As the restrictions begin to lift and we start to get back to “normal”, whatever that new normal looks like, companies and organizations will need to be sure they are communicating clearly with their audience about what to expect. Everyone has some sort of modifications to the way we do business moving forward: the amount of people we can accommodate, our operating hours, and even if masks or other protective gear are required. If you don’t communicate clearly the expectations, some may be caught off guard upon arrival. Some may be put off or even refuse to participate and we need to be prepared for what that looks like as well.
How to reach your audience in the noise?
The noise has never been louder. The buzz of Covid this and Pandemic that along with all the resources, facts, and filling our inboxes and airways has people tuning out. I don’t know about you, but it wasn’t even two weeks in and I was turning off the TV, logging out of social media, and leaving messages unread in my inbox. We have pivoted so often in the last few months it has felt like we might have traveled (to use a basketball analogy), and many who live their lives with their head on a swivel are likely feeling dizzy. So how do we reach our audience with what they need to know about the “new normal” as we ease back into business?
- Create a clear communication strategy that includes internal and external communications. Be sure that everyone is on the same page and in the loop.
- Use every active platform to communicate your new message – use imagery and infographics to visually show instructions. Keep it light and positive. We can’t wait to see you. We have missed you, but we have a new normal in order to be open.
- If sending an email be sure the subject line is catchy – consider using emojis so it will stand out in the sea of unread emails they have.
- Use clear and simple on site signage – have options and accommodations for your customers who may have missed the memo.
- Have greeters and human signage onsite to help answer questions or concerns, keep things moving, and the mood positive. Be sure those on the front lines are empowered to solve any issue that may arise.
How do I just restart after all that?
You might have found yourself with extra time on your hands. Maybe you caught up on your “honey-do list” around the house. But it’s also possible for the last couple of months, you’ve found yourself literally running around putting fires out. Either way, it is time to take a deep breath and a moment to just be thankful. We are still here. We are safe, and while this wasn’t on our bucket list for 2020, we made it this far. Maybe you lost someone, or you, yourself, have been sick. There are so many possibilities, because life in the last two months was out of our normal routine to say the least.
- Be patient with yourself, your staff and your customers. Everyone has been through something.
- Be flexible where you can. It might not look exactly like you would like, but make do with what you have and can do.
- Be ready to listen. Some have been in isolation alone. So create space in your process that allows for more connection time.
- Be humble. Ask your customer and clients to give grace and be patient as well.
- Be thankful. Express your gratitude often!
Now what to expect as the restrictions lift?
Many businesses will reopen with new guidelines to keep their customers safe. These lifesaving measures will not only be an inconvenience, but will likely affect your bottom line. They may also make the customer’s experience less personal. You will need to look for ways to connect and follow the safe distancing guidelines until lifted. Even after, you might find some who are apprehensive. Be sure you have procedures in place to clearly communicate expectations and address their concerns. These can’t just be fluff – the words need to be thoughtful and on-brand. They must be authentic and believable. Don’t blow smoke – get real! They are likely as eager to get out and support you as you are to have them. And remember, many of them may also be suffering financial hardships as well, yet have chosen to spend their money with you. That means somewhere along the lines, you have proven yourself worthy.
- One of our new marketing objectives will need to (if it hasn’t already) shift focus on existing customers. They have come to expect a certain level of service from us, or a specific way of doing business. They may be caught off guard by the new normal. Clearly communicating what changes or adaptations they can expect when they visit your location for the short-term and long-term will be essential.
- Companies will need to continue to be agile and flexible with their content and editorial calendars, leaving space for communicating with your audience as things change. We can expect things to continue to pivot throughout. We could be open and then closed again as numbers peak. Having a plan for this to happen and having the transition be as smooth as possible will help create a sense of calm.
- Don’t assume anyone understands what is expected of them, including your staff. Be sure everyone is in the loop. Having everyone on the same page and providing consistency will be key. Have a place – a “central communication hub” – that is easy to access and where all information is gathered for everyone who needs to find the answers to their questions.
- Customer service will be harder than ever before. People are scared and have been in isolation, so will be mentally overwhelmed, so the likelihood for something to be taken out on a random cashier is high. Prep your team to give grace, be empathetic, and adaptable. Empower them to resolve an issue and add value if needed. This goes for online reviews as well. People are online more than ever. You might see an uptick in reviews. Remember to not take them personally and hug your haters (see my previous blog). If you are delivering on your promises and still meeting conflict, remember to be kind and good listeners. If you listen in between the lines you will know this isn’t about you or your services, it is about what they are going through.
- As we move forward it will be more important than ever to be authentically you, as well as to follow through with what you say. Don’t over-promise in this uncertain time. Just stick to what you do best. Review your data to see what your customers’ needs are and meet those first. If your data reveals holes, make adjustments quickly. This may mean leaving a product or service on the shelf for a bit or bringing back something that is your old faithful. Either way, be sure you are using the data to make sound decisions.
I could carry on with thoughts to consider, but I want to respect your time. Whatever you decide, just take a step forward, one day at a time. If you do nothing else, I say to at least do a little something extra special for those who supported you while in the pandemic. As part of the Ambassadors and a small business owner, I am compelled to #shoplocal and #buysmall more than ever before. During my pandemic purchases I noticed some small businesses going the extra mile. Kudos to Polly’s and Lynn’s, as they delivered my purchases during social distancing to my porch with cute little thank you gifts included. Wit’s End caught wind it was my hubby’s birthday and decorated the cup and packaging of our purchase with well wishes. These gestures may seem little, but they go a long way to showing me that my support, loyalty, and patronage is appreciated, and doesn’t go without notice. If you need help getting the plan together, reach out – we would love to help you spark something in your new normal. If you would like to chat over a virtual glass of sweet tea, reach out. I would love to chat.
Superhero photo cred: the amazing Naomi at Rockadot.