5 Ways Effective Communication with Customers Can Help You Maneuver a Crisis

During a crisis, things appear to be falling apart, and insecurities about the future of your operations continue increasing. One of the things you can change at such a time is how you communicate with your clients. Here are some of the ways in which effective communication with customers can help you through a crisis.

The uncertainties surrounding any crisis spark fear among individuals and pose a threat to the continuity of most businesses. It is not unusual to hear clients saying, “They are not telling us anything,” “We have no news,” and “We do not know what is happening,” when they appear on television interviews amidst a crisis.

When the dust settles down, you will hear companies apologizing to their customers. They indicate that the crisis was a time to learn valuable lessons and that they hope to do better next time. The implication, in this case, is that effective communication with customers is critical during a crisis. Keeping your customers in the dark or allowing any sense of disconnection with them during uncertain times will only damage the reputation of your brand.

During a crisis, things appear to be falling apart, and insecurities about the future of your operations continue increasing. One of the things you can change at such a time is how you communicate with your clients. Here are the top 5 ways in which effective communication with customers can help you through a crisis.

1. Communication Promotes Transparency

Customers need to get a real sense of the situation during a crisis. One of the ways you can achieve that is by furnishing your clients with regular updates regarding the issues at hand. By doing so, your customers will consider your business authentic. That, in turn, will boost their confidence in your brand going forward.

Today, social media is often where people turn to when issues arise or when there is a situation requiring their attention. As such, you should consider reaching out to your clients through social channels to engage them better during a crisis. A crisis may also demand some adjustments.

So, if you are planning to provide online learning instead of physical lessons, you intend to close your physical store for some time, or you are moving face-to-face workshops to virtual meetings, ensure you communicate the same to your customers. The way you communicate with customers during a crisis can either make or break your business operations. You cannot afford to overlook the importance of maintaining transparency at such a time.

RELATED: 6 Ways to Succeed at Facebook Marketing in 2020

2. Communication Allows You to Address the Problem Head-On

Changing your business approach for the purposes of adapting may be a necessity during a crisis. As much as that is the case, you need to bring your clients into the loop carefully and sympathetically. Thoughtful communication will call for clarification on where you and your customers stand when there is a situation affecting your business operations.

In that case, creating a public address to communicate directly to your clients is advisable. Addressing your customers in-person can bear a positive impact on your operations. Doing so will also bring a little sense of normality into the lives of your clients when times are tough.

Also, note that hearing from a brand during a crisis is quite reassuring for customers, despite the situation on the ground. The next step after addressing your customers is creating content that focuses on crisis communication. Social media can help you implement such details into your marketing strategy to help you win the trust of your clients in an uncertain business environment.

Additionally, crisis communication humanizes your brand by introducing a sense of “collective grief.” That implies that your enterprise and customers alike are experiencing the loss of “normal” and are addressing the issue together.

3. Communication Creates an Opportunity for Your Business to Thrive

A crisis can prompt many entrepreneurs to embrace remote operations, as is the case at the moment. Thriving in such a business environment calls for constant communication with all stakeholders, including your clients. The fact that physical interactions become rare in remote working environments does not suggest that you should lose touch with your customers.

Effective communication with customers in a remote setting should go beyond cold calls and messages. On the other hand, understanding how your clients feel during a crisis is paramount. For that reason, you should consider video calls when communicating with your customers at such a time. That way, you will learn a lot from the body language and facial expressions of your clients.

In turn, you can reassess your strategies to identify the business approach that suits your customers and implement the same. Responding to the concerns of your customers in uncertain times will eventually promote business success.

4. Effective Communication with Customers Fosters Trust

You cannot win the loyalty of your customers during a crisis if they have no connection with your brand. The reason for this is that effective communication is one of the building blocks of trust in any relationship. That is especially true in a remote setting where casual interactions, in-person meetings, and live events are lacking.

Capturing the attention of your customers, in this case, becomes paramount because it has a direct impact on their connection to your brand. Communicating with your clients in times of uncertainty is a sign of your thoughtfulness, and it provides an opportunity for you to strengthen your relationship with them as well.

5. Communication Reduces Cases of Customer Churn

Losing clients during a crisis is quite unfortunate for any company, and it affects your returns, too. The fear among customers in an uncertain business environment is part of what may cause them to abandon particular brands. The probability of retaining clients at such a time will partly depend on the faith you instill in them regarding the future of your business operations.

