Communicating with Your Customers During COVID-19
It’s safe to say that everyone has been impacted by the global spread of COVID-19. If you’re a business owner you have likely lost business, had to adapt your business model, or been forced to close entirely.
This virus has pushed us inside. Caused us to social distance from others for their safety, and ours. And it has forced us to conduct business from locations we never have before: our dining rooms, laundry rooms, mudrooms, patios, lofts, or kitchens. In-person meetings and presentations with your customers are no longer possible. So how do you best continue to engage with your customers and prospects during this unprecedented time?
Your Website is a Beacon During COVID-19
Your website is an important source of business right now. Not only for customers to place orders or read educational content, but to communicate with you. If you have a storefront that is closed, the first place your customers will likely go to find information on your business is your website. Depending on your business they may be looking for ways to purchase products, support you until you can open up again (gift cards or donations), or they may be wondering if you are considered an essential business and are still operating.
How to Communicate with Customers During Stay-at-Home Orders
If you have an actual storefront and are used to doing business with your customers in person, or if you regularly meet up with prospects, or give presentations to groups of people, you are probably feeling pretty disconnected right about now. But now is the time to evaluate the ways your customers can reach you. You may find there is something additional you can implement that makes it easier for them to connect.
This is the perfect time to add chat functionality to your website. If your store, shop, or restaurant is closed and people are flooding your website for information, why not give them the personal touch that everyone is missing right now as we shelter in place? Give them the chance to connect with a human while visiting your website. Plus, it provides them with an instant answer to their question if they are having trouble finding it on your website.
You can customize your chat to show up only during the hours that you specify so you can ensure that you are available to field questions that come in. You will want to customize the welcome message that shows on the chat window and make it as friendly and personable as possible. It’s also possible to program automated messages that appear as soon as someone types into the chat. The message can thank them for their message, give an average time you will respond, or provide an email address or phone number if they require immediate assistance.
If you don’t have the time or staff for live chat, you can use a chatbot. A chatbot automates certain tasks, such as chatting with a user through a conversational interface. Depending on how you set them up, chatbots can provide a kind of virtual triage to help your customers find what they're looking for, faster, or pre-qualify visitors who need to talk to a live person vs. being directed to an FAQ or other online resources. Chatbots are always on, always available, and always responsive. When executed properly, they can give your customer the instant gratification they are looking for on your website.
If you don’t already have a regular e-Newsletter or consistent email messages that go out from your company, now is a great time to start this practice. People are at home, many with less to do, unfortunately. They are online, reading articles, watching the news, and checking their email. Use this opportunity to communicate with them and share relevant content.
Ideas for email topics:
- Address the COVID-19 crisis head on and share how your company is handling it, especially if you have modified your business model to adapt
- Share fun photos of your staff working at home or making your products while social distancing
- If your product is something that could offer peace, relaxation or entertainment while in the home, give examples of how it can be used. Extra points if it’s a use other than the original intended one.
- Share industry news. Example: if you are a Real Estate agent, give your take on how the COVID-19 is affecting the market, along with links to factual articles, or talk about new technology you are using to keep the industry moving even while adhering to social distancing rules
- Discounts on products that will help get through this challenging time
If you have expertise to share with the world, set up a free webinar for anyone to join. This would be especially relevant if your product or service could directly help in dealing with the economic crisis due to COVID-19. For example, if you are an accountant, offer a webinar that outlines all of the loan, grant, and stimulus package options available to businesses and individuals. The myriad of options and rules are confusing, and offering an expert opinion is very valuable.
If you own a massage therapy practice, your therapists could offer webinars showing basic massage techniques that people quarantining together can try out on each other for stress relief. Or you could share relaxing combinations of essential oils or incense to burn. Or, showing how to use everyday household items for working on muscle knots would be helpful, especially to those quarantining alone.
There are many options for video conferencing out there. Ensure privacy and security by only sharing the join link with individuals who registered and adjust the settings so that as the host you grant or deny permission for each person who logs on. This avoids unwanted visitors who are looking to disrupt. Do not share screenshots of your meeting screen online as the meeting ID is often visible. And don’t worry about perfection! Everyone is using these tools and we all know technology sometimes doesn’t go as planned. Now more than ever we are very forgiving of children or dogs video-bombing our calls 😊
Website Messaging and Content
During COVID-19 closures, you will likely receive more website traffic than usual, as people are coming to you to find out if: A. You are still open, B. If you are open, how do they purchase from you, or C. How you are ensuring the safety of your staff and customers during the outbreak.
Serve up this information first and foremost, on your homepage. Depending on the business you are in, determine what your customers are seeking from you and dedicate new copy on your website to it. It might even be necessary for you to create a dedicated page just for your company’s COVID-19 response. Or, write blog posts addressing different aspects of your crisis response and this will expand the reach of your content as the posts are easily shareable.
Good Communication Equals Strong Connections
We know you have a lot on your mind right now and that updating your website or sending out an email may not be at the top of your list. But when you can, turn your attention to your customer-facing communication. Providing many options for content and answers will cement your company as a forthright and trustworthy entity in your current and future customer’s minds.
We want to help you during this challenging time so we are offering a 1-hour free consultation to discuss and help you implement new communications strategies for your business: contact us.