COVID-19: How to stay in touch with customers during the crisis
With the social distancing measures taken to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, most entrepreneurs have lost the ability to meet with clients face-to-face.
In this new reality, phone calls, social media and a website might be the only way you have to stay in touch with customers. Making sure that you are using these tools effectively is probably more important than it’s ever been.
“This is an opportunity to rethink your marketing,” says Françoise Sonnet, a BDC business advisor. “Many businesses have not fully mastered online marketing. It’s a good time to put these tools to full use and maintain these habits for the long term.”
“Digital marketing should figure as one of your top marketing tools as it offers the best return on investment and measurements possibilities.”
Sonnet, who helps entrepreneurs develop their sales and marketing strategies, offers the following advice for entrepreneurs who want to stay in touch with their customers during the current crisis.
Inform clients of changes to your business
In a crisis, the first thing to do is to inform customers of changes to your normal operations. If you haven’t already done so, use your website and social media channels to inform clients of:
- Changes to your locations and opening hours.
The availability of your products and services:
- Are delivery timelines changing?
- Are you discontinuing the sale of certain products for the time being?
- Are products out of stock?
- Are services being delivered in a different way?
- Are product launches being delayed?
- Events cancellations.
- What your company is doing to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Sonnet says she’s seen businesses that haven’t communicated anything to their clients. This has a potential to create uncertainty and confusion for clients.
“If you are accepting orders that you can’t produce or fulfill, it’s going to cause disappointment for clients,” she says. “Your current level of operation needs to be communicated on your web site. Create a link or add a ‘COVID’ button at the top of your homepage.”
It’s also a good idea to update your opening hours and other information on platforms such as Google My Business, your Facebook page or Yelp. Many people now turn to those platforms to get their information.
Stay active on social media
Once you’ve communicated basic operational changes, remain active on social media or increase your publication rhythm, especially if you are closed temporarily.
If you’re not sure what to publish, consider sharing positive news from other companies or organizations in your community.
“Social media is a great opportunity to create a deeper relationship with clients and boost your visibility,” says Sonnet.
She adds that it’s important to publish on multiple social media platforms to have as wide a reach as possible.
Contact your top customers directly
Customer segmentation can be a useful tool in deciding where to put your energy. A small percentage of your clientele likely produce the bulk of your profits. This is referred to as the 20/80 rule (20% of clients produce 80% of results).
Reach out to top clients directly through email or by phone to ask if they are doing well and ask how you can help.
“Listen to your customers and try to understand their needs,” says Sonnet. “It’s time to pick up the phone, but not to sell. Listen to their concerns. Have an open conversation, because everyone is in need right now.”
If clients are in trouble do you best to review current policies and consider offering changes such as:
- allowing cancellations
- offering reimbursements
- extending payment terms to customers you trust
Consider the financial implications of these changes carefully, but also think of your long-term relationship with the client.
“This is a time to stand together,” says Sonnet. “If you see that one of your clients needs something, try to put them in touch with other people in your network who might be able to help. You might not make a sale, but they’ll remember that you helped them when they needed it.”
Build out your online presence
If you have a bit more time on your hand, the current situation is a good opportunity to evolve your online presence.
For example, you can consider creating a newsletter to regularly send out useful information to clients and prospects.
You can also publish blogs or create an eBook explaining your products or services, and request the collaboration of your employees (for blogs and social channels). This is especially relevant if you can provide advice to clients concerning the current situation.
Finally, it can be a good opportunity to work on your search engine optimization (SEO). If you do not know how to do that, some web agencies offer low-cost SEO services. It will give short and long-term results.
“Businesses are rapidly changing their way of doing things. They are turning to e-commerce; you can buy snow crab or handicrafts online now,” says Sonnet.
“Some of these things are going to remain after the crisis has passed. You are better off doing it now than waiting for the moment to pass.”