Therefore, effective communication with customers should be part of your priorities if you do not want to lose clients when crises set in. Remember that your clients are looking for the reassurance that tough times are not going to affect your relationship with them. Giving such individuals every reason to believe in your brand will reduce cases of customer churn, which will, in turn, promote business continuity.

Whether a crisis is within or beyond your control, the fact is that your relationship with your clients will be at stake at such a time.

Effective communication with customers during a crisis helps you to keep in touch with them while addressing the concerns they may have from time to time. That way, your enterprise will stand a better chance of succeeding during and beyond tough times.

If you need information on effective digital solutions for effective communication during a crisis, contact the experts at LocalBizGuru today! We’re here to help in any way we can!

  • Email
  • Next up: 5 Ways to Get Powerful Customer Testimonials You’ll Actually Use

    5 Ways to Get Powerful Customer Testimonials You’ll Actually Use

    Testimonials are a powerful tool when it comes to converting prospective customers into actual buyers. They also work to confirm the choice current customers have made and will keep them coming back for more. Here are insider tips and ideas for putting together compelling video testimonials that will give your business a boost.

    From Facebook to Yelp to chatting with your next door neighbor, there are myriad ways to seek other opinions and experiences on just about every company or service provider. And, people inherently trust the opinions of other people. When it comes to testimonials, 90% of people say they trust recommendations from people they know and 70% of people say they trust recommendations from people they don’t know.

    So if you’re a small business owner, testimonials can be a great way to get a lot of marketing bang for your buck. Video testimonials can be created easily and affordably and are extremely effective when done right.

    The Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Content Director Shawn Turner took part in a recent panel discussion hosted by New Image Media that delved deeper into how to get powerful customer testimonials. Other panelists featured were Raquel Eatmon, owner and CEO of Rising Media LLC, and Steve Petti, owner and creative director at New Image Media.

    The discussion yielded five expert strategy tips behind great testimonials.

    Tip No. 1: Find good testimonial candidates

    You want a testimonial, but how do you select someone to participate? Ultimately, the ideal person is a brand ambassador for your company; someone engaged and engaging.

    • Look for the most excited person in the room at an event. If they’re tweeting or texting, they’re probably feeling inspired by the experience. When they’re excited, it shows on camera.
    • Help interviewees overcome any anxiety about being on camera. Play music or talk casually with them beforehand. Tell them a story or show them testimonials you’ve shot previously. The more relaxed they are, the better they will be on camera.
    • Try to gather people at different stages of their relationships with your organization. It not only showcases a variety of different types of testimonials, but can also help solidify their good feelings toward your business.
    • Don’t forget about internal testimonials. Collect messages from staff about how they care about the customer. This approach helps personalize the business for your audience.
    • Seek comments from industry experts. Authorities in your specific industry area can provide professional opinions about why your business excels.

    Tip No. 2: Use a content calendar

    A content calendar can be a useful tool in planning out all aspects of your marketing plans, and testimonials are no exception. Thoughtful planning for your video testimonials can help you juggle all of the balls you will no doubt have in the air with your small business.

    • Make sure your content calendar includes different platforms so that you’re reaching people with your testimonials across all areas of social media and your website.
    • Put some intention behind your timing and plot out when you want things to hit on each platform.
    • A good content calendar will allow you to see at a glance what topic areas you’re covering on what platforms and at what times.
    • Allow for some flexibility. Don’t make it so rigid that you don’t have space to cover something that comes up last minute. Because things will always come up last minute.

    Tip No. 3: Plan it out

    So thanks to your content calendar, you know when and where you’re looking to place testimonials. But what will the video itself look like?

    • Take some time to think about the colors you might use. Do you have to coordinate with a specific logo?
    • Do it on-scene. Find a good place for an interview where you can capture the emotion and activity of the event; where action can be seen and felt.
    • Don’t make it too over-produced. Allow people to be natural and feel comfortable, both the interviewees and people watching.

    Tip No. 4: Encourage sharing

    The video is done and you’re proud of the work you accomplished.  It’s time to spread the word and get that video going viral.

    • Let your interviewees know when you’re publishing their videos. Send them the URL so they can share it with their networks.
    • Create a balance between promotional and informational material. People are less likely to share if a video is purely promotional. Add an educational element in it or other takeaway; tell them something they don’t already know or something they will find valuable.
    • Tell a story. And then get to the heart of the story, tugging at people’s heartstrings when possible. Find a way to reel in the audience. When the testimonial is more relatable, it’s also more likely to be shared.
    • Call-to-actions can be subtle. A simple fade-in with the website or phone number at the bottom is all you need, and it will help people feel less like they are sharing a commercial.

