11 May 2020 Crisis marketing Strategy

Do you still need to communicate with customers about Coronavirus?

Boy with megaphone

With changing advice from the UK government being issued, some businesses will be adapting their working practices and will need to communicate this to their customers and staff. Here are some suggestions as to how to do this effectively.

The government has been criticised by some for delivering what they consider a confused message. As a business looking to communicate, it is important that you do this with clarity and conviction so that the message from you is not open to interpretation.

Messaging to staff

Your team are your company’s life blood. Without them, the chances are you will find it difficult to operate effectively. You need to keep the team on side, and for them to understand the company position on many aspects, but in particular, your operations with customers.

Make sure your team know how you are operating and take time to answer questions until you are satisfied they can answer enquiries from your customers.

Use whatever channel of communication works best to deliver a clear message. This may be as simple as a WhatsApp message, or similar, or perhaps Slack or Microsoft Teams, if that’s what you are using. If you need to give a formal notice, email is the best way to deliver this (place read receipt requests if this is helpful to your internal processes).

A key question people may have is ‘Should we be working from the office now?’ Give your team unequivocal guidance, including points on the following:

  • Should they travel to the office to work or stay working from home
  • What restrictions are there when in the office or place of work
  • What are your expectations regarding hygiene, shared spaces and interaction between people
  • What are the processes and expectations regarding family issues, illness etc.

We are not HR advisors, so please seek professional guidance on exactly what you need to say. But whatever you do say, it needs to be clear and referenceable.

Messaging to Customers

Recognise that your customers will also be digesting changes to government advice. They may also be subject to different advice to you, based on their location (for example, the messages are different between England and Scotland/Wales/Northern Ireland and, indeed, other countries). This is another reason to be absolutely clear on your message.

There possibly isn’t a reason to communicate with your customers. If nothing has changed, you don’t really need to send any kind of communication saying so, unless you feel you are getting inbound enquiries on the matter.

If your operation is now changing, and this affects the customer – positively or negatively – now is a good time to advise them of this.

As discussed in this post on communicating in a crisis, brevity is the watch word. Give people the information succinctly and end it there. That said, remember to think about your tone of voice. People still need to be supported at this time, so don’t just give information coldly.

Here’s a suggested structure on how you might notify a customer of a change of service delivery:

  1. Warm introduction
  2. Statement of changes
  3. Information on how the change affects the customer
  4. Avenue for questions
  5. Warm sign off

An example:

Dear Paul,

How are you doing? I know that it’s still a very challenging time for people and I want you to know that we are doing everything we can to support our customers.

Last night, the UK government updated its advice on working practices. We have been working hard to keep delivering our services in a way that is safe for you, our customer, and our staff. I’m pleased to tell you that we are now able to offer our full range of products without coming into physical contact with you or each other.

This means that you can now order anything from our website with the confidence that it is safe for us and you. But, because we’re taking extra precautions, our delivery time is slightly longer than normal. I hope you understand the need to do this and can support us in our quest to get things moving once again.

Our customer services team is ready to answer any questions you may have, at any stage of the order and delivery process. Simply email customer@company.com or call 0800 000 0000 and a member of my team will help.

Thank you for your time and patience. We can’t wait to serve and help you. Stay safe and well.

Unlike the example, be as specific as you can, naming goods and services that are affected.

These sorts of messages look best when it is sent from a senior member of the team, in this case either a CEO/COO or equivalent. Make the customer feel connected with the leadership or figurehead, it makes them feel (rightly) important.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be long. You can follow up with additional messages as you develop your operation/service delivery.

It may help you to have a template that you can use if you are likely to communicate on a regular basis as the situation changes. We’ve found that having a simple template that looks very similar to a standard email, without the fluffy stuff like pictures, works best.

We’ve had great feedback from our clients on this approach, so we created a new temporary service for anyone needing a hand with their email communications with their customers and clients.

Please visit our site here to find out more.

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