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Key messages to share with your customers during a crisis

By Erik Deckers

As you’re no doubt aware, COVID-19 is causing mass disruption for individuals and businesses around the world. This devastating and unexpected event has thrust everyone into ‘Safe Mode’, forcing businesses to become all the more inventive while looking after the best interests of their lifeblood — the customers.
As a small business owner, you’re probably thinking about putting out communications to keep your customers informed of your activities.
It’s a lot of pressure, but we’re here to help.
8 key messages to share with your customers during a crisis

We’ve compiled some tips and suggestions for messages to share in crisis situations:

  1. Thank your customers for their support.
  2. Prioritize compassion.
  3. Explain what your business is doing and how it affects them.
  4. Offer real value.
  5. Detail the changes you're making, including to terms of service.
  6. Tell them about updated refund and cancellation policies, if applicable.
  7. Tell them how to get in touch with you.
  8. Reassure them that we’re all in this together.

Let’s take a closer look at each.

1. Thank your customers for their support
People are already plenty nervous and worried about themselves and their family, so if they're still doing business with you, that says something about them. Show your appreciation.
2. Prioritize compassion

When a public tragedy or emergency presents itself, some brands reach out to their customers with sincerity, and some take an opportunistic approach. Always walk down the sincere route.

When putting out any communication to your customers during COVID-19, focus on being empathetic, informative and helpful. Fail to do so and you are likely to lose customer loyalty.

3. Explain what your business is doing and how it affects them
When you’re putting together an email, social media post — or any other form of communication — lead with information.

-- Start by focusing on your customers and how they might feel.

-- Offer a brief Covid-19 update based on where your business is based.

-- Let your customers know what your business status is and what you are doing in response to the virus.

-- Offer a genuine solution or ask your customers how they are and you can help (very important). Get the conversation started.

If you're all staying home or reducing hours, don't mention it unless this affects your customers directly. A restaurant’s reduced hours affects its customers, a financial technology startup working from home likely does not.
4. Offer real value

As mentioned, when pressing global events start to unfold, some businesses shamelessly scramble to earn a few extra bucks. In the digital age, consumers see right through such ruthless sales tactics — so avoid them at all costs.

Naturally, you want to keep your business running, but when you’re sending out brand messaging to build your audience or keep the ship afloat during COVID-19, offer genuine value.

If you haven’t got a viable solution to present to your audience, hold off the soft sales messaging until you do.

For instance, if you’re a personal trainer and your gym is closed, you could reach out to your clients with an email outlining the immune system-boosting benefits of exercise, before offering virtual or park-based PT sessions, either one-to-one or in small, controlled groups. Or if you’re a coffee shop owner, you could provide an informational update, followed with useful COVID-19 home-based coffee-brewing tips and a pledge to deliver to customers in your locale. Just suggestions, but you get the picture … offer genuine value.

5. Detail the changes you're making, including to terms of service
These can include changes to business hours, home delivery and any related changes, as well as any free or freemium services you offer. In fact, now is a great time to offer free trials, or even extend your free trials if you can.
6. Tell them about updated refund and cancellation policies, if applicable
A lot of hotels and airlines are waiving their cancellation fees for any trips booked before a certain day. Businesses with large events planned also are making special accommodations in the wake of COVID-19. If you have a major announcement like this, consider both a blog article and an email to your customers.
7. Tell them how to get in touch with you

This should be included on your website, but it won't hurt to share it again. And if you've got a special hotline or emergency contact number, share it here.

When you write your message, be sure to use a welcoming, comforting tone. Let people know that you're there to help them and that you're going to do your best to make their lives easier — in whatever way the products or services or customer support you offer can.

If they have questions or worries, answer them to the best of your ability.

People may get stressed out by the smallest things, but they're only reacting to their bigger fears. So help put those fears at ease.

8. Reassure them that we’re all in this together
Finally, encourage your customers and let them know that we’re all in this situation together.
Craft mindful, conversational copy

When it comes to COVID-19 brand messaging, this is essential: read any piece of copy or communication at least thrice before sending it out.

Go through every phrase with a fine-tooth comb to ensure it’s 100% accurate and mindful of your audience.

Write conversationally, as you would speak, making sure that your language is fluent, simple and direct. That way, it will be accessible to all.

COVID-19 brand messaging: Dos & don’ts

In summary, here are the dos and don’ts for crafting messages to customers during the COVID-19 crisis:

Do. Be informational and empathetic.

Do. Ask your customers what they need and how they feel.

Do. Offer genuine solutions and deliver valuable content.

Don’t. Use complex, exclusive language.

Don’t. Go for cheap sales tactics to make a quick buck.

Don’t. Be hasty — check over your communications several times before sending them out.

Hopefully, these suggestions help you get started with crafting your messages to your customers. Open communication is vital in trying times, so keep your messages clear and constant. We’ll make it through.

Erik Deckers is the president of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing agency.

Writer Dan Hughes contributed to this article. You can find out more about him by visiting his Catchy Space or by following him on Twitter