In the last few months, many businesses across the world have shut down or switched to remote working as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. And, for the same reason, people have been mandated to stay at home.
These recent events have already caused an abrupt change in the way businesses communicate with their customers. However, brands need to stay connected with consumers to get their messaging across, offer customer support, and boost sales.
The only question is: How?
In this post, I’m going to share some tips on how you can better communicate with consumers during the COVID-19 crisis.
Let’s put everything into context before we begin.
Differences between in-person and virtual communication
It goes without saying that there are stark differences between in-person and virtual communication.
If you’ve ever been on a video call with a friend, you must have noticed that both visual stimulation and auditory perception are present thanks to the modern video conferencing technology we have now.
However, it’s not exactly the same as talking to someone live in-person.
To put it simply, there’s a reduction in non-verbal communication and behaviour which simply means that you’re no longer able to observe gestures, body posture, movements, and body language the way you would if you were both face to face.
For starters, there are less observable cues in virtual communication which affects how much information you take in as compared to in-person communication. In addition, there are more distractions in digital communication environments.
If you’re like most people, you likely focus on yourself or on the other person’s background instead of paying attention to what’s being said. This, in turn, affects how you read people and their facial expressions.
If you think about it, much of this has to do with the fact that people behave differently under different contexts. People often exhibit different behaviour patterns at home than they do in, say, a work environment or when they’re at a store.
As a business owner, you need to be mindful of these differences between in-person and virtual communication and the ramifications it has on cognitive processing.
Long-term implications of social isolation
With no clear end in sight for the COVID-19 crisis, you might be wondering about the long-term implications of social isolation in the context of communication.
For most people, being at home means a reduction in human interaction and face to face communication. This is why they’re taking to various devices – phones, tablets, and computers – to communicate with family and friends.
According to Forbes, social media usage has also surged in the face of the crisis by as much as 61%. It’s pretty overwhelming!
As a business owner, you need to think of ways to shift your marketing strategy to include more digital activity and offer self-service customer support options such as knowledge bases.
3 tips on how to better communicate during the COVID-19 crisis
Businesses need to adapt and improve the way they communicate with employees and staff internally and with consumers. There are plenty of questions that come up when you want to put things in action.
What do consumers expect? What’s the best way to communicate with consumers in light of the current pandemic? How can we make it easier for consumers to engage with our brand?
To make it as easy as possible for you, I’ve compiled three tips on how businesses can better communicate with consumers during these challenging times.
#1: Keep communication channels open
In the wake of a crisis, consumers expect the brands they support to deliver clear and transparent communication, so everyone’s in the know.
This probably isn’t news to you.
More specifically, they want to know how you’re dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and what it means for them. Let consumers know:
- The steps you’re taking internally to mitigate risk and protect employees.
- That they should refrain from panic buying and shift to self-service options.
- What they can do to help out e.g. make a donation or raise awareness.
To this end, you might consider creating an official channel for COVID-19 related updates. This could be something as simple as a page or widget on your business website.
For internal communication, use real-time messaging tools like Slack to inform team members. VoIP and video conferencing tools are great for quick meetings and to keep everyone engaged with day-to-day tasks. It’s also perfect for making sure your messaging aligns with your brand values and the ongoing situation.
Our web-based remote working platform offers a suite of tools for video conferencing, live chat, and voice calls that are perfect for businesses working remotely.
The bottom line is that you need to keep communication with consumers authentic and mindful of the current circumstances.
#2: Personalise communications
One area of brand management that businesses concentrate on is developing and delivering a unified brand message. However, considering that different countries are handling the COVID-19 crisis in different ways, your brand messaging can no longer take a universal approach.
Of course, you don’t want your brand to be perceived as opportunistic or wanting to profit from the crisis. Quite honestly, it might be easy for some, difficult for others.
Here are some quick tips to help you personalise communications:
Think of ways to personalise, adapt, and customise your content and messaging for specific audience segments. This might mean taking cultural and linguistic differences into account.
Ikea Spain, for example, ran the hashtag campaign #YoMeQuedoEnCasa (i.e. #ImStayingHome) for their Spanish-speaking audiences.
#3: Make resources centralised and accessible
Companies that provide documents, forms, and other resources to consumers need to set up a digital central repository to promote self-service options.
You can store brand assets, sales and marketing collateral, policies, documents, forms, flyers, brochures, you name it, in one centralised, accessible location. There are a plethora of document management tools out there that let you set permissions over who can view and download what.
It also makes it easier for managers to stay on top of the content that the company puts out on social media platforms, email newsletters, and their business website. For example, you might consider creating approval workflows to avoid unfortunate situations with your brand messaging.
Step up your communication game
The COVID-19 crisis has already changed the way businesses communicate with consumers. To stay ahead of the curve, you need to take steps to openly and transparently communicate with your customers as you move forward in these challenging times.
To recap, here are three ways businesses can rise to the challenge and improve communication with consumers both right now and in the long-term:
- Keep communication channels open.
- Personalize communications.
- Make resources centralised and accessible for all.
Check out our remote working platform, which has been specially developed to help you keep communication channels open within your company.