Jessica Spaulding, Owner, Harlem Chocolate Factory, Chase for Business customer

How to Talk to Customers During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape the way we live and work, uncertainty has become a universal experience. That creates both a challenge and an opportunity for business owners who are grappling with how to communicate with customers.

Regardless of what type of business you own, your customers probably have concerns about health and safety right now. According to a recent McKinsey survey of U.S. consumers, 64 percent of respondents have felt depressed, anxious or both over the past several weeks. 1

Any communication from your business should take this into account. Pay close attention to tone and intention. Demonstrate empathy. In a time of heightened anxiety, customers may be extra sensitive to messages that come across as disconnected from their current reality.  

Here are seven communication tips to help you strengthen relationships with existing and prospective customers while they’re coping with COVID-19.

1. Put health and safety first.

Your communications should emphasize what you’re doing to keep customers safe. If you have a storefront, put physical-distancing reminders on the floor. If your business provides professional services, consider creating a COVID-19 resource center on your website. Anything that communicates to customers that you’re taking safety seriously will be appreciated.  

2. Stay current.

The things your customers need from you now are different from what they needed before the pandemic. Needs will continue to evolve as stay-at-home orders lift—and beyond. Before communicating with your customers, make sure the information you’re sharing is current and considers the latest federal, state and local guidance.

3. Help customers solve problems.

With so many changes to how society is—or isn’t—functioning, every business can now be in the business of public service. Customers don’t want to just buy a toothbrush from you; they want to learn how to maintain dental hygiene when they can’t visit the dentist. They don’t want to buy a new car; they want to know how to keep their current car running. How can your business help make life easier for your customers?

4. Share your purpose.

In times of uncertainty, people look for solid ground. They are drawn to stories that communicate stability and fortitude. Now is a good time to share with customers why you started your business, how you’ve weathered challenges in the past and how you’re applying those lessons to the current moment.

5. Communicate from the inside out.

Let your customers know how you’re taking care of your employees during the pandemic. This speaks to the way you treat people and the kind of business you run. People want to support businesses that prioritize human connection and cultivate a sense of belonging.

6. Be upfront about money matters.

If your business operates on a retainer or subscription model, be proactive about letting customers know how these arrangements are being handled. Questions about refunds, credits, gift certificates or any other payment issues should be addressed head-on. Being forthright and flexible in tough times helps cement long-term customer relationships. 

7. Get to the point.

This unprecedented experience has sent many people into a state of information overload. Be judicious about what and when you communicate. Be concise in your messaging. Focus only on what your customers need to know. 

 

Uncertain times present an opportunity to create a sense of community and connection with your customers. It all starts with communication. 

1.The survey was conducted online between March 16 and 17, 2020, and included 979 U.S. residents.

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