Communicating with Customers During + After COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has made a lot of changes in everyone’s lives. Professionally, we’ve transitioned from in-person meetings and events to virtual ones. I recently had the opportunity to listen to Torey Maerz, co-founder and CEO of Rocket Referrals, discuss the best ways to communicate with customers during and after the pandemic. Here’s what I learned.
Physical Distancing, Not Social Distancing
First, to lay a foundation, Maerz said that social distancing should have been called physical distancing because nothing social has stopped. In fact, social media usage is higher than ever with people checking social media for news and connections. People are working virtually now and, although working from home has increased production for many, people are more social than ever before.
Maerz shared that in the world of communications, it doesn’t just stop with social media. Companies have sent more emails than before, response rates remain high, text messaging is extremely popular and website visitation is up.
Stages of Dealing with Crisis
In times of disaster, everyone moves through the same stages, but at different paces. The first stage is self-preservation. Everyone first figures out how to save themselves. Next comes group preservation — helping others with what we know. Then comes blame, justice and finally, renormalizing or adapting to the threat. Your new business is how to communicate with people as they move through these phases.
Share with your customers how you are protecting them, what you are doing to prevent the spread of the virus, the best way to contact you and any changes to deadlines or events. You also want to find ways to help your most vulnerable clients. Great examples right now are the grocery stores that are opening early or payment extensions that are being offered.
Consider the Crisis in the Way You Communicate
Before you begin communicating, keep these things in mind. First, people are overwhelmed with COVID-19 emails. They are being bombarded with information. Put the facts at the beginning of your communication and the details later. For example, if you are postponing an event. Say that in the first sentence. Then they can gain the information they need and choose if they’d like to continue to read or not. Next, remember to adjust your tone. Relate to people and keep the we’re all in this together mentality.
Now is not the time to do cross-selling or upgrades. Are there things you could provide at no additional cost to your customers? Offer premiums for free to your lower tiers. You don’t want to appear to be tone deaf or insensitive.
Keep in mind the ongoing communication that you may be pushing out. Do you have late payment reminders? Are these messages consistent with the changes that you may have made because of the pandemic? Many companies are pausing payments that are due instead of canceling subscriptions.
Consider Social Media + Online Updates
There are many communication tools out there and different ways to utilize them. Currently, many people are checking Facebook first. Make sure that your pages and contact information are up to date. Turn on the chat and messenger features so that you can communicate with your customers and download the Facebook Pages Manager to your mobile devise to better manage your account.
On your website, consider adding a COVID-19 banner to quickly link your customers to the changes your business has made and promote the local community efforts to help fight the virus. You could even add an online chat feature to, again, communicate for efficiently with your customers.
Many businesses are exploring new options to update their phone systems. Check to make sure your office line is directed to the right person or turn on a group ringing option. If possible, avoid making calls from personal numbers. Try and route outgoing calls through a business number.
Google is not currently publishing reviews, but it’s important to keep asking. People want to support their local business heroes. If you are staying in contact with your customers, they’ll love the opportunity to give you a review.
Finally, Maerz shared that he believes that after COVID-19, a sense of community will make a comeback. Customers will be more willing to help and shop at local businesses. The need to understand all your customers will become paramount. How many detractors did you know about? Who propped you up when you needed it the most? Looking ahead, cross-platform communication will become paramount for every business. Being able to run your business remotely must be “baked-in” going forward. This will help all your employees and customers!
Watch the complete webinar below:
You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.
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Colleen Murphy is former downtown events director at the Greater Des Moines Partnership and blogs about major events in Downtown Des Moines (DSM). Murphy oversaw the World Food & Music Festival, DSM Book Festival, Out to Lunch and Holiday Promenade in the Historic East Village, as well as worked as the sponsorship manager for the Des Moines Arts Festival® and assisted with sponsorship for the Downtown Des Moines Farmers' Market.