Customers & Communication: How to Handle Them During a Crisis

During the pandemic, a number of companies are struggling with how to pivot their business and how to stay afloat. The right question to ask, however, is how to help our communities.

As a business, your thinking should be less about selling your products or services and more about helping people out. At one point, if your clients and customers can’t pay you immediately but need your help, they will remember your company and you for looking out for them when they needed it. This will forge a long-lasting relationship between you and your customers.

Reaching out and asking questions about their needs will give you an understanding of how things are at their end and in the industry, as a whole. Even if the product they need is not yours, when you help them out, they will appreciate it.

Be open to listening. If you understand the education sector, for example, create solutions that are accessible and inexpensive. Your business may be about smart boards in the classroom, but with classes taking place online, work on your product in a way that teachers can use the concept of that product on their computers from their homes. You can even let schools borrow more smart boards to give to their teachers’ homes while distance learning lasts.

The key is to innovate and catch up to the changes that are happening at the speed of light. Necessity is the mother of all invention, and there is no greater necessity than right now.

And to invent in the right direction, you need to communicate, and communicate well with all your customers. All the good ideas lie in the problems they are facing currently.

So how to communicate with customers the right way during a crisis like the one we are in? And most importantly, how to communicate to retain the customers you have currently?

Let’s see!

Create openings for dialogues:

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Nowadays there are so many platforms for you to reach out to your customers. Create question posts, polls, feedback forms, or just genuine posts asking your community how they are doing and what is something that might help them. Create a personalized campaign sharing some of your valuable resources for free to your customers making a way for them to connect with you about any kind of help they might require.

The more they feel like they can rely on you during such hard times, the longer they will stay with you. Be their source of support, security in these uncertain times.

Mostly, some of your hard-earned relationships with your loyal customers might’ve been shaken up by these uncertainties but you can easily prevent that by opening a raw and authentic dialogue between you and them.

Choose candor over charisma:

That sounds like a gimmick. But with marketing, we often forget that charisma isn’t everything. Sure it helps to seem so cool that people want to automatically know more about you. But it is temporary. Truth and authenticity will always work when people are anyway too occupied with their struggles. They don’t need you to be out of reach. They need you to make yourself available and on the same level as them.

That paragraph was an example of us not being charismatic.

Integrate a unified digital channel:

When your customer is trying to reach you and if they have to send you an email, or call you, it is not ideal. They should be able to get all the help they need via a singular communication channel. With a customer portal, this communication is cleaner and more organized.

Help them get answers before they ask for them and help them solve issues on their own with step by step instructions and guidance. Make sure that your portal has bifurcated issues in categories so they don’t need to dig around for topics. Give them access to their invoices, personal information, etc. within the portal so they don’t have to go look through their inbox. Eliminate the need for them to have to email you anything.

The point is to provide a digital-first experience which is easy to access for them and is scalable for you so that you are prepared for such big changes, crises, etc.

Use the portal to its maximum potential to truly make it simple for your customers to interact with you.

Unclutter internal communication:

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You don’t want an episode of lost in translation happening at such a crucial stage. If you work in departmental silos, then it is time to unlearn some processes and adapt to the new normal; open communication.

What can happen with different departments in charge of small and different things, aspects of your offerings is miscommunication. If not that then definitely delays in addressing what might be some important requests or messages. A small delay or a small miscommunication can prove to be fatal for your organization because people are sensitive now more than ever.

So disintegrate your hierarchies and department silos and try and streamline the flow of internal communication and information. The key here would be identifying the right stakeholders who can handle pressure and are good with people.

You would also need to keep your employees up to date with any major developments in your company because chances are they are as anxious as your customers are right now. If you hear any negative chatter around some things, then try and address them organization-wise as soon as possible.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, and take it from there. The pain points will be abundantly clear to you then and that is the first step to eliminating them.


Writer’s Note: This piece of writing is in collaboration with Roma Amarnani.


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