Six Communications Principles to Manage Customer Expectations During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Have you ever been on an airplane, sitting on the runway, waiting to take-off and wondering how long it is going to be before you do? Pretty soon, 10 minutes stretches to 20, then 30 minutes. At some point, you just want someone to tell you what is going on.
Here we are in the middle of a pandemic. It feels like the whole world is quarantined. Stuck at home. The big question is: when this is all going to end?
Right now, customers and clients and employees want to know that too. When will the office be safe to open again? When will the restaurants and gyms and barbershop be back in business? When will products and services be available?
Unfortunately, few of us have the answers to those questions and they may even be out of our control.
In the meantime, good communications is a salve that will help everyone manage in the interim. Regular updates ease the pain in ways that don’t make much rational sense, but can have a calming effect on the emotions.
Businesses work so hard and spend so much money to attract each new customer, and then they must spend even more to keep them. A pandemic like this makes the job exponentially harder. Strong communications is as important now as it ever was.
With that in mind, it’s time to get back to basics. In the end, everyone onboard the plane sympathizes with the pilot who reassures them that everything is going to be alright soon. Here’s six key principles to remember during the long wait for the plane to take off:
#1 Communicate Proactively
Don’t wait to contact your customers. If you want to communicate, you’re already late in managing consumer expectations. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for your customers to know what you are doing to keep people healthy, what services you’re providing during the quarantine, and what your plan is to return to normal following lockdown.
There is no better way to do this than to take the initiative yourself and reach out to your consumers proactively via email, newsletter, social media, or even phone calls.
#2 Communicate Often
This may depend on your industry, but regular communication is important. A one-off email or social media post will only go so far and last so long before your customers need, or want, another update.
For some organizations, daily updates are essential, while others may share updates once a week. The frequency is up to you and what you think your customers need in order to manage the quarantine.
#3 Provide a Plan
Developing a Business Continuity and Recovery Plan is the first step. Communicating that clearly and consistently will give customers what they need to know.
For example, if your company is still open during quarantine, customers need to know what your plan is: hours of operation, services that are available, hygienic requirements for entering your building, purchasing limits, and more.
If you are closed during the quarantine, customers should be made aware of your plans for reopening and resuming customer services – and yes, this can be tricky since so much is unknown, but it could be that you share information and updates from your local and state governments that relate directly to you and your customers.
#4 Share How Your Organization is Helping
During quarantine, your organization could have been tasked with helping medical professionals care for COVID-19 patients – making facial masks, building ventilators, opening your doors for hospital beds and more. Others might be able to donate to a foodbank, provide employees with access to mental health services, or start a new business networks to share knowledge and information.
Sharing information about how you are helping during the pandemic is good publicity, yes, but it also keeps your key audiences aware of your efforts to combat the coronavirus and help others.
#5 Reassure with Positive Messages
People are doing the best they can under the circumstance of COVID lockdown, and any bit of positivity can go a long way. This is also true for your consumers who want to know that you are there for them and will be there once quarantine has been lifted. Sharing messages of support and positivity can help build relationships and brand loyalty over time.
#6 Focus on Current Customers
It will be hard for companies who rely on regular customers or clients to gain new ones during quarantine, but this is a time to focus on your existing customers who have been most loyal and are likely to stay with you throughout the duration. Keeping a customer is much easier than earning a new one.
For additional information, recommendations or questions on staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit Xenophon Strategies’ COVID-19 Crisis Communications Response Team webpage at: https://xenophonstrategies.com/covid-19-response.
Getting Back to Work is an ongoing series on health and safety regarding COVID-19 from Xenophon Strategies, in partnership with Dr. David Hamer, a professor at the Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine with more than 30 years of experience in epidemiological diseases. Through the partnership Xenophon is working with Dr. Hamer to provide science-based recommendations and guidance on how employers, employees, and families should best respond to and combat the COVID-19 pandemic.