Over the last several weeks, people have grown increasingly panicked about COVID-19. Store shelves are bare, schools are closed, offices are urging employees to work from home and small businesses and restaurants that rely on heavy foot traffic are seeing their sales take a significant hit.
If face-to-face interactions with your customers has slowed down a bit, you’re not alone. It’s important to realize that there are plenty of ways to stay connected to your customers during this time of uncertainty and keep your business running smoothly. Your customers may be self-quarantined, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected and continue to provide them with excellent service.
Here are a few smart strategies for businesses looking to keep their audience engaged:
Increase your social media presence
Your customers are already on social media, but these days, they are likely checking it more frequently to get the latest news and feel a sense of connectivity. Whether you’re posting about the virus specifically or trying to offer light, positive content to help take people’s minds off the panic, it can be helpful to increase your posting frequency to ensure you are showing up in their news feeds.
While updating your website or sending emails each day may not be realistic for some business owners, using social media to keep customers informed can be a more realistic option.
- Be selective with the information you post: we live in an era of fake news. Make sure that the information you share is credible and trustworthy.
- Keep it relevant for consumers: customers want to know how to get in touch with customer support, whether or not your business is open, and what you’re doing to prevent keep your employees and customers safe.
- If your support team is overloaded, let customers know it may take more time than usual for you to respond. If you’re still open but with limited hours, make it well known on all your social media accounts.
- Keep your tone on-brand: it’s important to maintain professionalism with every post and interaction on social. Remember: everyone’s watching. Be helpful, constructive and courteous; the way you respond to comments and direct messages is a reflection on how you treat and value customers.
Focus on serving your customers through digital channels
You may already offer phone and email support to your customers, but now is the time to increase your customer service capabilities and ensure your customers can reach you, no matter where they are. By using social media as a starting point, you can offer the option to chat via Facebook Messenger and other instant messaging platforms. You can also offer video conferencing options through Skype or FaceTime so your customers can get that “face-to-face” feel without actually being there in-person.
Tell customers what’s important to know: your store’s hours, discounts you’re offering as a result of COVID-19, timelines for shipping and order fulfillment, as well as the sanitary measures you’re implementing. If you’re closing down in-store operations altogether and selling exclusively through your online store, let them know via newsletter as well.
Offer online deals
Be sure to remind customers that they can still shop for their favorite items on your website. It might even help to offer a coupon or discount to encourage online shopping while your customers are staying home.
If you operate a service-based business like a restaurant or a salon, you may want to consider offering gift certificates. Encourage your customers to buy a gift certificate now, so they can treat themselves when the self-quarantine period is over. This can help maintain sales for you, while giving your customers something fun and exciting to look forward to.
Update your website regularly
In times of crisis, your website should serve as a source of truth and provide real-time updates to your customers. Here are some things to include on your COVID-19 FAQ or resources page:
- Which locations are currently open or closed
- Store hours
- Products and services
- A detailed explanation of your sanitary practices
- Contact information
- Links to helpful content on your website
- Links to official government and health websites
Your website should be a place where customers can refer to at any time for general information on how your business is handling the crisis and supporting its customers.
Explore new content formats
Customers around the world are participating in social distancing, which means they’re home a lot more than they normally would be. Consider engaging with them and creating content they find either helpful or entertaining. This can help you stay in touch with your current customers and potentially make new ones. Now’s your opportunity to explore creating new forms of content that you previously couldn’t.
For example, restaurants could publish new recipes for people to try at home or offer virtual cooking classes. Retailers could start a blog or YouTube channel to highlight useful products, product care tips and more.
Last but not least, be transparent
You might not know the answers to every question right now, and that’s okay. For now, let your customers know if you’re reducing store hours or if you’re being mandated to temporarily shut down operations.
It’s impossible to predict where we will be in the coming days or months, but there are always ways to be ready for change and keep customers informed. Remember to be adaptable, empathetic and find ways to support your community and ask for their support in return.
The best thing you can do is show your customers the humanity behind your brand, and that you’re all in this together.