How to build relationships with your customers during the COVID-19 outbreak
Since other businesses are temporarily shutting up shop, adjusting their hours or transitioning to a fully remote work schedule, it’s important to keep customers informed about how your company is evolving during this event and that your company has a plan. This assures them that your company is responding and they can continue conducting business with you. Providing regular updates also encourages your customers to continue shopping with and supporting your company, especially since they now have a significant amount of downtime.
As your customers relax at home while practising social distancing, find ways to virtually engage with them and maintain the relationship. Follow these steps to help keep your customers engaged during the coronavirus outbreak:
1. Decide how your business is responding to the virus
Before you communicate your plan to customers, first establish your strategy with employees. Businesses are using various methods to respond to the virus including closing shop or office locations, instructing their staff to work from home or staying open while taking extra precautions. Determine which action your business plans to take.
Ask your employees to contribute to a running document of ideas. Maybe even hold a brainstorming session. Now is the time to tap into your already outstanding talent to help you through this tough time.
Create columns during the brainstorming session or in your document for:
- Emergency objectives (items you should accomplish today like updating your website)
- Medium objectives (items that apply to the next 3 months)
- Long-term objectives (opportunities for post-COVID-19). What features of your business landscape can or likely will change in the future due to this major event? How can you start planning now?
2. Communicate your response to customers
Once you clearly establish your response plan, communicate it to customers. Explaining to consumers that you are taking the necessary precautions to keep your company, staff members and customers safe builds trust. Create a list of all the potential channels available to you. It’s important to maintain consistency across channels (and you don’t want to miss one). This tells customers you are taking the necessary steps to maintain safety measures.
The email or social media post should explain your plan and how it may affect customers. For example, if you run a hardware store and are staying open, mention this to customers and list what you’re doing to keep the store clean and your customers safe. Let them know if you’re choosing to change your hours or are closing the store altogether. Be sure to maintain a calming voice throughout the message and try to keep the overall tone positive.
Don’t forget to create messaging for the following channels, if you have them:
- Social media (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn)
- Website (ideally a promotional banner that applies to all of your pages)
- Phone or messaging services
- Update messaging to sales and marketing contractors
3. Make it easier for customers to order your products online
It’s important to make your product more accessible and easier for customers to purchase online. If you’re able to sell your products online, post them on your website and let your customers know they’re available. Send an email or write a social media post mentioning the products you’ve placed on your website. You can even discount these items or promote a special sale. Doing this tells customers how they can still engage with your business during the outbreak.
4. Market gift cards to customers
Since your customers are unable to physically visit your business, give them other ways to support it. If you work in the retail or service industry and make the majority of your profit from in-person sales, urge customers to purchase certificates or gift cards. Start and ramp up electronic gift card promotions on your website or social media pages. Customers will enjoy the opportunity to keep supporting your business even when they can’t be there in person.
5. Maintain (or start) a live chat service
Live chat can be a great way to personally connect with your customers. If you can offer live chat support service, ask your employees to assist customers from their home offices during this pandemic. This way they can stay in contact with customers personally while still distancing themselves. Customers will enjoy getting to connect with someone if they’re apart from friends or family.
6. Create training tutorials or make entertaining videos
Many people are at home reading and watching news about recent COVID-19 events. Get their minds thinking more positively by creating helpful, relevant content. Use video to create training tutorials for customers based on your business’s specialty. For example, restaurants can post tutorials on how to make nutritious meals on YouTube.
Creating videos allows your business to remain relevant and helpful to customers who need entertainment at home. Create and share humorous or entertaining videos that take your customers’ minds off negative current events. How can you provide value to your customers virtually?
7. Host live events
If your business cancelled an event due to the pandemic, or if you have the resources either way, host a virtual event. Market your event by posting about it on social media, your website and via email. Share the date and time of the event and encourage guests to dress the part. Attendees can enter the event via video chat and mingle from their houses.
8. Provide special offers and discounts to use in the future
Though it may be challenging to make sales, encourage customers to support your business in the future. Offer discounts or credits to put toward their account now that they can redeem later. If you’re able to sell products online, offer special discounts on your website. Customers enjoy exclusive opportunities, so make them feel special by offering loyalty programmes and offers. This also helps your business continue to gain sales and maintain positive interaction with customers.
9. Update your social media pages more often
Now is a great time to be active on social media. Share entertaining videos, provide coronavirus updates or share industry news. Posting on multiple outlets allows you to build your awareness and gives your customers a sense of what your company values are. If your store is still open currently, make sure your customers are aware of your operating hours and any precautions your business is taking.
Your company pages are a great representation of your business and brand. You can use this time to update the pages on each outlet to establish your brand’s identity and build a stronger connection with your audience. If you haven’t yet decided what voice you’d like to use for your brand when writing content for your audience, brainstorm ways to communicate with your audience in a captivating way.
10. Keep your business clean and sanitised
If your business is still regularly accepting customers, make sure you’re following the correct sanitary best practices. It’s important to deep clean your business every one or two nights before reopening and wipe down your products or other store items each time a customer touches them. Provide customers with hand sanitiser when they walk in and have it available throughout the rest of the store.
Hang a sign assuring customers your store is still open and are taking precautions to keep it clean and safe. Also have a sign in the bathroom that informs customers of COVID-19 safety measures like washing their hands, using sanitiser and socially distancing themselves from others. Try to urge your customers to stand at least two metres away from each other in the store.