Communicating with internal and external stakeholders during these uncertain times is more essential than ever. There are many benefits to leveraging the power of communications during a crisis, including business continuity, customer loyalty and support for your workforce. It is therefore more essential than ever to keep conversations flowing both inside and outside of your business.
Here are some practical tips on reaching out to customers, suppliers and staff during a crisis:
1. Keeping in touch with customers
It may seem that, by communicating with your customers during a crisis, you are adding to the ‘noise’. But it's important not to stay silent and keep your customers wondering if your business is able to serve them or not.
The main purpose of communicating with customers is to ensure they are aware of how your business is handling the crisis and what you are able to offer them at this time.
With the right messaging, you can keep your customers engaged and informed adequately. If you're able, it's good to assure them of business as usual, with minimal disruption, as well as letting them know what additional support you can offer to them, or what steps you have taken to ensure their safety. Whatever your message, always ensure that your communication is:
Accessible: Identify the ways you can get key business information across to customers – through your website, email, social media and phone calls. Take some time to identify which channel will serve your customers best.
Relevant: Communicating during a crisis requires the right mix of transparency, honesty, empathy and optimism. Focus on what is important to your customers as you support them through the new ‘normal’. The key is to communicate at least once a month with consistent messaging that is pertinent and helpful to customers.
Proactive: Put the focus on understanding customer needs during a crisis. Reaching out to your customers can help you gain an understanding of their current pain points and help you plan how you can continue to support them. There is also a lot you can learn from your customers about long-term outlook during a crisis and the impact on various industries and sectors in the coming months.
Helpful: While it’s critical to continue to reach out to customers to talk business, it is also essential to show empathy. Focus on the importance of mental health and wellbeing and acknowledge that a crisis of this magnitude could take its toll on everyone.
If you have capacity, it may be worth considering creating a hub of useful resources on your website to share with your customers can offer them relevant advice and much-needed guidance during testing times. Ensure that this hub offers them a wealth of information with well-researched articles, links to the latest government advice and mental health support.
2. Stay connected with your suppliers
Many suppliers are SMEs running a business just like you. While it's natural to assess business overheads during a crisis and cap any unnecessary outgoings, make sure you communicate these to your suppliers in a timely and transparent manner.
It's also important to check any contracts you may have with them to be aware of your obligations to them. More than anything, ensure you maintain a good relationship with your suppliers during a crisis as you may well need their support again in the future.
3. Don’t forget your employees
With the shift to remote working, keeping your employees informed and supported is more important than ever. We have gone from communicating in a face-to-face environment to catching up online through services like Microsoft Teams and Zoom video calls.
Job security, working from home arrangements and overall wellbeing over the long period of lockdown are just some of the concerns facing your employees.
As a small business owner, it's crucial to be transparent, honest and continually keep your staff updated on how your business is doing. Set the tone from the top, encouraging line managers to stay in regular contact with their teams and ensure they have the support they need. Keep the social aspect of the workplace going with monthly internal newsletters and encouraging employees to get together for virtual hangouts and pub quizzes.
Timely communication is the lifeline of your business during a crisis. When everything seems so uncertain, sending regular updates to customers, suppliers and staff can provide some stability and nurture relationships in the long-run.
About the Author
Darren Hockley is the Managing Director of eLearning provider DeltaNet International. The company specializes in the development of engaging compliance and health and safety eLearning courses designed to mitigate risks and improve employee performance. Their in-house developers use a mixture of interactive video and 2D/3D animation to bring important legislation and best working practices to life.