The coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis of 2020 has thrown small businesses in America for a loop. Many are struggling to keep the doors open or rebuild. A key component during this turbulent time is to keep the right type of communication flowing. Open, honest, and accurate information can help ease anxiety and retain customers who support your business. Here’s what to consider when planning a crisis communication strategy in 2020.
Customer communication can include social media posts, blog articles, newsletters, or website messaging. Be honest about the crisis your business is facing. Failure to address a high-profile problem to your customers or clients can be off-putting. Make sure you have strategies and systems in place to respond if customers have questions.
You might even get actionable suggestions that can help. Being responsive gives validation to others that they are important.
Workplace communication is the foundation of success for any business in good times and bad. It can occur through formal presentations as well as informal memos and quick emails. Good workplace communication can build trust within employees and employers, improve productivity, reduce turnover rates, and boost morale during a crisis. It is the oxygen every company needs.
While communication is a key part of most employees' day-to-day work, it isn't always done efficiently. Too often, managers assume that employees know the information or don't think communicating is necessary or important. Take some time to review communication best practices through these steps outlined on the SmartBiz Small Business Blog: The Importance Of Communication In The Workplace.
During the economic downturn related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to manage your cash flow and debt obligations. However, many small businesses are experiencing a difficult time making payments to their suppliers, vendors, and lenders to keep their businesses afloat. Negotiating can help.
Review these steps to help you negotiate with lenders and suppliers for more favorable terms during this time: How To Negotiate With Lenders and Suppliers During COVID-19.
There are vendors and suppliers who might be easier to negotiate with if your cash flow is impacted. It’s a good idea to tackle the low-hanging fruit first before you spend time and energy on businesses that might make negotiations difficult.
Communication best practices during a crisis like COVID
Make meetings count
Meetings are notorious for being time suckers and this can be particularly irritating during a crisis. First, make sure your meeting is organized. Confirm time, date and locations and set a specific time for the meeting to end. Next, prepare an agenda for the meeting and stick to it. Finally, take copious notes or record the meeting so you don’t miss vital information. Respond promptly to any tasks or questions that come up and don’t avoid the elephant-in-the-room that might be the crisis and its effects on your business.
Establish customer service strategy
You may be understaffed or have team members working remotely during the pandemic. Make it a priority to establish a customer service system that is a fit for your small business. Failing to respond to a customer can be a deal-killer for many consumers. Review Customer Service Skills for Success to shore up your operations and spark ideas for creative communication.
Don’t brush off feedback from customers who are still engaged, no matter how distracted you or your staff maybe during a crisis. First, create a system for collecting comments. The data you uncover can be invaluable to help strengthen and grow your business during trying times. Check out the SmartBiz article from our blog for more in-depth information: The Best Way Small Business Owners Can Gather Feedback.
How to craft effective communications
Simplify the message
There’s information overload happening as a result of the coronavirus, financial relief available to businesses, and the upcoming 2020 election. Sharing too much information or complex information can cause confusion.
Choose the right time
Determine the right time to communicate your message. Staying in touch early and often is key to information and engagement. Situations like the coronavirus shut down, financial problems with your business, or a pivot of operations are obvious and a delay in discussing could cause mistrust.
Whether you are communicating with a hundred customers, a handful of loyal customers, or your staff, remember that each one is an individual person. If your customers have different needs and purchasing patterns, sending the same marketing materials to each one isn't likely to help your clients or your business. Instead, get to know your customer types and find out what makes each one tick. Then, customize your messaging for various client groups.
When communicating with your staff, keep individual personalities and situations in mind. An unmarried mother might require a different message than an upper management single man. Address concerns across a broad range of topics pertinent to the whole team, not just management, office staff, warehouse workers, etc. If you need, segment communications for each department.
Resources during the COVID crisis
The SmartBiz Blog is written for small business owners, addressing questions and concerns about funding, credit scores, finances, marketing, employee management, and more. Here are recent posts to help during the coronavirus pandemic.