In this unprecedented time of “Stay at Home” and “Shelter In Place” orders across the country in response to the Coronavirus and Covid-19, our small business clients have been contacting us asking how they can best respond.
This blog post will address our 6 best recommendations for small businesses that have been deemed “Essential” during the Coronavirus and are permitted to continue operations.
1. Make sure they know you're open.
A significant number of businesses are fortunate to be included in the “Essential Services” category of businesses that can remain open during the Coronavirus shut-downs. But information is changing so rapidly that many people remain confused. The first and most important thing you can do is communicate to your customers that you are open for business.
2. Be consistent across all platforms.
Eliminate Confusion. For example, if you need to change your hours, make sure that your voicemail message, Google, Facebook, your website, the hours posted on your door, and anywhere your customers normally go to find you, all say the same thing.
3. Make people feel safe.
Communicate to your customers all of the steps you are taking to ensure their safety. Are you changing procedures by using a drop box, contact-less delivery or pay-by-phone? Using best practices to sanitize surfaces and reduce employee density? Let them know via all of the communication channels open to you.
4. Listen to your customers. They’ll tell you what they need.
This is an unprecedented time, but access to social media channels allows small businesses to pivot quickly in response to changing conditions.
Looking at this disruption to normal business as an opportunity to serve your customers may yield creative ideas for open-minded entrepreneurs. There may be opportunities for your business that you had not considered before, because customers need things they never needed before.
“Work From Home” and “Shelter in Place” orders mean that fewer people are on the road driving so they won’t be stopping by. It also means that people have more free time because work, school and other activities have been canceled.
One Idea: Let’s say you’re an oil change shop in a state that has “Stay at Home” rules. Parents are working from home but the kids are home from school, too. If customers can’t easily bring their cars to you for vehicle maintenance, maybe offer pick-up and delivery.
5. Show the human side of your business.
Everyone has been inundated with “Coronavirus” emails, so make sure your communication sounds like it comes from a real person. The CDC talking points have been repeated on the news and in dozens of emails they’ve received the past week. Messages should be short, straightforward and directly relevant to the customer’s needs.
Let your customers know that your business is made up of real people. Share posts with photos of actual employees on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Use Facebook Live or other live-feed services to talk with your customers in real time.
Post a photo of an employee cleaning counters and door knobs.
Share videos of employees providing curbside pick up.
Feature photos of real customers if they’re willing to be photographed.
Messaging should focus on keeping the connection to your customers strong.
6. Inform, Reassure, and Serve:
Structure your messages around a communication strategy. For example: Inform, Reassure, and Serve.
Inform – We are open.
Let them know if adjusted hours of operation
Video from owner or manager reassuring customers that you’re open.
Reassure – We are taking necessary precautions.
Post photo of real employees sanitizing workspaces and public areas.
Video of owner/manager explaining sanitation procedures
Email about options for limiting contact (night drop off/pay by phone/curbside pick up)
Serve – We can help you.
Which services are you providing right now?
Are there special accommodations? (Delivery, Pay By Phone, etc.)
Re-configuring your business operations quickly in response to dramatic market changes can be challenging. If you are sincere in your efforts during this crisis, it is a chance to strengthen that relationship and turn a client into a loyal customer.