Early last year, we wrote a blog, “Communications Planning for Unexpected Schedule Changes,” that addressed the importance of communications planning. It focused on various strategies to build a checklist of tasks in the event your business is affected by some unforeseen circumstance. Sadly, we have to brush the dust off that blog.
While last year’s blog mentioned the importance of planning for the unexpected (like a snowstorm or a power outage), I don’t think any of us were preparing for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the ramifications it could potentially have on our communities and small businesses.
We encourage you to communicate openly and honestly with your customers. Additionally, you should develop messaging centered around the following areas (that are applicable to you):
What has changed for your business?
- Is your entire operation temporarily suspended?
- Have you modified your hours or days that you’re open?
- Have you modified the ways you’re providing goods and services to your customers?
What measures and procedures are you taking to ensure the health of your staff and customers?
- Are you limiting the number of customers at any given time?
- Are you performing additional disinfecting practices?
- Do you have any special requests for when customers visit your establishment?
How is the customer affected?
- Do customers have to make special arrangements to partake in your business?
- Are there a limited number of products available?
- Will the delivery/shipments of their products/services be delayed?
Provide any insight you may have toward the next steps.
- Are you a restaurant closing for dine-in, but you’re open Monday-Friday for dinner take out?
- Is your business offering gift cards during this down period?
- If it’s business as usual, let them know.
- If you are taking the time to strategize, and you aren’t really sure of any timelines or next steps, that’s totally okay to communicate that.
I first mentioned building out a checklist of channels for your messaging. To learn more about the best ways of building a social media, website, phone greeting message checklist, visit “Communications Planning for Unexpected Schedule Changes.”
We think this is a helpful outline for your communications with customers and staff members. At the end of the day, we’re all facing similar challenges and are acutely aware of the world's issues around us right now. Therefore, it’s completely appropriate to communicate openly and honestly with your following.
PS - If you know a small business (like a restaurant, book store, clothing store, etc.) that you love that might be facing difficult times in the next few weeks, please feel free to give them a call or shoot them an email, and ask you how you can support them. Chances are, they’ll offer takeout or allow you to purchase gift cards for future purchases, etc. Above all, we’ve seen a ton of small businesses receiving support from their communities. We’re all in this together!