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How to reassure your customers as a retail business

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    Katie Mather

    Katie Mather UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    With closed doors and open hearts, local businesses are doing what they can to keep afloat during the age of COVID-19. While times are indeed hard, during this difficult time we’ve also seen a lot of goodwill swell from the ground up. 

    While it’s a struggle to keep positive when the future is so uncertain, what’s become apparent is that in their furloughed time at home, people are more willing to search for local businesses to support. You may not be able to open up and act like everything is normal for some time to come, but there are ways to keep your customers in the know and feeling valued without going overboard and scaring them away.

    Send useful messaging, rarely

    There are many unique considerations to take into account now, especially if you are not as a business accustomed to sending out personalised messaging.

    During lockdown, you will have already received dozens of marketing emails disguised as essential virus advice from companies you might not even remember purchasing goods from. They’re annoying, aren’t they? Now is not the time to fish for new business. 

    “Consider your message and strike the right tone. This isn’t the time for hard selling,” says Emmet McEvoy from Origin Digital. “People are worried and want reassurance. Contemplate ways to offer help and practical support to put their minds at ease.”

    Now is the time to be honest and effective – your messaging should tread along the lines of: “These are our products, this is how we are packaging them and distributing them, this is how much they are. Here is where you can buy them.”

    Resist the urge to send more messages. Keep your emails rare so they don’t lose any of their freshness. Desperation stinks.

    Give clear safety information

    During this pandemic the most vital thing on the top of everyone’s priority list is safety. 

    Are your goods safe? How do you know? What are you doing to make sure they stay that way?

    Is your bricks and mortar business open and safe to visit? What are the special measures you’ve put in place to keep your staff and your customers safe?

    While it’s nice to a personal touch to your emails, your customers probably don’t care whether you’re wishing them well or not. What they want to know is how you’re acting on government advice and, essentially, what you’re doing to stop them from catching the virus from you or your team. Don’t waste time getting to the point — be clear and calm.

    Be honest about any changes or delays

    It’s been several weeks since lockdown was announced in the UK. In this time most businesses have done an admirable job in stepping up their webshop, home delivery and mail order services.

    This means that customers have had plenty of time to get used to ordering online, and are already aware that delivery might take a little longer than usual due to demand. This is good news for you! However, they have also become accustomed to being in the know about the status of their orders. If you’re not used to providing this sort of detailed order information, you could end up with some unhappy customers before they’ve even received their package.

    Digital marketing specialists Teapot Creative say: “Poor communication can leave a bitter aftertaste for clients ... when you share, you can collaborate towards the best possible outcomes!”

    Get ahead of any delays or issues by honestly estimating delivery times and changing the way you deliver your goods if necessary. While it’s not an ideal situation, this gives the customer the information to make a choice, rather than leaving them uninformed and ultimately, disappointed.

    Keeping your staff and workplace safe

    Your staff are the essential people who will keep your business running now and in the future. Making sure they are working safely and are well-informed about any changes to their working environment should be top of your agenda. Your team should feel valued and cared for at this unsure and stressful time.

    If you’re closing temporarily, they should be the first to know. If you’re implementing safety measures and lifting furlough to reopen, you should reach out to your people and answer any queries or concerns they might have before announcing it to your customers.

    Rachel Hawkins, owner of The Hare pub in the Cotswolds village of Milton, spoke to small business bank Tide about how she’s communicated this to her staff.

    “I feel a responsibility to make sure they’re happy, have money and have a sense of their prospects. With the staff who live in at the pub, I asked them to reassure their families that they were safe. When the outbreak started, I reminded them that they could leave if they wanted to.”

    Customers will remember how your business or brand acted during the lockdown. Learn from the changes and additional practices you’ve put into place and think about how you can keep the good they’ve generated going. That way they can continue to benefit you long after Covid-19 is nothing but a bad memory.