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4 tips on communicating with customers during a crisis

COVID-19 was an unforeseen game-changer that’s upended how we spend our downtime and how we work. This sort of tectonic shift in personal and professional livelihoods requires businesses to reshape not only their operating methods but also—and perhaps more importantly—the way they communicate with prospects and customers. This extends beyond minor messaging tweaks to your marketing messaging. It involves cross-functional adjustments among your public relations, marketing, IT, field operations, corporate responsibility, logistics, supply, and customer service teams.

Here are four communication tips to keep in mind when communicating to your customers during times of crisis:

1. Use empathy

Expressing genuine empathy to customers and prospects is crucial when communicating amid any crisis, including the current pandemic. People strive to connect with others during stressful times, and the isolative nature of this public health crisis only serves to amplify this effect. Whether it’s one-on-one conversations between employees and customers or a social media campaign that targets the masses, make sure you’re communicating a clear understanding of the impact this crisis has on your customer(s) and the resources you’re making available to them. Conveying this genuine concern and empathy encourages positive and engaging responses from customers. What’s more, this is a great opportunity to introduce how your product or service can alleviate some of your customers’ challenges and grow their business during a stressful time.

2. Be proactive

In addition to conveying empathy and understanding, make sure your brand is communicating proactively! This tip is particularly crucial for marketing and teams responsible for crafting public messaging but should also be heeded by sales and service teams. By communicating how your business is responding to the crisis along with the resources you’re making available, you’ll delight your audience while saving time otherwise spent by employees having to answer the same incoming questions. Make sure to craft messaging that’s suitable for multiple channels (e.g. email, text messaging, social posts, IVR systems, banners/headlines, chatbots, website homepages, and landing pages, etc.).

3. Consider content

Revisit your content calendars and queues and consider changing things up. Previously scheduled communications and promotions were crafted without consideration to an ongoing worldwide crisis. Leaving auto-generating content queues or planned content calendars unaltered puts your business at risk of coming across as insensitive, misinformed, or perhaps attempting to capitalize on the current atmosphere. Ensure your messaging and tone reflects the sensitivity and strain the crisis inflicts on your audience.

Additionally, ensure your audiences are aware of any initiatives your business is or plans to undergo in response to the crisis. With regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen this take form in many ways, such as grocery stores dedicating time exclusively for elderly and at-risk shoppers and pharmacies halting fees for medication delivery services.

4. Collaborate often

Earlier, we mentioned your cross-functional crisis response requiring adjustments to nearly every department across your organization. Therefore, it’s important to solicit feedback from high-level employees on your public relations, marketing, IT, field operations, corporate responsibility, logistics, supply, and customer service teams. Collaboration is critical to effective crisis response and messaging. Therefore, you should consider comprising a response taskforce with these high-level employees along with members of leadership. This taskforce can create a formalized response strategy purposed with guiding employees and their respective roles. This plan should include all the elements of your response along with who’s responsible for their implementation and execution.

Collaboration and business planning looks very different during this pandemic than it would under normal circumstances.



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