present”

The do’s and don’ts of your messaging at this time

It’s important to be transparent and honest with your customers about how the pandemic may be affecting your service or products.Obviously, it's difficult to predict when things will get "back to normal," which means you can't, at present, make guarantees about when you can provide the same sort of service you provided pre-pandemic.

Be transparent about any areas of uncertainty – customers in these times will understand and approve of your honesty.It’s not the appropriate time to be loudly launching flashy marketing campaigns.

You don’t want to be seen as taking advantage of the crisis or using it as a way to push sales. If you are pushing products or services, think about how you can do so in a way that shows some awareness of what your customers are struggling with. You should be closely scrutinising all your customer messages to show you are sensitive to how people are feeling at present. Show empathy. Be authentic.

But be careful to avoid cloying sentiments – customers can see through this.

Having a conversation with your customers

This is not just about you telling the customers what’s happening. It’s a two-way street. Customers need to talk to you and be helped to understand and reassured how they can still receive their products or services in these times. 

Digitally there needs to be response mechanisms and contact details in place in and on your mediums for them to talk to you. Here’s a shock for you – studies show customers would actually like to talk to you, probably even more so with much of the community feeling isolated. Social distancing may be an issue but what about the old-fashioned way? Talk on the telephone?

A study by Google (before the pandemic) showed that most customers would prefer to call you instead of go online because they’re looking to get a quick answer (59%) or – and in these isolation times, very important - talk to a real person (57%). 

Your customers are real people - have a real conversation with them. That means having telephone interactions that are less scripted telephone conversations and less transactional in language. Try to frame your language in a positive way in these negative times. Make sure you actively listen.

Acknowledge your customers’ messages by using positive words. Give them the confidence you’re there to help them and you’ll find the best possible solution for them under the circumstances. Automated systems are a much-disliked norm but there is nothing to say you can’t make that initial (automated) response personal and pleasant rather than robotic.

Also, despite some of the demands COVID-19 has put on businesses, have the right processes and technology in place to ensure callers aren’t placed on hold for long periods of time – this remains one of customers’ biggest complaints.

Remember – communicate, communicate, communicate

Regular, structured communication with your customers is paramount in our “new” world. Life has changed and will continue to change. Customers, like the rest of the community, need to know what is going on, almost daily as circumstances seem to change so often. Be as authentic, empathetic, transparent and informative as possible with your customers. 

Good communication during these tough times will not only help you to continue fostering relationships you’ve built but also possibly nurture new ones. Customers will remember how you responded and helped them during this pandemic and it will help you retain customer loyalty in, hopefully, a better future.

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