The right tone for communicating with customers during a crisis

communicate with customers via crisis coronavirus

The situation created by the coronavirus is not like any we’ve seen before. We’re all dealing with a time of great uncertainty, anxiety, and the stress that ensues from loss of comfortingly familiar outlets and routines.

While quarantines and enforced social distancing practices are closing down retail establishments, there is an inevitable uptick in eCommerce activity. The situation does create a unique window of opportunity for connecting with customers, but it can backfire if you go about it wrong.

Wrong way messaging

The wrong way to do it is to send the standard  boilerplate message in which the brand informs the recipient  that it has their safety in mind and extends its sympathy during these difficult times. Just take a moment to consider how you’d feel on the receiving end of that 20 times over, and you’ll realize that there is no value in having your inbox cluttered up with copies of the same message sent from every brand that has them on their mailing list, especially when some of them are ones you haven’t purchased from in the past couple of years.

Another wrong note that some marketing messages are hitting is that of crassness. For example, a realtor posted a pitch for his business on Facebook with a message that said:

“The CDC recommends staying in your home to avoid coronavirus. If you don’t own a home, call me. I’ll  help you get one.”

I’m sure he thought it was clever, but it has no appeal for people who are in quarantine or dealing with other difficulties arising from the situation. Likely, shopping for a new home is the last thing on their minds at present, so the message misses the mark for both its crassness and lack of relevancy.

Right way messaging

To be sure your messaging comes across as sensitive, constructive, and relevant, bear in mind the following points:

1. Segmentation:

Instead of hitting up all the people you have addresses for, only contact your already engaged customers, and consider possibly scaling back on your usual pace of sending out a biweekly newsletter to just a single weekly newsletter to not add to their feeling of bombardment.

2. Assurance:

Every business is putting out information about maintaining best practices for cleanliness to assure their customers that they take their safety seriously.  You can do even better by offering scientific backing. Refer them to Harvard Health Publishing’s Coronavirus Resource Center to prove there is no need to worry about being infected by packages you send them due to the short life of the virus on surfaces.

3. Transparency:

Be honest with your customers about what they can expect. For example, if you sell in bricks-and-mortar locations as well as online, you can warn them about store closures, limited hours, or restrictions on entry like only one shopper per household to maintain social distancing.
For eCommerce, you need to manage expectations if you will not be able to meet the usual rate of delivery and fulfillment, as well as warnings if certain items they regularly order are currently out of stock. These warnings will avert disappointment, which is an important component of maintaining a good relationship.
It’s also important to offer them a way of getting real time updates on the situation should anything change, as well as a way for them to contact you with their questions.

4. Value:

What you do send them should not just reiterate the cliches about caring that they’re hearing in all the other emails. So don’t just tell them, show them! Offer them something they would value. What you offer has to be relevant to both your customer situation and your brand.
For a skincare company, it could be  a free gift like a tube hand cream to soften the effects of so much handwashing. For an office supplier, it could be a selected line of products to help them deal with working from home (possibly with kids underfoot, as well). Vitamin sellers could put together a special package to boost immunity. And just about any business could offer  a special promotion as a show of goodwill.

5. Helpfulness:

Your customers have already heard the standard tips about precautions; they don’t need that from you. But they might appreciate a light-hearted video with tips on how to avoid touching your face as depicted here. They also would likely appreciate tips for keeping them feeling happy and productive. If it fits with your brand, you can even create suggestions that work with your products. Otherwise, you can offer suggestions that will meet the current needs of your customer.

For example, for customers working from home for the first time, you can offer tips like the ones here. If your customers are dealing with kids home from school, you can share information about how to keep kids entertained at home. Those who miss going to their regular gym may appreciate something like this.Anyone who is bummed at not going out to eat and who cannot get out to pick up new ingredients may appreciate a link to fridgetotable.com  or the supercook app that offer recipe suggestions based on what they have on hand. And for the over 21 crowd who miss hanging out at the bar, you can offer  makemeacocktail. And for any of them, you can offer the recommendations for best shows to stream and binge watches. There are various lists to choose from, including the  Rotten Tomatoes 151 best series  and the Ranker list.

You can even use these suggestions as a way to actively engage with your customers in asking them to offer their own suggestions to share in an upcoming newsletter. What new ways did they discover to use ingredients, entertain their children, or stay on task when working from home?   Which exercises are best to do to stay in shape while maintaining social distancing? Which shows do they recommend for particular age groups or interests? Let them contribute to make them feel good about helping others out. If you wish you can also incentivize participation with special coupons or free gifts.

If your message meets that checklist, you can be assured that your communication will reinforce your relationship with your customers rather than coming across as  jumping on a crisis bandwagon. Remarkety is here to help you deliver your messaging that is appropriate for your brand and your audience.