Staying in touch with your local customers during a crisis

For most small businesses across America right now, your day-to-day operations are anything but business as usual. While these are unprecedented times, they’re also an opportunity to work on a crisis communication plan for your business — a strategy for what you can do whenever the unexpected happens, like a natural disaster or personal emergency.

Here are some simple ways to stay in touch with your customers right now.

Let your customers know what’s happening with your business
The most important thing for your business to know is this — local consumers are still looking for businesses online, including yours. Not only is overall time online above average with so many people at home, but HubSpot found that overall website traffic increased 13% from February to March. So don’t think that customers (and potential new customers) aren’t looking for you just because you’re not operating at 100%!

Make sure people find the right information when they look for you online, like:

  • Whether or not you’re open — and if your hours have changed
  • What you’re doing differently — and if you’re taking any special precautions (like asking customers to wear masks or gloves)
  • If there are any resources you can offer them, from an emergency hotline to links to outside resources

You need to update this information everywhere you can. You never know where someone might look for you…and you never want them to be frustrated by the wrong information or conflicting information across different channels.

  • Update your website
  • Update your social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • Update your Google My Business (GMB) listing

And update any other customer-facing points of contact too — your voicemail, storefront signage, email signatures and more.

Adapt to the ways you can do business
Obviously your business won’t operate exactly the same way when you and/or your customers are stuck at home, but this is a great time to get creative and test drive some options to get you through your next unexpected business disruption.

  • Businesses that rely on in-person or on-site visits can try using any of the video conferencing tools out there — Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or the new Facebook Messenger Rooms
  • Food services can offer to-go orders, curbside pickup or delivery
  • Retail businesses can work on creating a thorough inventory — and think about setting up some e-commerce options, or offering pickup or local delivery

It’s also a great time to refocus on good habits — like checking your email regularly, checking your Facebook messages and/or Twitter mentions, keeping an eye on your reviews across the web and responding to the good ones and the bad ones. Your customers are adapting to unusual times too, so make sure you’re staying on top of every way they could reach out to you.

Tell your customers what’s coming next
You don’t want to make promises you can’t keep, but a little optimism or even conversation about what could be happening soon can go a long way. Your customers want to know that you have plans for the future, even if you don’t know when they’ll start.

You can also ask for their suggestions! Find out what your customers say would be helpful to them. You can ask them on social media, by email or with survey tools like SurveyMonkey.

  • Do they want regular updates on your website or social media (which you should be doing anyway), or maybe an email newsletter to stay informed?
  • Would videos be helpful — maybe even some “how-to” videos?
  • What will they need right away when you’re available again?

The only wrong thing to do…is to do nothing at all
Whatever you do, don’t just shut your doors (physically or virtually) and hunker down. Your local customers will look for you, whether they’re looking to engage your services now or in the future. And they’ll remember the businesses that kept them informed… and the ones that kept them scratching their heads.

“Are they open? Why doesn’t it say whether they’re offering pickup? Why is no one answering the phone — their website doesn’t say anything about them being closed?”

Any emergency, whether it impacts just you, your customers, or you and your customers, isn’t a case of “no news is good news.” If you keep your audience informed — even passively with a simple banner on your website or a short post on Facebook — they’ll appreciate the clarity and your efforts to keep them in the loop.