I saw this great quote in an email I received from restaurant chain SticksnSushi this morning. They sent out a fantastic email to their mailing list this morning with the simple subject line ‘Unity’. In it, they explained that due to coronavirus and the warning from the Government for people not to go to pubs and restaurants, they are offering food for takeaway. With businesses in the hospitality sector possibly the worst hit (other than airlines perhaps) by COVID-19, everyone is scrambling to find a way to make it through. I nearly added at the end of that sentence ‘the next few weeks’. Then I changed weeks to months. And then I completely got rid of that bit because we just don’t know how long this will go on for.

As any business is, we are concerned about the current situation, we are concerned about the future of some of our clients and other businesses out there. We wrote yesterday how we can try to support businesses and we had another team strategy meeting today (probably our last face to face meeting for a while) to go through more ideas. Whether it is promoting businesses, trying to keep using those we can or supporting others to generate new revenue streams, we want to help. As we said yesterday, this is not a sales pitch. This is a pitch of a completely different sort, one where we all pitch in to get through this together.

Last year we created the Love Coggeshall website with the aim of supporting local businesses. We’ve now published a post on there setting out what we are going to try and do to provide extra help in this time. We thought we would also set out some tips for how people can communicate with customers and clients to hopefully keeps sales going or services operating.

Help chat

I think most of us are sick of hold music by now. As I’m writing this, I’ve been on hold for 26 minutes and 32 seconds and my neck and cheek are throbbing from holding the phone while I try to carry on with work so this isn’t wasted time. So instead of worrying about people trying to call you, get help chat set up or make sure you are using it so they can easily get in touch. Or at least not have to suffer the same soft jazz or piano music for a while only for the call to cut out.

If you do use help chat, try to have a real person at the other end rather than a bot (if you have the capacity in your team to do this). Bots can help to direct people to the right place, but sometimes they can send people round in circles just adding to the frustration of the situation.

Clear messaging

On your website, think about how you may need to clearly communicate any particular messages. For example, if no one is in the office then you could explain this in a small banner at the top of the screen.

Even if you are carrying on completely as normal because your situation allows that, say this. Many people will make assumptions that everything has changed so if the message is ‘Carry On’ or ‘All Change’, get this out there.

Google My Business

Make sure your hours and contact details are up to date on Google My Business. There’s no point the main contact phone number being the office if no one is there and you can’t redirect phone calls. Furthermore, if the office is shut, then make this clear. You don’t want someone turning up because they think there is a chance they can have a quick final meeting or to pick something up.

Don’t forget to make use of posts on GMB to communicate what you are doing or if anything has changed. If you have had to add new services or change what you do, also reflect this in the services listed on your profile. Everyone is going to be spending a lot more time online so this is a key way to reach your audience or potential customers.

Social media

Use social media to communicate with your customers or clients and try to give as much information as possible or ask for help or understanding if needed. If your usual response time is 24 hours but you are snowed under, explain the situation and what you are doing about it.

Many of us like to schedule social media posts so we don’t have to do them throughout the week. However, that might mean posts you scheduled even a few days ago are no longer appropriate. Review your content to make sure it is correct, relevant and fitting for the current environment. You don’t want to seem tone-deaf or behind the times.

Promoting what you do

While it is important for businesses to try to get through this period, try not to be too pushy. We’ve spent ages agonising over wording of posts and emails we have put out. We genuinely aren’t trying to capitalise on the situation but at the same time want to offer genuine support where we think it would be helpful.

If it is a case of you going under or surviving, then you should say so. Everyone should be a bit more understanding but you just need to explain it to give people the full picture. So if you are a restaurant and have had to shut down but can offer deliveries, explain that this is the only way you can possibly continue to operate rather than just saying you have some incredible new dishes if people want a delicious dinner tonight.

Going back to the team at SticksnSushi, it is not business as usual but at least it’s business. Ultimately you need to do what you can to get through this. Hopefully, the above helps.

We are offering free half-hour phone calls with anyone who might want to discuss options to use digital platforms to support their business. Whether it is adding services to a website, setting a new website up or doing some SEO, we can advise what the various routes are. We won’t push our services, we will simply try and help people to figure out what may be best for them so they can keep going. Get in touch with us if this would be helpful. 

If you are reading this and think you have a great idea of how we can do more, get in touch. We are keen to find as many ways as possible to support businesses big and small out there.

Good luck everyone.