We're convinced that what you do -- right now -- matters. Even if your organization is 60% chaos and only 40% normal, your customers still need you. While today's situation might not be like every other national crisis, it has some big similarities. One of those is that people are going to remember who helped them and who ghosted them.
The Personal Touch
If there was one single recommendation for communication during this period it would be simple: every organization should make personal contact with every customer. The recommendation would go further: It's a good idea to personally reach out not only to every customer, but every former customer, and every prospect. The purpose of that personal contact is not sales, rather simply to check on them, and inquire about how they are doing.
The recommendation is not to send an email, but to call. If you can't reach them by phone, then tell them you called in an email. The goal of making a call is to reach beyond the digital and make real human contact.
Creating Stories that Resonate
Strong Brand Stories resonate and align the customer with the company. That is, the priorities, values, service, and purpose of the company is aligned with the heartbeat of the customer. The greater the alignment, the stronger the brand equity that the customer has in the brand. In routine times, we might develop a community service project to deepen our relationship with customers by connecting to a shared sense of passion. In the current crisis, we don't need to go looking for a cause to support, because the needs are all around us, and many of our customers have needs.
The normal Brand Story has been interrupted by a life-altering moment in our culture. The amount of concern that many of your customers have about your Brand Story is probably diminished, potentially by a lot. Instead, they are thinking about the story they are in - a story with kids at home, work canceled, plans disrupted, fear of disease...you know. The best thing you can do right now as a business or non-profit is to pay attention to the story your customers are experiencing and let them know that you are in it with them.
What would you say if you called every customer?
Since you already know a lot about your customers, you probably know the kind of challenges they are facing. Having a resource or two that you can suggest, will make the call more valuable and give it a natural purpose. That means it wouldn't be very hard to identify a couple of resources that may be helpful to them. You wouldn't need a direct resource that you are providing, but if you had one, that would be good, too. A short brainstorming session with team members that have frequent client contact would probably result in a list of practical challenges.
The intro to your phone script could go something like this:
We've developed a number of resources to help our employees cope with the current crisis and we want to share those with you.
We have some guidelines that we're using to help with...
I'm calling from XYZ, to make sure you are getting access to some of the resources available for (parents with kids at home, people who are laid off, etc.).
You don't only have to provide the somber kinds of resources (disease information, etc), you could bring a little fun to the party too. Any good survival guide should include something fun, funny or amusing. Any personal contact should also include some time for listening and empathy. Have your team prepared to gather specific needs and questions so you can respond and identify resources.
You may discover customer needs that you can address or needs that you want to help solve.
You can also use one of the alternatives to voice communication, like Facebook Messenger. But don't use something impersonal like a mass email. Make your communication personal. If you are using a mass approach, open an avenue for personal contact.
If you are doing something to help, you should offer that too. If you have a discount or special offer, you can mention it as long as if doesn't feel like the purpose of the call. Put a caring connection first, and anything commercial in second or third place.
I wanted to make sure you were aware that we are delivering for free...
Should I really be contacting prospects, right now?
Contacting people that are in the buyer's journey can be kind of a scary notion. But here's the reality, if they've established enough trust in you to be showing interest, then it's a good time to make personal contact. Because of the level of disruption, a larger than normal percentage of prospects may be dropping off before completing a purchase. You are better off reaching out to let them know you care, rather than simply allowing them to become invisible lost sales without contact. The best taste you can leave in their mouth right now is one of compassion and genuine concern. It won't hurt if they are still solid, but it will help as people circle back to buy later. If you have "life of the lead" data, you can be intelligent about the buyer's journey stage for each prospect. They will remember you, especially if the purpose of the outreach is to help, not sell.
Making direct customer contact is kind of extreme
Right, it is. How you respond to market disruptions is creating a new chapter in your Brand Story. The market, and your market, has been disrupted in ways that we are just beginning to understand. As the smoke begins to clear on this disease war, the potential to create organizational resets and the ability to bounce back will be based upon the quality of the personal relationship and the trust that your organization sustains during this time.
Personal concern for your customers and prospects during times of crisis informs them about something much larger than the product or service you offer. It shows them whether you are really in business to serve them, or if you are really in business to serve yourself. It presents an opportunity for the above and beyond kind of customer service that can cement customer relationships far into the future. It is based on a larger set of values, which make every one of us responsible for the people in our circle of relationships.
Caring for your customers and prospects is something you can and should do, right now.
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