The essential checklist for how to communicate to customers and colleagues during COVID-19

communicate

Business coach Jaquie Scammell. Source: supplied.

As a business leader, owner or working professional, you are trying to do the best you can right now, and you are probably doing a great job.  

You are keeping up with global, national and local updates. You are learning hourly the impact that COVID-19 is having, or will have, on your work and economic situation, personal and professional life. 

You are seeking ways of feeling good in such dangerous and terrifying times, knowing there is a human need to help each other more than ever. 

So where do you begin to be helpful towards other people, like your valued customers and colleagues?

The following two checklists for how to communicate can help.

Customer checklist

 

1. Be transparent

Think about the questions some of your customers may have and anticipate this with a solid list of FAQs.

For example, if your yoga studio is now closed, does that mean that as a customer my direct debit payment is paused?

Alleviate any additional stress in their lives by anticipating what they may be asking. 

2. Give people options and alternatives 

Think through scenarios and imagine ways of people accessing your business differently, respecting the social distancing measures in place.

Can you provide things that you would normally do face-to-face online?

Now is the time to be creative, think differently and create new rules of engagement. 

3. Honour any loyalty programs, or status to customers

Proactively communicate what your stance is on loyalty statuses and placements.

For example, Qantas and Virgin last week informed me they will honour my current frequent flyer points and put 12-months extension in place.

That’s one less phone call or internet search I have to do, and one less thing for me to worry about, thank you very much.

4. Apply standard procedures flexibly

‘Business as usual’ does not exist and now is the time to be flexible and adapt.

What changes have you made to your refund policies? Have you considered looking at your standard procedures and terms and conditions to suit the times?

Aim for a win-win solution where people see that you are being fair and reasonable. 

5. Communicate helpful messages, don’t add to more noise

Every time you send out something to your customers, check to see how helpful you are being.

Yes, thank them for their patience and well wishes of health and safety, and then get on with providing solutions, answers and useful suggestions.

Empathy is needed but it also requires action. 

Colleague checklist  

 

1. Be transparent

A great way to communicate facts and make sure employees are not confused is by explaining ‘what this is’ and ‘what this is not’.

Sometimes when you spell out the contrast of what is happening versus what people believe is happening, you can eliminate misunderstandings, rumours and assumptions from employees and colleagues. 

2. Over-communicate the mission

Remind people of the company’s mission and values — the collective they are a part of.

This may even inspire some people to think differently about how to achieve those values during times of isolation and social distancing.

You want them to be advocates of your business when we come out the other end. 

3. Be impeccable with your words

Choose your words wisely. Slow down talking on the phone and take a step back on any written communications before you press send.

Weave language that is compassionate, helpful and human in and out of the facts, tough decisions and clinical response that may need to be given from time to time.

4. Stay connected

We are social animals that are now being instructed to keep our distance.

The subtle mental and emotional distress this causes people will have a longer-term impact and you can be proactive right now by addressing this.

If you haven’t already, set up a series of weekly or fortnightly team webinars where people can come online and connect. 

This gives people an outlet to talk, share and learn from each other.

NOW READ: During times of uncertainty, it is important to keep lines of communication open. But how honest should business owners be with their clients, customers, shareholders, board members and contractors about their struggles in this time of crisis?

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