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How to communicate with customers during the coronavirus outbreak

We are living in challenging times. The whole planet is threatened by the expansion of the COVID-19 coronavirus, which is already a global pandemic. It’s affecting the daily life of all people and testing governments, institutions, and businesses. It’s the top headline of all news outlets. Overall, it’s affecting everybody in one way or another.

It’s no secret that uncertainty is our daily companion in the time of the pandemic. Everyone is trying to do what they can to #stayhome and prevent the spread of the virus. But what about the economy? How can businesses survive? What can companies do to deal with their customers during these difficult times? How should businesses communicate with clients, and what should their leaders do to ensure that excellent customer service is maintained?

Regardless of the current crisis caused by the coronavirus, planning for business continuity is crucial. Organizations need to know how to mobilize and train their workforce to ensure that their businesses don’t fall apart. There are many different factors that companies should consider, and actions they should undertake to communicate with their audience — both in terms of marketing messaging and customer service. Keep on reading to find out more. In the meantime, if you are looking for some tips on how to keep your business up and running during this challenging time, check this out

1. Ensure that systems are flexible and reliable

All companies that are able to work remotely have moved their operations online. However, working remotely can prove to be challenging when reallocating and managing resources.

It’s crucial to ensure that your workforce management system allows you to make staff changes quickly before your customer service department is affected. The right system should allow your management team to keep track of who is doing what to ensure efficiency. 

One of the most effective ways to do this is to introduce a cloud-based solution that not only handles all aspects of customer interaction but also allows your staff to work remotely.

Because the coronavirus will not be the last crisis your company will face, it’s important to establish a comprehensive plan that outlines how to act when an emergency occurs to avoid a complete shutdown in the future. Your plan should cover things like people management, remote work processes, applications, security, compliance, as well as human resource requirements for flexible working. Ideally, make sure that all of these processes are tested before a crisis occurs. Additionally, it’s also beneficial to incorporate agile methodologies into your customer service department to ensure that all professionals continue to bring value to your organization in times like these.

Regardless of the coronavirus, the reality is that there will always be times when your staff will require your work policy to be flexible.  The technology you put in place today will help your company stay afloat, and allow your employees to keep serving your customers in the future, whatever the circumstances.

2. The right communication with customers is fundamental

In times of crisis, it’s best to start a dialogue with your customers as soon as possible. Also, it’s better to over-communicate rather than go radio-silent.

 As mentioned above, most of us are feeling uncertain about the future every day. Even though communicating with your clients will not reduce their overall uncertainty surrounding the health crisis — it will provide a glimpse of positivity and showcase that your organization is taking appropriate actions to react to the current crisis. In times of uncertainty, people value predictability, so try to provide it.

For example, Amtrak, a corporation that operates many U.S. passenger rail services, has shared a detailed list of all the extra precautions that they are taking to ensure that their customers can travel safely.

How to communicate with customers during the coronavirus outbreak

3. Be open and honest with your clients

At this time, honesty, even if it is to communicate bad news, will be understood and appreciated by most clients. For example, companies like Southwest Airlines and Delta openly messaged their customers to explain flight delays and cancellations. In addition, Southwest even provided customers with a solution– providing the option to rebook their customer’s flights at no additional cost.

How to communicate with customers during the coronavirus outbreak

4. Watch your tone of voice 

When communicating, it’s best to have a sincere tone that is authentic, empathetic, and, perhaps most importantly, makes your audience feel safe. People want leadership, and they want to believe in you. But they will only listen and trust you if you seem sincere and genuinely empathetic to their situation.

Therefore, it’s important to monitor and analyze your tone of voice. For example,  think about what your customers would like to read or hear on your social media channels. Humorous content might still be fine, but there may be people who don’t understand it or who are having too much of a hard time finding humor in the situation.

5. Use simple language

Every time you publish an announcement, change a policy, or share updates, think about your target audience. Don’t overcomplicate the text —  avoid excess rhetoric or ambiguity, and use simple words that convey the right message. Your customers are already stressed with everything going on around them, so don’t make them spend hours decoding your return, refund, or cancellation policy.

6. Listen to your clients and put yourself in their shoes

When working on any communication that is addressed to your customers, try to put yourself in their shoes. Recognize that they are anxious and concerned at this time. Empathy means understanding why they feel this way, but it doesn’t mean that you have to give them everything they demand. Listen to them; try to understand their reasons, and act appropriately.