    Tip No. 5: Get a better ROI

    What’s better than having a great testimonial? Having a great testimonial that you can re-use and repurpose. You don’t always have to be shooting new video, but you can make it look like you are.

    • Slice up a video and save it. Take different segments and use them according to what’s currently trending. You don’t need to use the whole video at once—save parts for later when they have more relevance. Don’t forget to hashtag it!
    • Soundbites are key. Take one testimonial and divide it into several different soundbites to use leading up to an event. Be sure to give them new, creative titles.
    • Post and repeat. Since Twitter is more disposable than other social platforms, you can repost the same video (or different segments of the same video).
    Video doesn’t have to be just a video. Turn a still shot into a graphic or an animated .GIF file.
  • Email
  • Next up: 5 Ways to Maximize the ROI of Your Holiday Gift

    5 Ways to Maximize the ROI of Your Holiday Gift

    It might seem like a long way off, but the holiday season will be here before you know it. Here are five ways to ensure the gift you give also gifts you a positive impression with colleagues and clients.

    Sending holiday gifts or cards to clients and colleagues is a nice tradition that can produce positive results, but also involve time and expense. As you plan for this year, consider these options for increasing your ROI by creating a positive impression—and doing something different.

    1. I’m thankful for you

    Send “I'm thankful for you” greetings on the Monday before Thanksgiving. They won't be lost in the sea of year-end holiday cards and can create a more positive impression.

    2. Personalize your message

    Whenever you send your cards, chose cards that are blank on the inside so you can hand-write a short, personalized message.

    3. Use cards from non-profits or local charities

    Consider using cards created by local charities or non-profits as fund-raisers. This way, the card itself becomes part of your message.

    4. The personal touch

    Hand-address the envelopes and even the return addresses. The extra effort will help it stand out in a crowded in-basket.

    5. A gift in their honor

    Five years ago, I was doing the above steps and obtaining good results, but decided to gamble on doing something really different. So, I sent everyone an email indicating that I would be making an additional donation to the local hunger center and animal shelter in their honor instead of sending them gifts or cards. I indicated that the need to help others was great and hoped they felt good about my decision. I hoped this plan would be a win for the organizations that received my donations and a win for me in my time savings and in the positive image it produced. However, I did spend a lot more money than simply buying the gifts, cards and postage would have been. The response was positive. Some people even thanked me for doing such a good thing and several said they would try something similar. I've continued with that plan ever since.

    As you plan your holiday gift/cards program for this year, consider some of these ideas that would work for your needs and values. And ... Happy Holidays!

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication (www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356) and empowers business leaders to communicate confidently. Stella is a COSE Ambassador, Resource Network  Expert, Content Committee member and has been a frequent speaker at COSE events. A popular trainer and executive coach on workplace communications and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative.  

  • Email
  • Next up: 5 ways to take your sales to new heights

    5 ways to take your sales to new heights

    Hal Becker doesn’t mince words when it comes to assessing the profession he’s spent so many years of his life working in. “Most sales people (are terrible),” the sales consultant says.  Fellow sales professional and consultant Marvin Montgomery agrees that there is a negative stigma surrounding the sales profession. “Sales people think anyone can get out there and do this,” he says, adding, “Most don’t do it the right way.” For a small business with limited resources, inefficiencies in the sales process can have a dramatic effect.

    Hal Becker doesn’t mince words when it comes to assessing the profession he’s spent so many years of his life working in. “Most sales people (are terrible),” the sales consultant says. 

    Fellow sales professional and consultant Marvin Montgomery agrees that there is a negative stigma surrounding the sales profession. “Sales people think anyone can get out there and do this,” he says, adding, “Most don’t do it the right way.” For a small business with limited resources, inefficiencies in the sales process can have a dramatic effect.

    So, what is the right way to approach the sales process? Becker and Montgomery identified five ways your business development program can be driven to new heights.

    1. Identify prospects, not suspects

    Entrepreneurs have a limited amount of time on their hands and should not be wasting that precious time on suspects; they should be going after prospects, Montgomery says. How can you tell the difference between the two? It helps to ask the following questions during the initial contact:

    • What is the timeframe for when the product or service must be delivered? If the timing doesn’t work out for both parties, then there is no sense moving forward.
    • Does the customer have the budget for the product or service? Again, if there can be no agreement on pricing, then the sales person is not talking to a prospect; he or she is dealing with a suspect.
    • Is this person a decision-maker? Ideally, your sales team will be most efficient in working with people who are in a position to make a decision and aren’t just gathering information.

