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The coronavirus pandemic is challenging for any business to navigate—but it can be especially challenging if your business relies on face-to-face interactions with your customers. As the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to recommend social distancing, businesses in retail, hospitality, and professional services are having to develop real-time strategies to make sure their locations and business operations are safe for both their employees and their customers.
But how do you communicate those strategies to your customers, make sure they know their safety is your priority, and assure them that you have the proper precautions in place to protect them and their family members?
Publish a post showing your commitment to stopping the spread of COVID-19
Write a post directed towards your customers to let them know
you’re committed to keeping them safe, stopping the spread of the coronavirus, and continuing to support them and the community. Because, while not all your customers are business owners, they are all confronting coronavirus the same uncertainty as you.
In the past, many businesses made the decision not to comment on current events or politics. And, in the past, that may have been the right choice.
But saying “no comment” to the COVID-19 outbreak just isn’t an option. Right now, your customers are looking for reassurance. And if you don’t offer that reassurance, chances are, they’re not going to feel comfortable doing business with you.
Let your customers know the steps you’re taking to comply with recommendations from the federal government, state Department of Health, and key health officials (for example, by moving your restaurant operations to takeout or delivery only or cancelling events of 50+ people) and that you’ll keep them up-to-date if and when anything changes. Post that response on your website, on your social media channels, and anywhere else your customers might encounter your brand.
Bottom line? The first step of an effective COVID-19 communications plan is to get the message out—and get the message out now.
Share a detailed plan with your customers of how you’re keeping your workplace safe
Letting your customers know you’re committed to fighting the spread of the novel coronavirus is a great first step. But it’s not enough to tell them—you have to show them.
Put together a comprehensive response plan that breaks down exactly how you’re keeping your workplace safe for your patrons and employees—and then share that response plan with your customers. For example, are you adding hand sanitizer stations at each entrance to your building and making sure each staff member practices proper handwashing on an hourly basis? Are you sanitizing and disinfecting all products and packaging before you ship them to your customers? Are you minimizing close contact with high risk communities—and instead, offering alternatives like delivery?
In order for your customers to feel safe interacting with your business, they need to know what you’re doing to protect them, your team, and public health in general. Make sure you share as much detail as possible; the more they know about what you’re doing to keep your workplace safe, the safer they’ll feel engaging with you during this time.
Offer alternative services—and make sure to remind your customers those services are available
Make changes to your service offerings clear to your customers. In order to stop the spread of coronavirus, we need to minimize in-person interactions—and obviously, that may change the services you offer to your customers. But if your customers don’t know about these changes, they won’t know to take advantage of them—and they may stop doing business with you altogether as a result.
Let your customers know how you’re pivoting your business strategy in order to better serve them during this challenging time. For example, maybe your restaurant was previously a dine-in only establishment—but now you’re moving to delivery and takeout until further notice. Or maybe your retail business was strictly brick and mortar—but now you’re focusing on e-commerce to allow your customers to shop online and get the products they need without coming into your store.
Many businesses are changing and adapting the way they serve their customers during the time of coronavirus disease—and if you’re one of those businesses, it’s important to clue your customers in to those changes.
Accommodate special requirements from your customers as necessary
The world is in a state of emergency. A lot of people are scared right now. And for some, what they need to feel safe might fall outside of the boundaries of what you typically offer in your business.
But if there was ever a time to make special considerations and accommodations for your customers, that time is now.
For example, you might typically require your customers to sign their receipt when they order food for delivery. But if a customer isn’t comfortable opening the door or interacting with your delivery person, let it slide. Or let’s say you typically ask for cash or a credit card as payment. If your customers want to pay via Venmo or PayPal because it’s easier, more convenient, and requires less personal interaction, make an exception and accept a digital payment.
The point is, your customers might need extra accommodations to feel safe right now—and, as a business, it’s important for you to show them you take their safety and well-being seriously and make those accommodations whenever possible.
Offer real-time updates through social media, email, and your website
The coronavirus outbreak is an evolving situation. As new cases of COVID-19 are confirmed and the country faces more school closures, events canceling, and a shift to our day-to-day interactions and way of life, it’s important to keep your customers in the loop on how those changes impact your business.
As we learn more about the novel coronavirus, send regular updates to your customers to let them know how you’re evolving your business operations to meet their needs and comply with all public health recommendations. Update your website regularly. Post on social media on a daily basis to let them know you’re open for business, how you’re operating (for example, delivery only), and how they can get in touch with you. Send regular email blasts to keep your most loyal customers in the know with what’s happening with your company, including any changes to business operations. The more regular, detailed, and up-to-date information you can share with your customers, the better.
The coronavirus situation is changing rapidly. And because your business will probably need to change rapidly right along with it, it’s important to stay in regular contact with your customers—and communicate any and all changes to your business and the services you provide as they happen.
Let your customers know workplace safety is a priority
It’s never been more important to show your customers that you take workplace safety seriously—and that their health and safety is your priority. And with the right communications plan, you can communicate that sentiment to your customers—and make sure they feel safe continuing to do business with you as we move through this challenging time.
For real-time coronavirus updates, check the World Health Organization website, which is being updated on a rolling basis. For updates on coronavirus cases in the United States, check the CDC website, which is updated weekdays at noon. For updates on your local area, check your individual state health department website.