Communicating With Customers In A Crisis: Tips For Small Businesses

As communities across the world work to contain the COVID-19 virus, small businesses are in upheaval. Retailers, restaurants, service providers, sole-proprietors, and everyone in between are focused on preserving business and communicating updates with customers during the crisis. The result? Changing government protocols, massive amounts of company emails flooding our inboxes, and a constant social media barrage, have led to lots of confusion for customers.

How can you be sure your customers hear your message? Follow these tips:

Update Your Website With Critical Information.
    • Don’t forget the basics. Specify your operating hours and the best way to contact your business during the quarantine.
    • It’s best to have new operating details at the top of your home page. A temporary banner or a pop-up work well. Make it easy for your customers to find relevant information fast.
    • Can you ship products within social distancing parameters? Give clear instructions on how to place an order but set customer expectations for possible delays due to shipping and production issues.
    • Are you a service business who can work digitally? Give specific instructions on digital appointment options.
    • If you are a business reliant on foot traffic and you are offering gift cards to customers, don’t forget to include links and explicit instructions to purchase. Tell users the gift card options available, like specific denomination amounts. And if possible, add gift card shopping directly to your website.
Update search engines and social media platforms.
    • Provide Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, Instagram and others with new operating details.
    • Your customers must see the same, consistent information every place they might find you across the web. If you have inconsistent information out there, it can cause confusion. Your customer will turn to a competitor who has “made it easy to order” with clear communication and expectations. Don’t let your competition take away your best customers!
Use social media consistently.
    • It is easy to think that if we post it once, our customers will be updated, but the reality is that consumers are bombarded with shifting messages all day long. Our news can be lost in the mix or worse, customers may not even see the post and have no idea you made an operational change to your business. Instead, send daily or weekly updates. Update the “about” section and “service” section on your business page to reflect your current business operations so that anyone who lands on a business listing will find accurate, up-to-date information.
Use email as an additional communication method during this trying time.
    • Let’s face it, we are all being inundated with email messages. However, your biggest fans and best advocates are very likely to read your message and help you spread the word about your new operational status. Using every available communication technique will ensure that your message sticks with your customers despite the chaotic environment.

One last point. In all your communications, make sure that you market your business from a place of empathy. We are all feeling uncertain and stressed about our new daily living arrangements and their impact on our communities. Finding a way to keep revenue coming in and marketing messages are ok, but it is not the time for a hard-core sales message. Opt for a softer message that offers compassion to your customers. Find ways to connect with your community on a human level. Keep your message simple. It’s the best way to break through the noise and preserve your business in the long run.