4 ways to stay connected to customers during COVID-19

Now more than ever, you need your customers. But they need you, too. Like you, they may be facing new challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the weeks pass, they may be feeling the strain of staying at home and practicing physical distancing, even in places that are loosening restrictions. And your customers may be concerned about everything from maintaining their health to furthering their children’s education.

Now is the ideal time to strengthen those bonds and focus on building closer connections with your customers.

  1. Make it personal

  2. Even in the best of times, generic messages to your customers and prospects won’t foster a genuine connection. And now, when many people feel isolated, it’s better to reach out to customers with personalized messages via email or text.

    If you use a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, go through your customer list and study the available data, including where customers are located and what they have bought in the past to inform your messaging. Personalized messages don’t need to be lengthy. The content just needs to relate to the recipient.

    Examples include birthday wishes and thank-you messages about specific past purchases. Mention their current location and share any local information updates you can find.

    It also doesn’t hurt to simply ask how they are doing and if there’s anything you can do to help. These types of personalized messages show you care and open the lines of communication.

  3. Leverage online communication tools

  4. Many customers have a lot of time on their hands now that they’re staying at home. They may be looking for ways to communicate or feel connected to the outside world.

    Several online communication tools are available to encourage social interaction with your customers. Many of them are either free or low-cost. Depending on your business, there are different tactics to consider.

    Some businesses are hosting online conferences, panel discussions, and meet-and-greet sessions through video conferencing tools and channels like Facebook Live.

    You could host a “coffee and conversation”-style event to find out how your customers are doing. Or you might bring together a few industry colleagues to talk about the current situation and ways to navigate issues of concern to your target audience.

    This might even be an ideal time to conduct a focus group or some other type of market research. Gathering and analyzing customer opinions will help you plan for the rest of the year.

    Explore the possibility of one-on-one video calls with specific customers who might be looking for that type of connection. This kind of personal contact can help you better understand their needs and give them the opportunity to provide feedback.

  5. Be helpful

  6. Customers and prospects are always looking for valuable content, and that’s especially true during a crisis like a pandemic. Many local Facebook groups are filled with community members searching for home improvement products and services, access to financial assistance and resources, and more.

    These groups and trend-watching sites like BuzzSumo can help you stay updated on relevant topics and give you the chance to provide the content and advice your audience wants. Ask your audience what information they’re looking for and then deliver responsive, useful content on social media, your blog, and your website.

    Finally, create a landing page on your website related to COVID-19 and your business. Update all of your social media accounts with your current business hours and any other changes that may help your customers get timely assistance.

    Provide other distribution channels so they can access your products or services, and expand payment options where possible to make things easier for your customers.

  7. Keep it positive

  8. Another compelling way to connect during these uncertain times is to share positive stories. After all, the news and social media feeds are already filled with grim statistics.

    Think about stories and videos depicting what your company is doing to help others, which can inspire and encourage others who may feel they’ve lost control over their lives. Sharing these stories can not only give your customers and prospects something good to think about, but it also can reinforce your commitment to the community in their minds.

    For example, many social media channels offer heartwarming images of organizations delivering masks, meals, and supplies to those on the front lines at hospitals. Find authentic, feel-good moments of your own to share with your audience. While you’re at it, advertise the good works of others within your community.

Nurture your relationships

COVID-19 may have diminished revenues for most companies, but it hasn’t dampened the human spirit or our capacity for resilience, kindness, and connection. If anything, this pandemic has given us all an opportunity to pause and reflect on what’s really important.

For a business, that means focusing on strengthening relationships. Taking the time to be there for customers, employees, vendors, and other stakeholders during this crisis lets them know that they can count on your company, no matter what.

AUTHOR
A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked for TV, newspapers, radio, and Internet companies for 25 years. He’s written for Inc.com, Fast Company, NBC, Entrepreneur, USA Today, and Business Insider, among others.

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