Strengthening customer relationships has never been more crucial. The average cost of the COVID-19 crisis to small and medium-sized businesses was already $160,000 on March 30,2020, according to a survey conducted by CFIB. Of the 9,678 businesses involved in the survey, 46% were partially shut down.
While social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine are good for public health, they’ve made things extremely difficult for small businesses. How can businesses stay engaged with their customers when the world is staying home?
We’ve come up with 14 practical ways you can stay connected with your customers and continue to provide excellent service – even during a global pandemic.
Effective communication has always been key to business success, but in the current situation, it’s more important than ever.
1. Business Updates
Clear communication makes it easier for customers to be empathetic. Keep them informed promptly of business changes – whether that’s closing your doors or changing your hours.
Communicate in as many ways and through as many channels as possible.
2. COVID-19 Prevention
If your store is staying open, describe the steps you’re taking to keep your staff and work environment safe and clean for everyone. Share your hygiene protocols, increased cleaning measures, and anything else you’re doing to help. Assure them you’re doing your part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Increased Digital Presence
For brick-and-mortar businesses that haven’t prioritized digital presence, now is the time to do it.
3. Social Media
Social media use has increased since isolation became the new normal. Take advantage of this and create a content plan for your business. There’s no need to post about the virus specifically. In fact, customers welcome positive content and anything else that’s helpful or interesting.
4. Video Streaming
Not all industries adapt well to live video. A good tool for this is ManyCam. If that’s you, consider a subscription-based video library of content commonly requested by your clientele. (Think “FAQs”.)
Some video platforms allow you to set up a paywall to give customers access to your content for a fee. Or you could create a course and have it hosted on a course platform.
Some good candidates for this might be an accountant sharing a video of how to complete a tax return or a hair stylist giving a tutorial of how to do your own root touch-ups at home.
5. Online Events
Canceled events have resulted in tremendous losses for some businesses. Customers are craving entertainment and community right now, so see it as an opportunity. Get out of the “all or nothing” mindset and find a way to host your event online.
Host a live social media event to celebrate a product launch or anniversary. Offer special discount codes to the first 100 customers to join your live event, or create an “exclusive” behind-the-scenes experience for email subscribers.
Easy Shopping From Home
Even though people are staying home, they’re still shopping. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other milestones are still happening. Friends and family are looking for ways of helping, surprising, congratulating and cheering each other.
Use this to your advantage and make it easy for customers to continue supporting your business from home.
6. Gift Cards
Gift cards are ideal in this situation. They provide immediate revenue for you during the slowest time in your history and guarantee that your customers will return to your business in the future. They’re also easy to ship for safe gift-giving.
To reduce human contact, offer an e-gift card program. Work with third-party delivery partners to accept their gift cards at your location.
A discounted purchase is better than no purchase when you’re trying to keep your business afloat. This works well for long-term purchases like memberships. Entice customers to sign up at today’s discounted rate while waiting until the virus has passed to get started.
For retail stores, consider offering free or discounted shipping. Support other local small businesses by offering a discount if your customer brings in a receipt from your business neighbors.
Give your customers reasons to stay with you instead of shopping with somebody else – whether they need your products and services now or if they must wait till this is all over.
8. Adapt Customer Service
Use surveys, polls, or quizzes on your social media channels to develop a clearer understanding of your customers’ needs. Find out the specifics that are affecting their priorities and what they need most during this challenging time. Then adapt your service to offer genuinely helpful resources.
9. Rewards & Special Offers
Loyalty rewards and special offers for existing customers are effective motivators to shop from your store. Set up regular reminders of available rewards so they’re encouraged to use them.
If you use points thresholds, let customers know how close they are to the next level and make it easy for them to take action to get there. Run members-only promotions like double points or time-based discounts and offers on specific products.
10. Reviews & Referrals
Your loyal existing customers could be your biggest asset. They can connect you to new customers and give you opportunities to form new, long-term customer relationships.
Give existing customers an incentive to leave reviews, engage on social media (like tagging you in a photo with one of your products), and refer others to your business. Consider offering loyalty points or discounts to referring customers.
11. Adjust your product offering to meet current demand
It might be necessary to pivot your business and offer products or services you hadn’t considered before. Do whatever it takes to provide something truly valuable to your customers. We’ve come up with 10 creative ways for you to do that in another post.
Up to 68% of consumers are motivated to be loyal if they know a brand shares their values. Form a strong community with a sense of belonging by proving to your customer base that you align with the same values that matter to them.
12. Positive & Helpful Content
Be relevant to your followers. Create uplifting, positive and truly helpful content that shows you really care about them.
For example, for any food-related business, you could share quick, easy, and cheap recipes your customers could make at home. If you’re in the beauty industry, share tips for feeling beautiful while going make-up free at home.
13. Give Back
This global situation is beyond our control and that’s a hard reality for us all to swallow. By contributing in some way, it helps us to feel like we’re a part of the solution. It can also evoke compassion in your customers and attract new ones who share an interest in the cause.
88% of consumers are more likely to buy from companies that care about charitable causes. Find a way to give back to your community in a helpful way. Consider donating a portion of sales to a specific health charity, or partner with a charity to produce a limited edition product.
Business messaging is saturated with content about how they’re addressing the virus and working to facilitate community and health. There’s a danger of coming across as having an agenda or just being another song with the “same ol’ tune”.
Keep your brand authentic. Communicate with real-life language and ask your customers what you can do to help. Be there for them in tangible ways.
You Can Stay Connected With Your Customers During the Coronavirus
It’s a different time that requires some different methods. But you can stay connected with your customers during this crisis. By intentional communication, strategic online presence and solutions, and authentic community, engagement with your customers today can become lasting relationships that benefit everyone.
SelectCom is offering an Emergency Work From Home kit for businesses during this situation. We have solutions to help you stay connected from anywhere and in a variety of ways. Contact us for more information.