As businesses adjust to new operations and social distancing guidelines are modified, companies will be eager to jumpstart communications in an effort to make up for lost time. While this desire is justifiable, crises of this magnitude require specific strategies to ensure the right messages are delivered at the right time. To help companies prevent their messaging from missing the mark, here are four recommendations to effectively communicate with customers in a world forever changed by COVID-19.
The tone in which you communicate with your customer base determines whether your message is positively received or viewed as opportunistic. Forbes.com notes that it’s important to pivot messaging so that it aligns more closely with what consumers are thinking, feeling and needing during this time so that your company doesn’t come across as tone-deaf. To do this, any communications related to the current pandemic, whether internal or external, should go through stringent filters to ensure it’s appropriate. A good exercise to engage in before distributing or posting any crisis-related content, especially to social media, is to imagine how your post or headline would appear sandwiched between two urgent local or national COVID-19 updates. If your message seems disjointed or insensitive in any way, it probably is.
It’s also important to remember that everything you put out during this time must be intentional. When communicating with your customers, don’t just check the box. Let them know that you are thinking strategically, and are doing everything you can to be there for them during this time. Consider forgoing that extra eblast this month if the content is pure promotion and don’t capitalize on the current pandemic as a sales tool. BusinessInsider.com notes that this is a time to be exceedingly human—if you try to skip past empathy, you’ll only make things worse.
COMMUNICATE PRECAUTIONS BEING TAKEN
All industries have been impacted by COVID-19 and the subsequent, yet vital social distancing measures enacted as a result. Because of this, it’s unrealistic and inauthentic to try and pretend like everything is business as usual. FastCompany.com notes that now, more than ever, companies must be transparent and should actually overcommunicate with customers by clearly detailing the plans put in place to address the situation.
Try your best to provide your customers with clear, concise information on how you are putting their safety and the safety of their families first. The more information you can share on how you’ve adjusted your standard protocols in light of COVID-19 to protect both customers and employees, the safer they will feel in proceeding with necessary appointments and treatments.
To do this, many companies are turning towards virtual consultations, as they are a great way to address any non-urgent pest problems your customers might be having. Free conferencing platforms like Zoom are easy to use and enable you to save the videos and transcripts for future reference. For problems that require a pest control professional to come on-site, explain to your customers the precautions you and your technicians are taking, and specify what you need them to do in preparation to ensure everyone’s safety.
STAY TUNED IN TO LOCAL NEWS
In situations like these, staying up-to-date on local news is imperative. Your customers want to know that your company is fully aware of what is happening in the community, so if for example there is an uptick in reported cases in your area, communicate how your company will adjust its services to be mindful of any new regulations put in place as a result. The more you can establish your company as a go-to resource for honest and timely information, the more trusted you will become.
Another way to connect with your customer base on a more personal and long-lasting level is to get involved in helping the community. A poll of consumers conducted by market research company, Morning Consult, found that doing nothing in response to the COVID-19 crisis signals insensitivity, lack of concern and inflexibility, and that while companies aren’t getting blamed for the situation we’re in, society expects them to be part of the solution.
To get involved and also create a way for customers to help give back, designate a charity to contribute to or host a food drive for a local food bank. We all want to help in some way during this time, and by offering an avenue for your customers to safely get involved, the sense of pride you’ll help engender will only fortify your relationship with them in the future.
While it’s hard to fathom a more trying time than this, crises both big and small can affect your business at any moment, making preparation crucial to weathering any storm. Inc.com notes that being prepared to address a challenge quickly in a crisis is the key to maintaining trust, so take stock of how your company was able to respond during the COVID-19 pandemic and evaluate areas that can be strengthened ahead of time to mitigate roadblocks in the future.
One way to ensure your company can deliver a succinct and timely response to a potential crisis is to designate someone on your staff to handle all crisis-related communications. By determining who will fill that role now, you’ll avoid the dangerous situation of having to make those decisions in real time, delaying your company’s response.
It’s also important to make sure your customers have a way to easily contact you in an emergency. This can range from enabling notifications on your social media pages so that you can monitor messages in real time, to outsourcing your call center to companies so that someone can be reached 24/7.
While it’s hard to predict the full extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic will change our lives moving forward, companies have a direct hand in what happens to their businesses as a result. By ensuring company messaging is sensitive and appropriate, clearly communicating with your customer base, focusing on your local community and preparing for what lies ahead, your company will be better prepared to communicate with customers as we reemerge from this crisis.
Cindy Mannes is the executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance. Visit www.npmapestworld.org/ppma for more information on how you can become involved.