How should businesses communicate to customers?

As lockdown measures in the UK continue to ease, many businesses have begun to speculate what the post-Covid19 landscape may look like. As experts estimate that China is roughly 4 weeks ahead of the UK with regards to the pandemic impact, we can look at their business recovery rates, for some direction of what to expect. As it stands, early signs reference a u-shaped recovery. Which suggests a lingering effect over the coming months before trade returns to pre-Covid19 numbers. Throughout this lingering effect, it’ll be vital for businesses to communicate with their customers in a bid to remain top of mind.

The pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainty leaving many individuals experiencing both health and financial anxiety, it’s essential that businesses get their communication right. Afterall, brands want to be top of mind for the right reasons. So while customer safety will remain the priority for the majority of businesses, the question remains how and when is it appropriate for businesses to start communicating with customers after Covid-19? To assist, we’ve highlighted some important considerations to ensure customer communications are effective, while remaining sensitive to the situation at hand.


Provide open, transparent updates

As the UK is still in the earliest stages of recovery, there are still a lot of unknowns and decisions which remain dependent on external data. As such, even decisions around businesses reopening can be overturned to ensure public safety. For example, on 30th June 2020, after what was described as a “surge in coronavirus cases”, the city of Leicester was the first UK city to announce a “local lockdown”. The tightening of restrictions has meant that non-essential shops have had to shut once again. As this situation is unprecedented, it’s important to remember that customers aren’t expecting businesses to have all the answers. Businesses should be truthful about what they don’t know. By providing open and transparent updates, businesses can build customer trust and ensure messaging remains consistent.


Assess what your customers need right now

By assessing what customers need right now, businesses can provide resources which are responsive and informative to ensure clients are properly supported. For example, at the beginning of lockdown, Hubspot reported that while sales decreased, website traffic actually increased, particularly to their educational resources. This suggests that even in the earliest stages of lockdown, customers still wanted to engage with brands, but they were simply more interested in learning and education.

Furthermore, in a bid to boost customer engagement while adapting to the current landscape, many businesses have invested in creating content which is focused on providing better value to current customers, rather than attracting new leads. As Hope Horner, CEO of Lemonlight explains – “The biggest shift for our marketing team was related to the content we were publishing and sharing. Overnight, nearly all of the content we had written became irrelevant or tone-deaf.”

By focusing communications to deliver what customers need now, businesses are much more likely to hit the right note.


Get customers excited about your reopening

In a recent study published by YouGov, adults in the UK were surveyed to see how comfortable they would feel returning to businesses with a physical premise. For example shops, hairdressers, bars and cafes. For some, figures were notably low – only 37% of recipients would feel comfortable returning to a restaurant, and just 32% returning to a beauty or nail salon. Thus for some businesses, simply opening the doors again may not be enough to see customers flood back. While it’s crucial businesses communicate the measures taken to make the premises safe for both customers and staff, it’s also important to try and create an authentic buzz around your reopening. For this, businesses could try introducing special offers or even organising a small gesture to thank customers for returning. For example a free goodie bag for the first 50 customers.


Communication channel is key

When creating a communication strategy, businesses need to consider what communication channels they are going to use. While we would always recommend utilising multiple channels, it’s important to note that in recent years, SMS has become an increasingly accepted choice for brands interacting with consumers. So much so, that 74% of individuals report an increased impression of a brand who communicates with them via text message. Furthermore, as back-to-business will be a priority for many companies right now, many businesses will be communicating with consumers. So it’s important to ensure business communications aren’t lost among the sea of other brands. Since consumers are 35 times more likely to see a brand’s SMS than their email, utilising text messaging could really help boost planned campaigns.

Moreover, when you use SMS you are sending messages directly to people’s mobile phone, which on average they pick up 58 times a day. So it is a great choice for communicating time sensitive messages, for instance time-bound offers during the first week of business reopening.


Consider opportunities for virtual interaction

During lockdown some businesses were able to get innovative, and respond to the pandemic digitally. For example, beauticians introduced online consultations so they could send customers specialised facial kits, agencies pivoted annual conferences to take place completely online and many businesses either created or enhanced their eCommerce offering. As some customers may not feel comfortable returning to a brick-and-mortar premise and once open, many businesses will need to adhere to reduced capacity restrictions, it makes sense for businesses to consider or continue communicating opportunities for customers to virtually interact. Exactly what form these virtual interactions will take, will largely depend on the business and industry, but it’s worthwhile getting creative; particularly as this could create a new revenue stream.

There is no questioning the economic impact of the pandemic, but businesses must decide how they will evolve to move forward safely. As trade settles during this uncertain time, it’s crucial businesses are able to effectively communicate with their customers. As those that do, place themselves in the best position for success. After all, there can be no business without customers.

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