1 Jun 2020
As the UK’s coronavirus lockdown measures are eased, some businesses are looking to reopen either fully or partially over the coming weeks, while others will remain closed.
During this period of limbo, customers – as well as businesses – require clarity.
To ease back into a version of “normality”, businesses need sufficient working capital and financial support in the form of schemes like the CBILS first and foremost.
However, a solid communication strategy is also crucial during this time. Using the government guidelines on working safely during coronavirus as a basis, you should begin mapping out how you’re going to let customers know what they can expect from your brand moving forward. Fortunately, there are lots of simple and free ways to do this.
Let your customers know – via email and other mediums – what measures you’ve put in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus when you reopen.
Being transparent about your plans will provide customers with the clarity they need. Many will understandably be nervous about visiting physical locations, so reassure them that ensuring their safety and the safety of your team is at the top of your agenda.
Information to share with your customers could include:
New hygiene/cleaning measures
Self-quarantine protocol for employees
Reduced opening hours or temporary closures
Reduced occupancy rates to enable social distancing
Online services to replace face-to-face interactions
It’s important to convey empathy in all of your communications and make sure your tone of voice reflects the current climate. Show an awareness of the struggles your customers are facing and what you’re doing to help them out (and how, in turn, they can help you out).
Again, transparency is the key to building trust. Not saying anything will leave your customers feeling confused or even frustrated with your brand. So, if you’ve had to close a location or you can’t meet a deadline, let people know – they’ll empathise with you.
Similarly, try not to make promises you can’t keep. Use phrases like “we’ll do our best to…” and “we’re aiming to...” to let customers know you’re trying your best under the circumstances but may not be able to deliver the same level of service immediately when you reopen.
Unsurprisingly, people have been using social media more during the lockdown. Figures show there’s been a 25% increase in engagement on Instagram and TikTok alone. As a small business owner, use this time to really work on developing your social media voice and ramp up your presence on different channels.
To stay relevant and engaging, put some thought into what you post. Share valuable information or content that will help your followers stay positive.
It’s also worth thinking about how your customers' lives have changed and use that as a basis for what to post. If you run a restaurant, for example, why not post a series of home recipes and make it more personal by taking your own photos of the process?
Research shows that people love to engage with content that’s authentic.
If the e-commerce side of your business is still operational but your high street presence isn’t, let customers know they can still purchase from you. Consider offering incentives like free shipping and showcase the ways you plan to give back to the community, such as donating a fraction of your proceeds to a charity.
"In support of their courage, commitment and resilience, we will offer free filtered coffee to all NHS, council and emergency services staff, effective immediately."
- Starbucks statement
If you run a serviced-orientated business like a restaurant or hairdresser, you could offer gift certificates that can be redeemed once the social distancing measures have been lifted. As well as helping you maintain cash flow, it will give your customers something to look forward to once the lockdown measures are lifted further.
Starbucks is currently offering free coffee to NHS, council and emergency workers.
Use whatever free time you may have at the moment to get involved in local projects. Whether it’s fundraising for food banks or volunteering for a local council, getting involved and showing that you care will leave a lasting impression on customers as well as the wider community. Similarly, don’t be afraid to ask your loyal customers for support, again, through things like vouchers that can be redeemed at a later date.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a definitive guide to how to communicate with customers during the coronavirus as things are changing so frequently. All you can do is your best by keeping up-to-date with the latest developments from the government and relaying your current situation and future “plans” to your customer base.
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