This is a challenging time for businesses where the ‘new normal’ means the things you rely on can’t be taken for granted. There may be supply chain issues, lower productivity due to staff absence, delays in shipping times, price changes and various other problems. All these challenges can affect your usual levels of service and can occur out of the blue. When these things happen, it is crucial that you keep customers informed. Doing so can prevent orders being cancelled, customer complaints and poor online reviews.
How Larger Businesses Communicate
Today, many larger businesses use omnichannel communications to stay in touch with their customers. They understand that the modern consumer will have preferences over how they wish to receive communications and put in place strategies to ensure that those preferences are met. Depending on the individual customer, therefore, a message can be sent via printed letter, email, text message, messaging app or social media/website notification.
To carry out such complicated, personalised communications strategies, these companies use advanced communications platforms that make use of all available customer data and AI. The reasons for doing so are that by using the right communication channel, there is much more certainty that the customer will receive the right message at the right time and read it. From a marketing perspective, this also improves the chances of the customer answering any calls to action. In times of disruption, like now, it ensures the customer is kept in the loop.
For smaller businesses that do not have the cloud infrastructure, communications platform or IT expertise to implement omnichannel communications, it is still essential to bear in mind that customers do have preferences as to how they like to receive information and so it is always best to cover as many of these as you can. If you don’t, the messages you send might not be seen at the times you need them to. To help, here are some of the main ways you can keep your customers up-to-date.
Make the Information Available on Your Website
Your website is the home of your company online and this is the first place you should put information about changes that are affecting your business.
To do this effectively and ensure every visitor or customer gets the message, you can use a multi-strand approach. Firstly, create a new web page for updates and give it a clear title and meta description that will help it to be found on search engines. This will make it easier for customers to find the right page directly through Google, Bing, etc. Once created, use this page to give full details of any changes to your business and update it whenever things change so that the latest information is always available for customers.
Having the page on your website, however, doesn’t mean it will be seen. It is important, therefore, to point customers in its direction. There are numerous ways to do this. You could, for example, use a pop-up that links to the page with a message that reads ‘Changes to our usual operations. Click here for details.’ While pop-ups are guaranteed to be seen, there’s no guarantee that all visitors will click on them, especially if they are only browsing. You might need to think carefully about the best pages to place the pop-up, such as on your shopping cart or checkout pages, where those who are going to make purchases need the information. Alternatively, you can include a message in your header, footer or sidebar. This way it is on every page of the website and, if made highly visible, has increased chances of being seen.
There are other ways to keep visitors informed on your website, that you should not overlook. For example, make sure that out of stock items don’t appear on your site or are clearly labelled as ‘temporarily out of stock’. Similarly, you might want to update delivery estimation times on your checkout page so that customers are aware of potential delays.
Communication by Email
If you collect emails during the checkout process, you should ensure that you inform customers of potential issues in the purchase confirmation email. This does not have to be overly detailed but should contain a link that goes directly to your ‘Updates’ page where customers can get the latest information.
Should something occur after a sale has taken place which affects the availability or scheduled delivery of a product, then a new email needs to be sent to the affected customers with the full details of any changes. You should also send them an email once the product has been shipped, with tracking details if available. To maintain good relationships, always apologise for any issues and thank the customer for their understanding ‘during these difficult times’.
For companies that collect email addresses for marketing and newsletters, you can also send these customers regular updates, again, including a link to your new ‘Updates’ web page.
For those companies that collect customers’ mobile phone numbers, a short text message containing a link to your ‘Updates’ page is another quick and easy way to keep customers informed. It also gives you another communications channel to use and individuals can always text ‘Stop’ to opt out if they do not wish to receive updates via this method.
Social media is a great way to communicate with your followers at present as many of them spend a lot of time on their favourite platforms keeping in touch with their friends and families. You can use social media to publish posts that link directly to your ‘Updates’ page or put a link at the top of your social media profile. The challenge with individual posts is to set the right tone and to show that you are doing your best to help your customers in challenging circumstances.
It’s Not all About the Bad News
Remember, it is as important to keep your customers aware of good news as well as bad. If products become available again, shipping times speed up or you have a new offer, let them know. Similarly, if your company is doing something special to help customers or your community with the current crises, e.g. discounts for NHS staff, free deliveries for the most vulnerable, making facemasks for frontline workers, etc., use these communications methods to promote the good things you are doing.
Everyone is aware that, in the current situation, all companies are operating under a ‘new normal’. However, that ‘new normal’ varies between businesses and can change from day to day. It is vital, therefore, that you keep your customers fully informed of how your company is affected. Hopefully, the points raised here will help you do this successfully.
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