How Small Businesses Can Serve Customers During a Crisis

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The COVID19 pandemic outbreak and economic downfall have involuntarily forced small businesses to transform the way they work and live rapidly. Several elements of such companies, such as supply chain management and customer services, have been challenged.

However, SMBs are doing their best to manage through this pandemic by drafting an effective crisis response, managing supply-chain interruptions, and communicating with employees to ensure their well-being.

With these new models of business, customer experience will undoubtedly take on a new meaning in the light of coronavirus. The needs of customers have now shifted dramatically from seamless, convenient, and engaging communication to the most empathized one. According to the Gallup Business Journal, customers are 9x more likely to be engaged if they receive empathetic customer support. That’s how vital empathy is!

Leading organizations have realized the current needs of today’s customers and are reorienting their customer experience efforts to meet those needs, such as security, safety, and sympathy. By emotionally interfacing with the clients during the emergency, organizations can build a foundation of generosity and enduring relationship with them.

Here are six such crisis management strategies adopted by some communities and businesses at this time:

1. Plan Well and Stay Calm

COVID19 is all about distress. However, exhibiting the same emotion to your customers will not help your small business in any way. Instead, plan and show them your readiness to face the pandemic or other crisis that may emerge anytime. In simple terms, when you reach out to your customers, make sure you sound confident and knowledgeable. Your customers want to know if you are all set to handle the situation, and that your business is available to help them.

planning during coronavirus

planning during coronavirus

By planning, you will also save your business from making hasty or insensitive decisions. Nonetheless, you must always prioritize supporting the customers with a limited budget while planning. Ensure customers can connect with small business owners amidst the crisis and are willing to help them. It is also necessary to remember not to overdo it.

Customer practices are changing undeniably like never before. As they are at home and buying behaviors are switched online, small businesses need to adapt to this change.

2. Support Your Customers Emotionally

Customers are forced to work from home due to global lockdown. Therefore, small businesses have to ensure that customer’s life is more enjoyable at home with their services or products.

For instance:

  • The cable giant – Comcast is offering free access to its Xfinity WiFi hot spots for people (including non-subscribers) for 60 days so that families can stay at home and keep themselves entertained with videos and online courses.
  • Likewise, New York’s Metropolitan Opera released digital shows to engage virtual crowds for free.

the metropolitan opera

the metropolitan opera

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  • Contemplation and mindfulness application – Headspace offers free membership to healthcare experts and has opened free content for other clients.
  • Different associations have propelled a few free online administrations; for example, food conveyance, shared rides, online courses, and more.

Small business owners can utilize these ideas to help relieve the stress of customers amidst the global crisis.

3. Assist Community in Financial Distress

At the hour of crisis, organizations are compelled to lessen their tasks for a questionable period, uncovering small business owners to enormous revenue and liquidity issues. In such scenarios, offering high-quality solutions while dealing with financial distress is the most significant challenge for small firms. Instead of penalizing customers for not meeting the payment obligations, you need to be flexible with them.

Many utilities, telecommunications, and automakers are waiving late fees and easing shutoffs to help communities struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. 

  • AT&T, the phone, cable, and media giant, has promptly halted the termination of home telephone, remote, or broadband assistance when clients can’t take care of their tabs as a result of pandemic disturbance. Additionally, the organization is waiving off late fees.
  • Burger King is providing two free kids meals to Americans purchasing through the Burger King app, and thereby helping the families who formerly relied on school lunches to feed their children. 

burger king kids meal promotion

burger king kids meal promotion

4. Treat Customers with Utmost Care

Treating customers with care has become the need of the hour. With physical channels such as retail stores being closed, small businesses have to adopt online strategies to resolve customer queries and requests that otherwise required personal attention.

A portion of the service companies has already established a customer-resource center explicitly to assist clients with claims relating to the pandemic. Be that as it may, such firms (if small in size) are at present encountering increased inbound call volumes in their contact habitats. Dealing with these call rates, while at the same time shifting the customer-service operations to remote-working arrangements, have resulted in complexities for small business.

However, with a specific well-thought crisis management plans, some firms are rightly utilizing these issues to increase their conversion and revenue. For example, some of the main telecom businesses have prepared their call-center specialists with PCs and other fundamental tools, empowering them to accept calls from their homes, so no clients are left unheard.

Apart from service centers, some institutions are demonstrating their care towards the prospects by offering free online courses.

  • Cisco’s Webex is presently helping schools and colleges by remotely offering free apparatuses for educators, students, and guardians, and in this way supporting the internet learning platforms.

cisco webex live

cisco webex live

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  • LinkedIn, through worker referrals, is giving free access to its top-notch highlights for an assigned period.
  • Some financial institutions and banks are encouraging the use of online channels by offering free tutorials on online banking.

5. Reduce Physical Interaction as Much as Possible

While supporting the community with online services, it is also the responsibility of small businesses to eliminate the virus’s spread. Companies can minimize contagion risk by following specific precautionary measures, especially if their sales process involves physical interaction.

For example, small grocery stores can extend their support to the community by eliminating the physical interaction with the following procedures:

  • Providing free home delivery for customers above 65 years old.
  • Placing physical-distance stickers on the floor/wall to aid safety compliance.
  • Limiting the number of people to enter the store at once.

Organizations that expect clients to be in close proximity (for example online food-conveyance firms) are offering new contactless delivery choices to wipe out physical contact among clients and conveyance operators. They are guaranteeing the well-being and security of both the clients and representatives.

dominos contactless delivery

dominos contactless delivery

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This methodology likewise requires small ventures to keep rigid norms for cleaning as well as work forms, for example, suspending drink refills off or reusing it to avoid public-handled items. 

6. Contribute to Safer Innovations

Now is the right time to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have a product that is safer for people to use right now?
  • Is it possible to innovate your products or develop new tools that are required for the community?

With a sufficient budget, you can pursue this approach in a limited time. It could be your existing products or those goods that are outside your current product portfolio, small businesses can use their strengths to contribute to society.

For instance:

  • Some distilleries are partnering with refineries to provide materials for hand sanitizers.
  • Apparel manufacturers are shifting production to stitch thousands of face masks that are crucial for hospitals.
  • Automotive industries are now manufacturing ventilators and respiratory care products.
  • Rideshare companies are transporting medicine and essential goods, rather than passengers.

In the entirety of the above cases, business pioneers have approved their responsibility to clients and society inventively.

Now it’s Your Turn

COVID19 outbreak is one such crisis that has created specific opportunities for small business owners to support their customers while promoting it at the same time. Practicing an empathetic and caring marketing approaches during these difficult times will more likely build real connections with the community. Therefore, consider the tips mentioned above to serve the communities in and around you, and stay ahead of the competitors amidst pandemic.

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