The COVID-19 pandemic impact on small businesses has been brutal and swift so far. While many figure out what their next business move is, others continue to shutter their doors and wait out the storm, no matter how long it may be. While the economy slowly begins to reopen and we long to return to normal, normal isn’t something that can just happen.
The best thing you can do for your small business right now is to be honest with your customers and communicate regularly with them. Here are some of our top do’s and don’ts for staying in touch with your customers.
DO— Let your customers know what your plans are.
Many parts of the country are reopening in phases. Let your customers know approximately when you’ll be open for business and which phase of reopening your business falls under. Let them know what safety precautions you are taking, including but not limited to letting customers know how often you will be disinfecting equipment. Additionally, if you need to be in close contact with a client and need them to wear a face mask, let them know. Setting an expectation for your customers ahead of time will make it easier for everyone to know what to expect and be ready to comply. Don’t shy away from feedback; let your customers have a voice and be a part of the discussion on what they’d like to see as your business reopens. Find out what strategies help them feel safe and do what you can to accommodate them. While your physical doors may remain closed, communicate if you are selling gift cards at a slight discount, or if possible, offering your service virtually or through ecommerce.
DO— Be kind to yourself, your employees, and your customers.
A new normal will take a lot of patience, not to mention trial and error, to get right. Let your customers know that you’ll be rolling with the punches to get the best outcome for everyone, and make sure to keep everyone up to date as you make changes. More than ever, people want to be treated like people. Share pictures of yourself and staff getting ready for customers while social distancing or finding a way to make your workday fun. Everyone’s newsfeed is filled with stories of coronavirus, and most of them are quite serious and even scary. No need for you to jump on that fast paced and ill-fated bandwagon! Aim for a message of hope and positivity that’s on track with your brand’s usual tone.
DO— Use more than one channel to communicate.
Really take the time to utilize social media platforms, email, or any other methods of communication you already have established. You should be emailing your customer base regularly without bombardment but take a look at your recent metrics to find out how your customers have been interacting with your brand since the start of the pandemic. You might notice that some customers have been interacting more with your Facebook or Instagram posts lately. Keep in mind that while you need to reach people where they are, you don’t need to post a lengthy document on all of your social platforms. It’s perfectly acceptable to make brief posts on your social channels directing customers to your website for a full update. Whether you make your updates on your blog, home page, or a banner at the top of your screen, make sure your most recent news is easy to find and correct. If you’re directing traffic to your website from your social channels and email, make sure your links are taking people to the most up to date information.
DON’T— Forget to communicate with your employees.
Encourage your employees to discuss what is and isn’t working with you, especially if they interact with more customers than you do. They may be able to help you come up with better solutions for everyone. For instance, instead of limiting the number of people in your store, you may have better luck allowing your customers to schedule appointments to shop. Take the time to listen to your employees and make sure they understand how valuable their feedback is. Clear and direct communication between you and your staff is of the upmost importance as they are likely on the frontlines. The way you are handling the changing circumstances, will impact how they view you and the integrity of the company.
DON’T— Assume that humor is the best choice.
While no one wants to feel bogged down by sad or serious news, people do want to feel like you are taking their health seriously. While you may share or create humorous content with the intent that it be taken lightly, it is all too easy to misinterpret. Unless your normal brand communications are full of humor and wit, avoid sending messages that could be misunderstood or taken the wrong way. No one wants to be the business with a sale or special that will “blow you away” after the tornado came through and destroyed the town. There is a big difference between keeping it light and staying on the appropriate side of a joke.
As always, we at Zephyr are here to help you craft your communications. Please contact us if you’re in need of any marketing assistance. Most importantly, stay safe and healthy.