7. Think about the future when communicating with customers now 

People will remember and talk about the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 for a long time. So make sure that when they do, they have a great story to share about how your company made things easier for them.

The Nobel Prize-winning economists Daniel Kahneman and Barbara Fredrickson explain this concept by using the Peak-End Rule. According to the model that they created, people only remember and judge events based on the strongest emotion that they experienced (The Peak) and how they felt in the end. A great example of this is the fact that people still remember Southwest Airlines as the only airline that allowed people to change their flight at no extra cost after 9/11. By providing consumers with significant options like this, you’re setting yourself up to be remembered in a positive light, despite the horrible events that are occurring.

8. Share information about your next steps

Customers feel safer when they know you’re thinking about the future. What we know so far is that this situation is bad, and it’ll probably get worse before it gets better. But what will happen afterward? What steps are you going to take when the crisis is over? If you are able to answer this question and communicate it to your audience, it will help you build a strong(er) relationship with your customers. 

If you are not sure about what to say, try to share uplifting information with your clients. This is what Coca-Cola is doing on social media channels.

How to communicate with customers during the coronavirus outbreak

9. Suggest new ways to interact

Every cloud has a silver lining, even in times of change like this. One positive aspect of the pandemic is that it could change people’s habits. If you want your customers to move online, now is the perfect opportunity to motivate them to do so.  It’s also a great time to meet the needs of customers by encouraging them to do something different. Let’s say you planned to launch a new feature of your product or implement a new payment method. Don’t wait six months until this crisis is over. Do the opposite – try to accelerate these processes and make the most out of this difficult time. 

10. Prioritize health-related content

Health-related topics have become the leading social agenda and concern for most citizens. That’s why your customers must see you as a reliable source of information in this area too. Cooperate with health experts and publish advice, articles, and interviews to provide your audience with valuable content.

It’s also the right time to disseminate informative and reliable content that will provide reassurance about your products or services. It’s worthwhile to invest in offering your know-how online, expanding your knowledge base, or sharing advice free of charge. Any piece of content that may help your audience overcome this challenging time will be valuable to them. This will help you build trust amongst your customers because it showcases what your care about is their wellbeing and development. Check out some of the examples we’ve compiled:

Ahrefs, a leading SEO tool provider, has granted users free access to their Blogging for Business course.  

How to communicate with customers during the coronavirus outbreak

Adzooma, a digital advertising platform, is offering all of its packages for free until at least the 1st of June.

How to communicate with customers during the coronavirus outbreak

Udemy, one of the biggest online course platforms, has released over 180 free courses.

How to communicate with customers during the coronavirus outbreak

11. Make the CEO visible

Customers will value transparent leadership in your company. This is why top management has to be visible during difficult times. Communicate proactively, anticipate your customers’ concerns, and manage their expectations. Involve executives in communication and make sure that they address difficult issues. A message of support for those affected, and assurance that the company is doing everything possible to minimize the negative impact of the crisis is essential.

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, issued a letter to “the worldwide Apple family” to inform all customers and fans of the brand about the company’s reaction to the coronavirus crisis.

How to communicate with customers during the coronavirus outbreak

Check out how CEOs of various companies are communicating with customers during the coronavirus pandemic. 

12. Encourage participation

A vast majority of your customers are at home right now. They probably haven’t had this much free time in a long time, and they may feel lonely. Therefore, this tough time may be a good moment to open new communication channels and promote engaging campaigns. Think about new creative ways to reach your audience that will facilitate interactions and build stronger relationships between them and your company.

Below is just one example of how LiveAgent is encouraging its users to engage and share their thoughts.

How to communicate with customers during the coronavirus outbreak

Keep calm

We know that there are no words good enough to address the current situation. Everyone (we included) is writing about “uncertain times”, “challenges”, or a “tough and turbulent period”, but this still doesn’t describe what we’re all going through. 

However, one thing that’s for sure is that we’re all in this together, our customers included. We’re all doing our part to fight the virus, and the main thing to remember right now is to stay calm, carry on with day to day activities at home, and stay safe.

How to communicate with customers during the coronavirus outbreak

Nikoleta Vajdova

Content Manager

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