Communicating with your customers during COVID-19

In a crisis situation, the following information gives guidance on how your business can respond:

Prepare statements and circulate to staff, making sure your messages are consistent.

Ensure staff know the chain of command for messaging, approvals and for escalating complaints.

Make sure all staff know the process for dealing with the media.

Keep up to date with the latest advice:

  • Ensure you have the latest advice and that your communications reflect the advice provided.
  • Sign up to mailing lists to ensure you are receiving the latest updates.
  • It is important for NCC members to sign up to the e-newsletters for latest sector-specific updates. Email to be added.

How should you respond?

Individual businesses must make their own commercial decisions but responses must be based around the guidance provided by the Government/Public Health England/Local Authorities; there is helpful information available here.

Your cancellation policy for orders should be easily available on your website. Your website should be kept up to date, with the latest news always in the same place, where it is easy to find.

Highlight opportunities to stay in touch with updates from your business (e.g. social channels).

Read the NCC’s guidance on managing interrupted transactions here.

Advice on messaging to staff, stakeholders and customers

  • Designate specific staff to communicate the company’s situation with employees and external audiences.
  • Appoint a group of relevant specialists to sign off on specific decisions (finance, HR, marketing, legal, operations or any other mission-critical divisions). This should also include specialists from outside the business if you do not have them in-house.
  • Answer any questions as quickly and transparently as possible.
  • Remember this is a very stressful time and anyone you are communicating with will likely have pressures at home, with loved ones and friends which may affect their judgement and behaviour. Allow for this and put the mental wellbeing of the individual at the forefront of your mind. Read more
  • Be reassuring: You may feel frustrated by the situation, but your priority is to communicate a clear message externally. Sharing your frustrations with your customers is not going to reassure them that they will have a positive experience when they visit you.
  • Make sure you keep abreast of Government guidance, which is continually being updated.

How to respond – key takeaways

Make sure you are contactable, even if you are closed! At the very least have updated statements on your website and phone service.

Be clear – use everyday language (no jargon), be concise but sympathetic.

Where possible, answer with pre-agreed responses. Outside of this, send a holding reply.

Finally, always be honest and transparent.

Customer care

Inform customers immediately of any issues. A personal approach can make all the difference.

Keep your website and social channels up to date, and use them to remind current customers, and potential customers, of all the reasons to visit in the future (your USPs).

Review external communications

It is important to strike a balance between being visible and being considerate. You want to let people know that you’re still there, but also that you are sensitive to the crisis and what it means for millions of people. Assets to keep update with information include:

Website – make your COVID-19 situation clear on your site and how it’s affecting your service. This can be through a homepage update, news post or dedicated section.
Google Business Profile – reflect opening hours, change description to fit the best way in which customers can contact you.
Facebook Business Page – reflect opening hours, change description to fit the best way in which customers can contact you.
Twitter is quick and useful communication channel – and can be used positively e.g. Haven or Caravan Guard.

Customer service best practice – if things don’t go well

Keep your customer informed – a short contact email assuring them that you are working on a complaint/query can help ensure your customer is impressed rather than stressed.

  • Customers will always appreciate the ‘personal touch’ that makes them feel special.
  • Identify and deal with any problems long before they become a full-scale complaint.
  • Remember that the vast majority of customers are reasonable people who will wait patiently as long as they are confident that their issue is understood, and you actually care that they have a problem.

This may result in more repeat business, ‘word of mouth’ recommendations, and stem negative reviews.

Complaints: reminders of good practice

Treating your customer with respect and being open and honest with them – whilst acknowledging their frustrations – is absolutely key to great customer relations.

  • Dedicate one person or a small team of people who are suitably trained and skilled to deal with all of your complaints to ensure your responses are consistent, fair and timely.
  • Be honest and open in your dealings with your customers – from point of sale onwards.
  • Make sure that all your staff are aware of your complaints’ procedure, how to handle a complaint when it arrives and who they need to escalate it to.
  • Make sure that all customers can access information on your complaints’ procedure
  • Keep a log of all complaints received (even minor ones). It can help if the complaint escalates.
  • Don’t forget that the NCC offers an informal dispute resolution service (NCCIDRS) to its members. If you are unable to find a solution, NCCIDRS can help to reach a satisfactory resolution should your customer wish to escalate the complaint further.