    “Sales people need to look at the initial meeting as an exploration meeting,” he says. “You’ll both explore if there is a need to partner up together.” And if there isn’t a need to partner, make sure the customer leaves the meeting feeling good about potential business deals in the future.

    2. Listen

    A lot of people simply think selling is selling, Montgomery says. That’s the wrong way to go about it. He believes selling is listening. It’s not the job of a small-business sales person to do an info dump. It’s the job of this person to identify whether there is a need for their product or service.

    “It’s all about asking questions and listening,” he says.

    Becker agrees that sales people should engage potential customers in conversation. “I bet if you ask all of your questions and listen to the customer, they will tell you what they want,” he says. “People want to be helped, not sold.”

    Montgomery says it’s best for sales people to engage in “active listening” to help force them to pay attention. This can include note-taking and can also be as simple as leaning forward during the conversation. “Acknowledge that you understand what is being said,” Montgomery says.

    3. Ask for the business

     Once the sales person has a clear understanding of the customers’ needs, it’s time to start closing the sale. That begins with asking for the business, Montgomery says.

    Becker says it’s best to be direct at this stage of the process. He points to how doctors approach patients: Doctor’s don’t waste time talking about family matters; they ask pointed questions to determine your health. In the same way, sales people should ask direct questions to try to zero in on the deal.

    “Get to the point,” he advises. “You don’t need to dance. You don’t need to play games.”

    4. After the meeting

    Regardless of whether a sale is made, it’s important for small businesses to rely on the one natural advantage they have over their larger competitors: the personal touch.

    “Be real,” Becker says. “Have a high emotional intelligence. If you are truly empathetic and put the customer first, they will never forget you. Do the right thing. Don’t just talk a good game, but pretend you have just one client: How do they want to be treated?”

    5. Practice, practice, practice

    Becker and Montgomery agree that small business owners need to be continually refining their sales game. In the same way Lebron James practices the fundamentals of the game of basketball, sales people need to practice their own fundamentals.

    “A lot of sales people come to the game not prepared and they think the best way to sell is to endear themselves to the customer by talking a lot and doing a lot of small talk,” he says. “That’s the last thing you should do.”

    Instead, in the same way musicians have a musical score laid out in front of them during a concert, entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid to bring notes to a sales meeting, Becker says.

    “Sales people are supposed to cheat,” he explains. If you have your questions already written out, that allows you to focus on Step No. 1: listening.

  • Email
  • Next up: 6 Ways to Create Loyal, Raving Fans

    6 Ways to Create Loyal, Raving Fans

    You don’t want customers. You want a loyal base of customers who are going to stick with your business no matter what. Here are six ways to make that happen.

    Sometimes, we take our customers for granted, don’t we? We just assume that because they just bought our product or service that they will always continue to buy from us. I mean, you do have the best _____ (fill in the blank here with what your company does or offers) on the planet, right? And why would they ever consider to NOT buy from us?

    There are a lot of possible answers to that question, but I think it may come down to the fact that we never really take any concrete steps to turn them from a satisfied customer to a loyal and raving fan.

    Keeping a client does take work and while all of us know this, how often do we practice it? How do you make your customers feel? Are you building a loyal and raving client or is it a “one and done” relationship?

    There are many different factors that go into building loyal clients and here are just a few of them. (Our workshops and seminars on The Customer Experience go into detail on how to create this experience for your clients and not make them a “one and done.")

    1. Make it personal. Get to know more about your client than just his or her name. What do they like to eat, drink, do, etc.? Know the birthdate and/or the anniversary of when they became a client with you and celebrate these events.

    2. Be proactive, not reactive. I call this “the vision.” Can you anticipate your clients’ needs before they can? Or are you always reacting to them? Remember, when you are reacting, you are typically on your heels and you are apologizing. Now, you can’t be everywhere all the time, but you can avoid challenges at times by just thinking one step ahead to potentially quiet the storm that may be looming.

    3. Ask this question: "How else can I help you today?” And it may not have anything to do with your business, but it has everything to do with theirs. Who can you connect them with to solve a problem that they may be experiencing? What you are doing is building value for you and your company. If they can think of you as an expert and someone who can help them achieve their objectives, you are making them feel better about themselves and your company at the same time.

