I don’t know about you, but I have received countless emails in the last week from brands announcing how they are responding to and preparing for Coronavirus COVID-19. They all pretty much repeat the same information, how they are keeping their premises clean, adhering to Government advice, and also what I can do to prevent catching or spreading the virus.
I’m not saying that this information is not important, of course it is. But I don’t believe this is the best form of reassurance. Brands are sending out blanket emails to their entire customer base, with the exact same message. How can this approach help them to maintain sales and customer confidence during this challenging time?
Customology helps brands keep their customers for life – through the good times, and through the uncertain times. I believe that many brands are missing an opportunity to effectively communicate with their customers and use this time to proactively keep their customers engaged.
Here are Customology’s top tips on how brands who are finding themselves in uncharted territory can maximise sales, whilst maintaining customer confidence:
1. Conduct a situational analysis
Many assume the worst before painting a picture of what the situation is in reality. Assess the options available to you to help drive customer engagement. For example, if you have store premises that are closed, can you move sales to online? Can your staff engage with customers over the telephone? Can you offer remote/no contact delivery options? How can you leverage social media to engage your customers? (now is a great time with many self-isolating).
2. Thank your loyal customers
Please don’t send the same email to all of your customers. Your loyal customers deserve more than that, especially. Contact them to say thank you for their support. Make them aware of what options are available to them if they are self-isolating. Let them know you are available and how to contact you if they need anything. Offer them an incentive for when they are able to visit you again.
3. Reassure your recent customers
Have you contacted the customers you served in the last few weeks? They will appreciate the reassurance if you can let them know that you haven’t had any reports of customers being exposed to the virus at your premises. This will help you build customer relationships (and certainly your credibility). Again, relay the options available to them.
4. Reconsider your national promotional emails
I have also still been receiving blanket sales promotional emails from many brands, with no reference to COVID-19 or the current situation. We advise that you reconsider your national promo emails during this time. I appreciate there will be concerns about sales, however customers should only be contacted with relevant offers and content. This is advice we would offer in normal circumstances.
5. Don’t talk to your customers the same way you’re talking to the market
Reassure your customers, give them practical advice on how they can still shop with you. Explain why it’s still safe for them and how you are mitigating any risk. Consider your tone of voice and don’t come across as desperate in your communications. Be honest with your customers and explain how you are managing and monitoring the situation. Let them know how often you will be communicating an update to them.
6. Support the community
As you are aware, the elderly and vulnerable are most at risk, and will likely be self-isolating for some time. How can you support your community and the people most affected? Perhaps you could ask your customers to forfeit some of their loyalty points to supporting local communities. Are you able to donate non-perishable items to charities or food banks? Think of the resources you have that could help others.
7. Take this opportunity to innovate
Most brands are too busy day-to-day to dedicate time to innovation and product development. This is a great opportunity to take a step back and assess your product/service range and how it meets the needs of your customers. Challenge your teams to be creative on quick-to-market and long-term strategies. Contact customers for their input, ideas and feedback.
8. Take pressure off your customers
This is really important. If you own a loyalty program in which points have an expiry time frame, extend it. Consider pausing paid memberships until the customer is able to make use of their membership. If you’re a service provider, can you extend payment a month or two? Customers are being cautious because of the uncertainty. They will appreciate the flexibility, and they will remember it.
9. Be available to your customers
I know the travel sector in particular has been inundated with calls, emails, social messages from customers with flight/hotel bookings – wishing to cancel or rebook. If you don’t have the resources to respond to the level of enquiries you have – outsource. You must be available and there to reassure the customer. If they have a poor experience during this challenging time and it wasn’t dealt with perfectly – again, they will remember. Avoid losing any customers by being responsive and available at all times.
10. Follow advice of local government departments
Finally, please follow advice of local and national government departments. This situation has escalated faster than anyone believed it could do – and that’s just in the last week. Be sure to keep updated on all government announcements and resources available. Stay safe.