There is no more “business as usual”. The COVID-19 pandemic is forever changing our notion of normal. In order to adjust, we have to act even faster than the virus.
Here’s a few tips for managing and communicating COVID-19 changes that are affecting your business and your customer relationships.
Social Distancing or Self-quarantine.
Not everyone is able to work from home. However, every single organization is being forced to change the way they work. In order to provide the best protection for those who can’t work from home, the rest of us need to make hard choices about staying home, avoiding public gatherings, and being patient.
- Do whatever you can with the goal of the greater good.
- Stay informed. Go online and go to the source rather than relying solely on broadcast media.
- Think outside of the box. I like to quote Mr. Spock: “There are always alternatives.”
Establish lines of communication.
Disinfect your phone and keyboard and stay in the conversation. Physical isolation will require stronger than ever communication skills. Everyone needs to talk about how to continue business and how we can work around the new barriers.
Make sure your staff has the ability – and the tools – to monitor their phones and email remotely. Consider re-recording your voicemail or automated phone attendant to triage non-emergency communication.
There are some great options for team communication that don’t have to be difficult to set up or expensive to use.
Slack is popular for simple team communication; Asana and Monday are great options if you need more robust project management features. Both Slack and Asana have free versions and Monday offers a free trial with no credit card required.
Microsoft Teams is another free option and Microsoft offers tips for remote working best practices. FaceTime is an easy option for anyone with an iPhone.
Zoom is an excellent resource for smaller meetings and Demio is a great option for enhanced interaction.
To understand what your home internet can handle, Google “internet speed test” and click the button to run the test. It will look like this.
Let your customers know how to contact you and what to expect.
Put a sign on your door and then update it as the situation changes. This is mandatory if you have completely closed your office. Even if you only have a few walk-ins, unexpected deliveries and even emergency or law enforcement might need your contact information. If you have a small staff that needs to work from the office, consider locking to door simply to minimize or manage for necessary traffic.
Put a pop-op on your website. Let customers know that you are on top of the situation by addressing concerns, even if you truly are open for regular business. If they need to buy or communicate differently with you now, this is the easiest place for customers to find your information and for you to adjust it.
Consider adding shopping lists or even chatbots to your website to facilitate communication and ordering. Online payment is easy to set up and use with PayPal and you can set up a quick shopping list, free, by using Google Forms.
Update social media. Adjust your profile and post regular updates on all of your regular channels.
Be proactive. We are encouraging many of our clients to set up daily or every-other-day schedules for communicating COVID-19 changes in order to send a single email to all customers with current information. When customers know you will be keeping them updated, they will require fewer individual conversations and everyone will benefit from the questions that someone else has already asked.
Share the information.
Many companies and organizations are posting a dedicated resource page that specifically offers details for communicating COVID-19 changes and information relevant to their industry or customer base. This is a great place to link the agencies or sources that you are using to make decisions.
A few examples are:
- Ohio Department of Public Health: Questions about COVID-19?
- Columbus Public Health
- Governor of Ohio News Releases
- Center for Disease ControlWorld Health Organization
- SBA Disaster Assistance for COVID-19 (en español)
Even if you don’t have a refund or cancellation policy in place, don’t panic and don’t make rash decisions. Do everything you can to reassure your customers that you will honor the relationships and continue service to the best of your ability. Let your valued customers know that you may need time to weigh your options as this situation unfolds.
How to Craft Your COVID-19 Message
You do not need to explain COVID-19 or make any comments on it’s social and economic impact. You DO need to let your customers know how it impacts their business relationship with you.
Your first concern is the safety and well being of your employees and your customers. For that reason, you are adjusting your business hours and/or operations.
Tell us what is different now.
Our store/restaurant/office is closed until (date) or until further notice.– or-Our store/restaurant/office is open for pickup/delivery only. (Here’s our menu.)– or-Our office is closed and our employees are working from home.
Which products/services are available and which ones are not?
Have the business hours changed?
Reiterate the preferred communication methods.
How will you continue to provide updates?
Pro Tip: Originality is not required. Here’s an example that we gave to one of our clients for communicating COVID-19 changes to their customers.
We are here for you – remotely.
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing all our lives and we fully understand your need for clarity and strategy.
Our first concern is for the safety of our employees and yours. Our staff is working from home with full access to our phone system and emails. We are conducting all conversations online for the foreseeable future.
Don’t hesitate to call us if you need immediate answers.
If possible, please email all non-emergency inquiries and rest assured, we are answering all emails and voicemails as quickly as we possibly can.
We are relentlessly monitoring local, state, and Federal sources, as well as staying in active contact with all providers to make sure that we have the most current information.
Stay tuned. We will be aggressively pushing out updates as the information changes.
Share the care.
We are all in this together. If you have tips or suggestions for other businesses or customers, please share them. Add a personal note. Let us know you care.