Engagement, Empathy & Dialogue – How to communicate with customers during the Covid-19 outbreak

By April 15, 2020July 30th, 2020Insights

During these challenging times, companies are understandably asking themselves, should we be talking to our customers? And if so, what is it we should we be saying. The concern for many organisations is to understand what, and how, to communicate with customers, without adding to the irritation or seeming unsympathetic to the situation.

At the same time, not staying in touch could be interpreted as disinterested or unthinking, at a time when others are proactively keeping their customers updated.

The challenge is in striking the right balance and the key is to take it back to basics.

If you are an organisation asking these questions, you are already demonstrating empathy to your customer’s, rather than just pushing out communications that might not meet their needs. The next important step is to recognise that your customers are in a very different place to where they were pre-Covid 19. The information they need will be different, the frequency and perhaps even the channel through which they wish to communicate might have changed. Their available time to digest and understand communications will be incredibly fluid, as they balance work, home-school, volunteering, caring for family and friends, mental and physical wellness needs and much more. Now is the time to truly optimise the understanding you have of your customers and put this to best affect.

You need to meet your customers where they are, rather than where you would like them to be. Imagine your customer is in a room with you, what would be the questions they would want you to answer? What are the strategic, work-related or personal issues they might be dealing with, and how do these impact their relationship with you? What do you understand their normal priorities to be, and how might these have changed? What do you think their expectations of you are? What might they not realise, that would be helpful from you? What are the things you need to tell them?

If you were in a room together, it would be simple and easy to facilitate a two-way dialogue, therefore, look for communication tools and channels that can help you replicate this dialogue virtually. If you have a trusted cohort of customers, why not tap into them and ask them some of these questions before crafting your communications plans, whilst at the same time ensuring you build in the ability to communicate key information and updates.

Remember that people’s attention will be extremely sporadic, probably switching from engaged to highly distracted which means you will probably need to emphasise key updates and notifications a number of times, to ensure you meet them in a time and place that works for them. Don’t be too concerned if it feels like you are bombarding them, you may need to raise the level of contact to ensure you maintain share of mind, and, if it is a key piece of information you need to think about not only how you send it, but how they might receive it.

The importance of communicating with customers at this time shouldn’t be overlooked. It isn’t about selling to them. Actively listening to their fears and hopes and responding in the right way demonstrates empathy and helps to deepen relationships. Being open, transparent and maintaining a regular rhythm of updates is a powerful way to build trust and mutual respect, and enabling an open and frequent dialogue that customers can chose to use, as and when they need to, provides them with a support network and a release channel that they may just be looking for at this fluid and challenging time.

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