In a time of global turmoil, certainty is the thing everyone wants most. We want to know what and when and how so that we can give ourselves some certainty around what’s ahead. Even if things need to be different, we want this basic information so that we can define what this new stage of life looks like and move forward.
Instead, in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, we have to look ahead not knowing, getting daily updates and expecting to be given further restrictions that might again change the goalposts and change how we need to be and how we work over and over again.
Whilst we as a society might gradually get used to this new level of uncertainty and the concept of taking it one day at a time, whilst expecting it to get worse before it gets better, perhaps we need to consider what certainty we do have.
Certainty is Important for Business
As well as appealing to our human need for certainty, businesses also need certainty. Not just to manage their strategy and plans, but to manage their resources, teams and spend. We are seeing businesses around the world adjust to these uncertain times by making massive staff cuts, changing how they operate and bunkering down for the hard times ahead. They are managing what they know to be certain and making the hard calls. Many businesses are altering the way they work, considering new offerings and offering extra support to customers.
What Certainty Can We Give?
We know that everyone is craving certainty and that we aren’t going to get it from the government or the health officials or anyone else at this time. But just because a business can’t get much certainty, it doesn’t mean that we can’t give some. Giving a level of certainty and reassurance to our customers, our audience and our industry might just help to keep business coming in and raise customer confidence in our ability and intentions.
For those businesses who are trading and who are trying to keep the revenue coming in, consider what certainty you can offer and how you can demonstrate your intentions. Some ideas are:
- Talk about how long you’ve been in business
If you’ve been in business for a number of years, use this fact to reassure your customers that you’ve been through tough times before. This can help their confidence in spending money with your business at this time and trusting that you will be around to deliver on your product/service.
- Communicate what you’re doing differently during this time
Are you operating and servicing clients as usual or are you experiencing delays? Have you boosted certain areas of your business to cope? Do you have new products available? Set your customer expectations so they can have some certainty around what can be expected from your business.
- Share Relevant Details (where possible)
If you have had to close your business or make significant changes, explaining why might help customers to understand your situation. I recently received an email from a retailer explaining that they have temporarily closed their stores. When I went to their website, I was surprised to see they have now also suspended their online orders. At the moment my confidence and certainty in this brand is low. It would help me to understand if they have had to stop online ordering because their supply chain is impacted or because they are revamping their online ordering system. Maybe they are trying to organise a product line that they can offer? Not having any detail here, doesn’t give me any hope or a reason to check back in with them.
- Be kind
If it’s possible for you to give during this time and make it easier for others, it will not only demonstrate your kindness but also your stability. A lot of companies have generously offered free trials at this time. You don’t need to do it on a large scale though, you might just try and help current clients who are struggling with cash flow. Do what feels right for you.
How To Communicate Around COVID-19
I’m sure that like me, you’ve had a lot of irrelevant messages clog up your inbox around what a business is doing to cope with COVID-19. Some of the businesses I’ve heard from are ones I’ve never purchased from before, or indeed interacted with in several years. Many, I can’t even remember what their obscure named company does. In these cases, their messaging is completely irrelevant and only tempting an unsubscribe. Don’t kid yourselves that a prospect from two years ago is all of a sudden going to care that you’ve added extra servers to your rack to deal with COVID-19.
Instead, how should you be communicating? Here are my tips:
Email: You should email current customers to let them know if a change to how you do business directly affects them. For example, if your gym is closing to in-person classes and moving to virtual classes, then you should email your members. If you have a hair salon and you have an alternative option to an in-person consult, then email clients who have visited in the last year. There are very few instances where a blanket email to your database can be justified. This is the time to segment and personalise your emails as much as possible.
Social: What have you put on your social channels to acknowledge the changes or to reassure your customers? Make sure this channel is up to date and responding to people’s questions at this time. Remember to offer certainty where you can too.
Website: How can your website offer certainty to people at this time? Think about what you can include on your website to demonstrate that you are open and delivering at this time. Perhaps it’s a header bar, or a news item. Make it easy to find and keep it positive.
Consistency is a sign of confidence so make sure you are consistent with your communications at this time. If you talk about the changes and offer certainty on one channel, make sure you carry it through to your other channels too so that it easy to find and clear for your customers. Take a look at my other article looking at the consistency of COVID-19 messages.
This crazy time might be the new norm for us for some time and our perception of certainty is being tested. If we want to encourage people out of a holding pattern, encourage decisions and progress, consider how you can offer certainty as a key element required to move forward.