    4. Handle last minute requests with professionalism. That can be challenging at times, especially when clients change their minds and orders—a lot. But we can all pick up poor body language cues and non-verbal communication, even on the phone. Make sure your people handle these requests with a smile on their face, no matter what they may be really thinking about your customer.

    5. Think like a franchise. Here is what we mean: Any good franchise will have systems in place on how to do most everything in their company or organization. In theory, almost anyone in their company (who can read and follow directions) should be able to handle any situation or challenge that could arise with a client. Do you have your systems in place so that anyone in your company could take care of a client when they have a challenge? Or is your customer “shuttled” from one department to another because people in your company just don’t know how to answer that particular question. If you are able to create systems that will cross-train your employees, just think what the feeling will be from your customers. They will feel better about any challenge they may have knowing that anyone from your team can work with them. This is quite refreshing in this day of “always being put on hold.”

    6. Thank them over and over. This doesn’t always mean with gifts (although those are always nice). It could also be in the form of a special price on a product or service they order from you. It could be special recognition on your website or social media sites. It could be having their favorite beverage and snack waiting for them the next time they come to your office (or when you visit them).

    These are just a few ways to not only build loyal client relationships (and friendships) but to make people feel better about you and your company brand than they do about your competitor.

    Bob Pacanovsky is a Keynote Speaker and Trainer who works with companies and organizations to develop the Black Tie Experience- creating an impression that LASTS through leadership, service, actions, and behaviors. To learn more, contact Bob at (330) 352-6084 or Bob@BobPacanovsky.com

  • Email
  • Next up: 6 Ways to Create Relationships (And Conversions) with Your Digital Fans

    6 Ways to Create Relationships (And Conversions) with Your Digital Fans

    Here are a half dozen ways your small business can start winning the online customer relationship battle.

    Before Facebook, Instagram, email and all the other social media platforms came along, customer relationship building happened in-person and small businesses were the kings of those relationships. While big companies saw a small staff, limited locations, and not so big production facilities as downfalls for small businesses and advantages for themselves, they forgot about the most important marketing tactic: customer-relationship building. And small businesses excelled at it.

    Today, customer-relationship building has taken a turn. It's no longer the "Hello" at the bakery or "Here's a birthday card in the mail" from your local dry cleaner. It has become so digitalized that it's hard to grasp that it can even be considered a relationship!

    Many small businesses have set up their digital channels to consider conversions, but have not carried over their wonderful customer-relationship skills to the digital space. Conversions and customer-relationships go together. You can't have one without the other when it comes to social media and the digital landscape.

    How can you build better relationships with your digital fans? Here are six strategies you can implement at your business.

    Customer relationship tip No. 1: Bring them in and talk to them

    Many people look at Facebook followers and Instagram fans as the end of the line, but it's important to remember to create content that doesn't bring them into your page but relevantly communicates with them. (Relevant is the key word here).  This also includes boosting your posts to your audience!  Just because you post it on your channels does not mean they will see it in today's pay to play world.

    Customer relationship tip No. 2: Turn in-person customers into fans

    Offer promotion to those you work with in-person if they follow you on social media. Then, get ready to communicate with them!

    Customer relationship tip No. 3: Send targeted emails 

    For a while, sending a monthly newsletter was the biggest trend in email marketing, but today consumers have gotten smarter.  To build a relationship with them through email, you need to send highly targeted, relevant messages for them to consider opening your email.

    Customer relationship tip No. 4: Segment your digital audience

    Look at psychographics, demographics, and other behaviors to segment your fans and databases for a more personalized message.

    Customer relationship tip No. 5: Get personal! 

    Don't be afraid to send private Facebook messages, respond directly to tweets, and tag customers on your channels.  Act like a human, not a business, when you're communicating in the digital space.

    Customer relationship tip No. 6: Brainstorm
    Think about how you currently interact with your customers in-person, then convert those behaviors to the digital space.  Look at all the tools available to you - from Facebook live to Instagram stories to email segmenting. 

    This article was not written with the intent to tell you to stop building relationships in-person.  That method hasn't gone away. By leveraging relationship building in the digital space and incorporating it into your conversion strategy, you can take advantage of the great world of digital marketing for your small business.

    Annie Pryatel is the owner of AMP Brand Studios. Learn more about how AMP is helping small businesses succeed by clicking here.
  • Email