Social distancing presents obvious challenges for small businesses. So many customer interactions take place face-to-face—and with people hunkering down and staying (mostly) at home, it’s important for small businesses to shift gears, adjust to the current climate, and find new ways to drive business and connect with their customers.
In the time of the coronavirus outbreak and social distancing, it’s more important than ever to find a balance between taking care of your business and protecting your customers. But how, exactly, do you do that?
Let’s take a look at how to connect with your customers, instill a sense of trust in your business, and drive orders during COVID-19 social distancing:
Clue your customers in on your safety and hygiene practices
Give customers an in-depth look at the steps you’re taking to maintain a clean, hygienic work environment—and keep both your customers and your team safe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets that can be transmitted from person-to-person (for example, when someone coughs or sneezes), which is why social distancing is so important.
But the CDC has also found that coronavirus can be spread through contact with a contaminated surface. Which is why, if you want your customers to continue doing business with you during this challenging time, you have to inform them of the steps you’re taking to practice proper hygiene, stop the spread of the coronavirus, and keep them safe from any potential exposure.
For example, if you own a restaurant, make a video that shows how you disinfect your kitchen and the protective gear your staff wears in order to stop any potential contamination. If you own a hotel, write an in-depth guide on how you’re cleaning rooms in between visitors and keeping common areas clean and safe (for example, by wiping down high-trafficked areas and installing hand sanitizer stations at various entry points)—and then post the guide on your homepage or FAQs. If you’re shipping products to your customers’ doors, share information on how you’re minimizing the staff that handles each package—and making sure to disinfect the products before they’re shipped out.
Whatever your business model, walk your customers through every step you’re taking to put their safety first and practice proper hygiene; the more confident they feel with your practices, the more safe they’ll feel continuing to do business with you.
Forge a personal connection on social media
Thanks to technology you have an opportunity to forge new connections with your customers—even when you can’t do business face-to-face. Use your social media platforms to connect with your audience and strengthen your relationships with your customers.
For example, take extra time to respond to your customers’ tweets and answer any questions about how the coronavirus and social distancing is going to change the way they interact with your business. Post regularly and keep your customers in the loop on what’s going on with your business and any changes they can expect. Hop on Facebook Live or Instagram Stories to show your customers how you’re dealing with the situation, both as an individual and as a business—and forge a more personal, “face-to-face” connection. Offer incentives to your social media followers to help drive orders (for example, coupon codes for discounted shipping)—and then track those codes to see which platforms are actually driving business.
The point is, now is the time to be putting your time and resources into social media. Social media offers an ideal opportunity for SMBs to connect and strengthen their relationships with their customers and continue to drive business activity—even as social distancing is forcing more and more people into their homes.
Drive awareness around non-contact options
If, prior to social distancing, most of your customer interactions took place in person, your customers might not even be aware that there are other ways to do business with you.
And that’s why you need to tell them.
Driving awareness around non-contact options—like delivery, takeout, pickup, or shipping—is a must if you want to keep orders going during the COVID-19 outbreak. Send out an email to your customers letting them know what their options are. Outline your non-contact options on your homepage and social media profiles. If possible, offer incentives to encourage customers to leverage your non-contact options and continue placing orders (for example, by waiving delivery fees).
People are respecting social distancing and avoiding in-person business interactions. So, if you want your business to continue to thrive in the time of coronavirus, it’s important to let your customers know their options for doing business with you—no contact or in-person interactions necessary.
Pivot your strategies to adjust to the social distancing climate
Pivot your business by shifting strategy to work in concert with the current climate. The slightest change in service delivery can make easier sustaining customer relationships easier and keep your business humming along.
This is the first time in over a century that society has dealt with this kind of pandemic—and many companies weren’t prepared for how the coronavirus pandemic would change the way they do business.
But just because your business wasn’t planning for this doesn’t mean it can’t adjust. It just means you’ll need to pivot your business strategies to succeed in the current climate.
For example, let’s say you own a coffee shop that is typically bustling with remote workers throughout the day. As social distancing is causing more people to work from home, you could shift your business model and offer pickup or drive-through coffee service each morning. Or maybe you run a popular pizza delivery service. Instead of handing off pizzas directly to your customers, let them know you’ll be leaving the pizzas on their doorsteps to minimize the face-to-face contact and potential coronavirus exposure. Or maybe you own a restaurant that people flock to on Friday and Saturday nights. Instead of advertising your dinner services, try focusing on gift cards that people can use after this period of social distancing.
Bottom line? The strategies that were working for your business even a few weeks ago might not be relevant today—so it’s important to adapt and pivot your strategies to adjust during COVID-19 social distancing.
Practice compassion—not pushiness
In times of uncertainty, your customers will be looking to their local businesses for reassurance, consistency, and compassion. This is not a time for hard sales tactics. While you can definitely offer your customers a variety of incentives and options to help drive business, going for the hard sale or using aggressive sales strategies is likely to come across as callous and insensitive.
So, if you want your customers to continue to support your business as we move through the novel coronavirus crisis, it’s important to practice compassion—and not pushiness.
Take care of your business and your customers
There’s no denying that this is a challenging time—for individuals and businesses alike. But with the right precautions and strategies, you can protect your team, your business, and your customers—and keep your business moving forward during the coronavirus pandemic.
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.