• Prolay Chaudhury

How to Communicate With Customers During Times of Crisis

Here are five tips to help you formulate a plan that communicates the impact of a situation and next-steps to your customers.

Show that you care. People seek connection during times of uncertainty. Companies in our communities play a role in this. Consider a message to customers to show you’re aware of the issue and offer helpful resources. Social media, email, or your online community are particularly accessible mediums for a brief and immediate message.

Be proactive in your communications. Your customers count on you even more than usual during a crisis. Proactively announce changes or impacts to your business. Do not make customers hunt for the information they need – instead, bring it to them. Proactive communication will free up staff to focus on tasks other than answering the same customer questions over and over again.

Create communication that is appropriate within a variety of channels, including email, SMS, push notifications, social, IVR systems, chatbot introductions, homepage modals, and headers, and dedicated web landing pages. Establish a parallel approach designed to inform customers and employees in equal measure as appropriate.

Offer a shoulder to lean on. Show your humanity with an authentic, sensitive response. For example, Walgreens and CVS are waiving prescription medicine delivery fees during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Small businesses are also stepping up. I received an email from my local deli offering free delivery for customers over the age of 70 within a five-mile radius of the business. Their message also directs recipients to share the email with “friends and family who may like having food delivered to avoid going out.”

Inspire your audience. In times of need, those who are not affected are often in a position to assist others. You can be a catalyst by allowing corporate citizenship to shine. Do all you can to help. Share a donor portal; communicate your philanthropic position; assist with collection coordination; donate products, services, money, or time; and communicate how your brand’s community can get involved.

Audit your content queue. Review your entire messaging stream, including social media, promotional and transactional emails, push notifications, and SMS, to identify communications that need to pause or shift as a result of the situation. Otherwise, there is a risk of damaging your brand if a message comes off as insensitive, incorrect or seeking to capitalize on a tragedy.

These communications must be a company-wide effort. Develop a cross-functional “Go Team” with experts from public relations, social, email, mobile, website, design, data/IT, philanthropy, stores/field, logistics, supply chain, and customer service to coordinate teams and efforts. 

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