How To Communicate To Customers About Covid-19 And Your Business.
Updated: Mar 15, 2020
For many small businesses, there is a sense of unrest.
When it comes to the Covid-19 health situation there is a fear of not knowing the impact this could have on small businesses across many industries. The swift response to the Federal Government's advice to ban events with over 500 attendees has seen unprecedented closures, sports games played behind closed doors and supplies delayed and stores out of stock.
And whilst we don’t know when business will return to normal at this present time, whether your business is open, having to close or online there are plenty of ways to keep customer trust and loyalty during this time. There are also ways to protect you and your business should clients cancel or reschedule due to the current situation.
Please note: The following is a guide on how to communicate to your customers effectively. If you DO have to deal with Covid-19 directly through your business, it is important to speak to the proper authorities for their recommendations and advice on this health matter and tailor your response and plan accordingly.
COMMUNICATE YOUR PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES
It is important to let your followers and customer base know how your business will deal with the current situation.
An important announcement highlighting this and published on your website, as an email and/ or on your social media is a good way to do this.
In this announcement you should highlight the following:
That your business continues to stay up to date and monitor the situation and announcements by health professionals and the government.
What your business will do during this time. Will it be operating as normal? Will it be on reduced hours? Will there be limits to what people can and can’t do? Will you be closing? Will you be available online?
Highlight the importance of your customer's safety and what precautionary measures your business will be undertaking during this time. Will staff be wearing masks? Will you be cancelling close interactions for a period? Will you be increasing cleaning schedules? Will there be hand sanitizer available to the public? Will your team be requesting card-only for payments? Share your industry health practices and guidelines to reiterate your standards and protocols.
If your business is online what practices will you be ensuring that their products will arrive safely and germ-free? If you handle food, what other measures are you taking to make sure their food isn’t contaminated. If your business is informative, particularly when it comes to the event industry and the many cancellations, what are you doing to make sure your business remains up to date for readers?
If necessary, remind customers of any policies for cancellations if you have them in contracts and have them contact you for any further queries they might have or if you are offering anything to make their lives easier during a time of uncertainty such as waivers, discounts or special offers.
Encourage customers to self-isolate if they feel unwell, have travelled overseas over the past few weeks or have been in contact with someone who is diagnosed with the virus until they are cleared by their health professional. Also encourage them to wash their hands to stop the spread of any potential germs. Enforce a no service policy if a customer is unwell to protect yourself, staff and other customers, if necessary.
Highlight that you are following the advice of the health departments as you are not a health expert and that you encourage anyone who would like more information on protecting themselves to read the current health department updates. Insert any appropriate links to help them find this easily.
Always remember to thank your customers for their patience and cooperation during a time of uncertainty and that the support is always valued.
CREATE A RESPONSE PLAN
In the case of the Covid-19 outbreak, there are a lot of things out of our business’ control. For example, trusting that our customers are healthy when meeting in person.
However it’s always a good idea to have a response plan ready for Social Media.
Create a questions and answers guide so that should you be asked questions online you can answer them efficiently. Already you have outlined the measures you are taking in your announcement but this is a good opportunity to do the following:
Highlight in detail what you are doing or using to maintain a high level of hygiene and cleanliness. Any other processes you might be adding to your cleaning practices.
Should a customer be diagnosed after attending your venue, what the protocol will be.
How you will tell customers of any situations that might arise from a diagnosed customer.
If you or any staff member might contract the virus, how you will inform customers and what will happen.
If your store needs to close due to lockdown or public bans, what does this mean for scheduled bookings, refunds and those who have paid for products?
Will you be offering any virtual services and if so how can they book online?
A proposed timeline that you hope to have business back to normal, pending advice from authorities.
If a client cancels a booking or purchase are they in breach of any policies?
Will there be any refunds or reprieve given by your business in light of the situation.
If a staff member or customer has contracted Covid-19, discuss with authorities the recommended steps to inform customers correctly about the situation. Remember to highlight the following to stay informative and keep customers as calm as possible:
Identify the level of risk the customer in your store may have posed. In many cases the risk will be low.
Inform staff and customers who might have been in the store during the time and after.
Encourage anyone who was in the store during that time who might feel unwell within the next two weeks to contact their health practitioner.
Based on information from authorities, state the risk to customers who weren’t in the store during that time and what the store will be doing to ensure customer’s safety.
Reiterate self-isolation for anyone feeling unwell and direct them as per your original statement to the relevant publications and updates for further information.
Wish the customer and their family well through what is no doubt a difficult and stressful period and thank other customers for their cooperation during this time.
If this incident occurs and a statement needs released to customers, there might be negative or provocative comments left by other followers or customers. There is also a chance that the post could be shared and go viral. It is important to watch your social media and maintain your stance on the situation whilst communicating honestly and as transparent as possible.
POST AS USUAL
Continue to post for your business as you would any other week.
Just because things are in lockdown, whether your business is open or not you don’t want to hurt your chances of reach online if you have been quiet through the ordeal.
Increase your chances of securing business during this time, but be aware that the impact of this could be felt for many months to come once things return to normal.
If people are in lockdown one of two things can happen depending on your demographic – Social Media use will go up due to people having more time on their hands or Social Media use will decline because the kids are at home and therefore parents' time online will be limited.
Give your business the opportunity to still be seen regardless of whether there is a drop or increase in reach and engagement. After all, if we are all in lockdown then we all have similar stories to share and resonate with.
As mentioned there is a fear of the unknown with this situation. This is is something that has never happened before and we are all taking it one day at a time. A strong communication plan such as the guide above will help to ensure your customers feel comfortable and supportive during a time where they might be tightening their spending due to the unknown. It will also ensure that during this Covid-19 situation or after it, they will see you as a trusting business to support for many years to come.
Finally we leave you with this, in a time such as this, it’s important to stay vigilant of the potential impact this could have on your business and industry, support your local small businesses as much as you can and take care of each other as well as yourself.
We will get through this time of uncertainty better, if we do it together.
Please note: The following is a guide on how to communicate to your customers effectively. If you DO have to deal with Covid-19 directly through your business, it is important to speak to the proper authorities for their recommendations and advice on this health matter and tailor your response and plan as needed. For more information on Covid-19 please visit https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/coronavirus or your States' health information.