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Updated: May 7, 2020
Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, people are getting hit hard and fast with information, and not all of it is relevant or true. Trying to process this information under already-stressful conditions as a result of the crisis can be challenging. That’s why it’s more important than ever within the community that business owners effectively communicate changes to their customers.
Whether your doors are open or closed throughout this pandemic, no doubt you’ve had to make some adjustments. And that means that your customers are most likely feeling the uncertainty, too. Even if you don’t have all the answers, being transparent with your customers could make all the difference when life begins to return to some level of normalcy. Here are a few ideas to springboard your communication strategy during the COVID-19 business crisis.
For all of the new messaging apps that have emerged in recent years, email remains quite popular among Americans. According to a study by Adobe, consumers spend more than two hours per day checking their email. This is in addition to more than three hours of daily checking work email. Email remains an integral part of the technology equation. This is something you can build on when creating your communication and digital customer service strategy.
You can also expect that your customers will be visiting your website now that they can’t pop into your brick-and-mortar location in person. They will be hoping to see some relevant updates about the COVID-19 situation, how it has affected your business, and what they can expect in the interim. Your loyal customers (and others) may also be searching for some way to support you during this time.
Some businesses are adding a banner to the top of their website with the latest information. While it’s not a small business, PayPal has a notification letting customers know that it is waiving transfer fees during COVID-19.
Let’s take another example. Jill Castilla, president, and CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond, Okla., responded to a tweet by Shark Tank entrepreneur Mark Cuban on Twitter. Cuban was looking to partner with a lender to accelerate the process of getting the government’s $1,200 stimulus checks into the hands of Americans.
Together, Castilla and Cuban crafted a plan that would allow the bank’s customers to overdraft their accounts by as much as $900 with no fees or penalties in anticipation of the stimulus funds. This, despite the fact that, like many of you, the pandemic forced her bank to close part of its business.
So Castilla took to the company’s website to communicate the message about the bank’s relief program, pointing customers to an email that was sent around with more details. She even made it personal, sharing with customers how her weekend included watching “Frozen 2” with her family, where she was reminded of the message, “when you can’t see the future, do the next right thing.”
Chances are social media has played some role in your communication strategy even before COVID-19 hit. A major piece of advice for business owners is that now’s the time to up your game. Consider the fact that your customers most likely have more time on their hands these days due to the lockdown. So, they will be spending more time scrolling their social media feeds. Some of them might even visit your Facebook or Instagram pages as the primary source of updates about your business.
Facebook says it’s seeing more than a 50% rise in total messaging in some of the hardest-hit countries from COVID-19. The social media platform says voice and video calls on Messenger and WhatsApp have grown more than twofold.
In addition to Facebook channels, there’s Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube, to name a few. The beauty of these platforms is that they allow you to communicate business changes to your customers in real-time, so your followers won’t feel as though they missed out on anything such as sales, promotions, or ways to support your business until things return to normal.
If you don’t have one already, a blog is an effective way to communicate with your customers — especially in the pandemic. You could begin to address what steps you’ll take to make customers feel safe once the economy reopens, such as how you will practice social distancing or how things will be sanitized and cleaned.
The more frequently you update your customers, the more connected your community will feel during the crisis. Remember, don’t limit yourself to just one channel to communicate with your customers during this time. Chances are you’ll need to juggle at least a few of them to reach as many people as possible.
Nobody has a crystal ball for when things will return to a new normal. But as you continue to communicate business changes to your customers, one thing you can do to better ensure that your story has a happy ending is to access emergency business funding. If you haven’t heard, the government has recently passed another wave of funding for small business loans, including $310 billion for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and another $60 billion for disaster loans.
Jessica Holcomb is the Content Marketing Manager at Funding Circle, specializing in small business marketing and social media. She has a degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Prior to Funding Circle, Jessica was a Marketing Manager at a successful social games company and a freelancer for many small businesses in the Bay Area. Her work can be seen in top retail, gaming, and financial small business resource sites.