Many businesses have been closed for weeks. There have been no customers, no sales, and in many communities there’s no end in sight.
Keeping your business running during the COVID-19 global pandemic is probably a moot point at this point. Unless you are in an industry that has been designated an “essential business” – such as a doctor’s office, a grocery store, or even an auto mechanic – you probably are planning for the future rather than focusing on the present.
The problem is that your customers have short attention spans. When business returns to normal in a few weeks or possibly months, inevitably their habits will have changed. Maybe they have turned to other providers for the products or services you offer. Or perhaps they have grown accustomed to doing without altogether, especially in these uncertain economic times.
So, what can you do to keep connected with your customers throughout this downtime and gently remind them that your business exists and serves an essential need in their lives? Here are a few ideas.
In the Midst of Crisis Check in with Customers – Be Empathetic
If you have been avoiding the TV or radio in recent days – and, honestly, who could blame you? – you probably haven’t noticed that advertisers have shifted gears. Gone are the blaring, pushy ads that urge viewers to visit stores or buy products or services.
Instead, the airwaves are filled with gentle, sympathetic commercials that let viewers know that the advertiser understands what their customers are going through and want to help in any way they can. Usually, they end with a statement such as “We’re all in this together” or “When this is all over, we will be stronger”.
It’s time for your business to share a similar message of support and empathy with your customers. Even if your doors are closed and you aren’t planning on offering products or services in the short-term future, you can still build trust bonds with your customers by letting them know that you are thinking of them, that you sympathize with their plight, and that you are even sharing in their pain.
In the Midst of Crisis Check in with Customers – Share Your Actions
People want good news right now. In fact, they need it. With the news filled with stories about illness, death, and an uncertain future, most people simply want to be reassured that everything eventually is going to be all right. And that in the meantime, the community is rallying together to take care of each other
Right now, it’s a good idea to get on social media and share accounts of what you are doing to help people – either your employees or people in the community, or both:
- Have you allowed your people to work from home?
- Did you break into your “rainy day fund” to offer financial support for workers who have been furloughed?
- Are you helping people you have had to lay off to find local resources where they can file for unemployment, get needed food and supplies, and seek health care if they need it?
- Have you donated much-needed supplies such as masks or gloves to health care workers on the front line of the battle?
It’s important to help your employees and people in your community, but it’s equally critical that you let people know what you are doing.
Informing your customer that you are helping people during this crisis reinforces your reputation as a positive influence in your community. And it offers a glimmer of hope and good news that people are so desperately seeking.
In the Midst of Crisis Check in with Customers -Be Available
Finally, your customers are going to have questions: When will you reopen? Can they still get your products or services now even on a limited basis? Do you have a timetable to return to normal operations?
If you have sent everybody home, there’s probably nobody left to answer the phone. Yet the worst thing that can happen to a business that is struggling to stay relevant is to be completely inaccessible to its customers. An unanswered phone or answering machine sends the wrong message to people actively seeking to connect with your business.
If you can’t go into the office, forward the phones to your home or your smartphone so you can take whatever calls are still coming in. Divert online text messages and emails to your personal accounts so you can instantly respond to inquiries. Visit your social media sites such as your business’s Facebook page or Instagram account frequently – at least a couple of times per day — so you can personally respond to postings quickly.
This crisis won’t last forever. Eventually life will return to normal. Your job as a business owner right now is to keep engaging with your customers so they remain loyal to your business.