So, we are well underway into reactions to Coronavirus, and they run the gamut. From people who are feeling like this is the end of the world, to those who feel it’s a completely overblown hoax, this is something we will all feel the impact of no matter what.
So, let’s talk about our new world and how it may affect your business, internally and externally. Communications experts advise to always act first, then communicate. This doesn’t mean to react irrationally, but to have a plan in place to manage what is a crisis for so many. It also doesn’t mean that communication is a distant second. In fact, if you’ve already had a plan in place even before this health scare erupted, you should have jumped on the chance early and often to reach out and reassure your customers.
If not, if you have clients, I am hoping by now, you have communicated with each one of them about what you are doing to maintain service to mitigate any disruptions. There have been many emails I’ve received from various businesses over the past week, and I want to highlight what the best included:
• What changes are you making to keep your customers safe (cleaning procedures)
• What changes will impact your customers, at least temporarily? Hours? Scheduled events?
• How will these changes impact how you continue service?
I found the more detail I got from a company, the more confident I felt in their interest in ME as a customer. I also felt they were better organized and prepared to handle any obstacles, meaning my service wouldn’t be disrupted. Can you say the same thing about whatever you have shared with your customers?
• Acknowledgement of their customers’ well-being
• Understanding of how this crisis may inconvenience them
• Emotion - authentic emotion
I’ve talked a lot about being real, and in any crisis, reaching customers with an authentic message that places their concerns ahead of your company’s bottom line, cannot be understated. Many companies that have endured bad press or negative situations can actually rebound within a year to levels beyond where they were when the crisis first struck. However, that wasn’t just due to a good action plan. It was the result of connecting on a personal and emotional level to their customers to essentially say, “We understand your concerns, we hear you, and we care about you.”
In this facet, staying in contact with multiple channels and over a period of time is key. In particular, a video using a trustworthy spokesperson or even the CEO can serve to put a face and humanity into an organization. If you are a salesperson with your own clients, you may want to defer to a main message from your owner or CEO, but then follow up with a phone call to deepen the personal touch.
Points of Contact
• Email addresses
• Phone numbers
The best communication is never one-sided. Once you have determined what your message to your clients is, and you send it to them, please let them know that you, too, will listen to them if they have questions. Offer telephone numbers, perhaps even an online Q and A through a live chat on Facebook or in a Webinar if the issues are more complex. With Coronavirus in particular, crisis situations are often very fluid, and keeping an ongoing conversation going with your customers is key to maintaining the relationship.
Admittedly, I don’t think anyone was quite prepared for the disruption Coronavirus seems to be causing. However, you should also look at this as an opportunity to build your relationships, build trust and build confidence between you and your customers. Just like friendships, it’s the people who have our back and stick around through the dark times that reveal who are true friends really are.
When the time comes that we are looking back on this, then, you will find your business in better health than it ever has been.