WESST Guide to Small Business COVID-19 Best Practices
By Lorena Schott | May 6, 2020
The Coronavirus has hit our New Mexico economy especially hard. Here at WESST we are working with our small business clients each and every day to help weather this difficult time via online videoconference 1:1 consulting, and online training classes especially suited for our current business climate. If you are interested in consulting with us, fill out our Business Assistance Request, and find out about or latest training classes.
WESST has put together these best practices to help our clients with brainstorming some ways to reach out to customers and maintain relationships as we continue to support our great small businesses that employ so many people in New Mexico. We hope you are able to put some of these ideas to use in your own businesses.
Plan for change
To start, evaluate changes you might need to make in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Will you need to adjust the way you do business?
Outline a plan and prioritize critical action items: Be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations (e.g. identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, or temporarily suspend some of your operations, etc.)
Figure out what you want to say to customers
Adopt a customer-first mindset. It’s never been more important to nurture existing customers. Show them how much you appreciate their support.
Many companies have been doing their best to keep people up to date with what they’re doing. You’ll no doubt want to do something similar, even if it’s just a statement you post to your blog or website.
Some messages you might want to send to customers include:
- Thank them for their support.
- Explain what your business is doing and how it affects them.
- Detail the changes you’re making, including to terms of service.
- Tell them about updated refund and cancellation policies, if applicable.
- Tell them how to get in touch with you.
- Reassure them that we’re all in this together.
Make it easy for customers to contact you
To help you make it easy for your customers to contact you on a consistent basis, here are a few measures you can take:
- Website. Give your contact information and provide details of how your clients can still do business with you on your website.
- Here’s a great example from WESST client Kei and Molly who have switched all their ordering online:
- Online business listings. Be sure your contact info is up to date on online business listings like Google My Business and Yelp.
- Email. Make sure to include up-to-date contact information in all email correspondence with customers. Allow them to reply to your emails directly.
- Social media. Let customers as well as other business owners know you’re active on social media to connect with you and drop you a message. Include links to your social profiles in emails, blog posts, etc. so customers know they can also connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the other networks where you have a presence.
Here’s a great example from Rio Rancho WESST Client Uncle T’s Sangwiches letting you know that they are still taking orders with a link and phone number to contact them:
- Chat apps. Using tools like Facebook Messenger and Twitter Chats — and letting customers know that you’re available on Messenger during certain hours — can help customers feel connected to you in real-time.
- Signage. If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, post your up-to-date contact info on highly visible signage.
- Online bookings and scheduling. Let customers know they can manage appointments with you using online tools (bonus if your website includes the ability to schedule and modify appointments). If you’re a Microsoft Office 365 user, you might already have access to Microsoft Bookings.
Stay top-of-mind with content that helps your customers
Redirect downtime to creating content that helps your customers (and boosts their confidence in you).
- Blog posts. Article ideas include “How Can You Cope With X During the COVID-19 Shutdown? (X is the problem your company solves for customers),” “What We’re Doing During the COVID-19 Shutdown,” and “The Top 10 Things We Love About Our Customers.”
- Videos. Take your blog articles above and tell stories about them. Videos are a great place to tell stories, not just relate lists of information. Also, consider doing some video interviews with colleagues.
- Podcasts. If you don’t want to do video interviews, start an audio podcast instead. Record them with a basic voice recorder app on your phone, or use a program on your laptop like Audacity, GarageBand, or even Skype and Call Recorder (a Skype add-on).
- Webinars. Webinars are a great way to educate people about your company’s offering without actually doing any selling at all. Premium webinar packages include GoToWebinar, Microsoft Teams Live Events, Zoom, and free options include Google Hangouts or YouTube Live.
- Social posts. Of course, now that everyone is staying at home, they’re all watching Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so it makes sense that you meet them where they are. Engage with people, talk with them, have conversations with them.
Many people are nervous, so help them cope by just having normal conversations with them. Share your stories, blog posts and videos with them. Since those are pieces of content that will inform, explain, educate and (perhaps) entertain, they’re worth sharing on social media. This is also a time to serve as a resource for your customers.
Here’s a great example of a social media post from WESST Client Graced by Grit:
Craft smart emails to communicate with customers
COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis affecting the entire globe. And one thing remains certain: we are all in this together. And anything you can do to bolster that sense of solidarity with your customers is appreciated.
Emails you send to your customers should address the crisis immediately. In these messages, you can:
- Talk about how it’s impacting the world and your company.
- Discuss what you’re doing differently in its wake.
- Be upfront about what you plan to do for your customers during this trying time.
- Discuss how COVID-19 might impact your ability to serve your customers, if relevant.
Here’s a great example from WESST Client Meltdown Studio giving everyone a current status, links to shop online and links to educational videos:
Engage on social media
Many people are turning to social media for information and a sense of connection to the world, especially as they are practicing social isolation. Here are some more ways that you can use social media to continue to build and sustain relationships with your customers.
- Update your social media profiles with any changes to your hours or what services you’re providing. For significant updates, like reduced hours or closures, be sure to pin that post at the top of your profile for easy reference.
- Share real-time updates. Beyond just email messaging, you can connect with your customers on social media to give them real-time updates on how you and your business are handling COVID-19.
- Share helpful content, including blog posts and videos.
- Build community through asking and answering questions.
- Leverage automation and scheduling tools to keep your social presence up to date.
Here’s a great example of sharing helpful content by WESST Client, Business Solutions by Design, LLC:
Leverage a supportive community
Physical distance separates us all, yes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the effort to build community within companies and with customers.
- Form strategic partnerships. Look for opportunities to partner up with other local businesses.
- Get active in professional and trade organizations.
- Add your business information to the WESST Client Directory. This site is designed to help our small business clients easily share key information about their business, allowing them to quickly engage with other WESST clients and supporters.
- Join online forums and meetups.
- Encourage support for fellow small businesses. Refer customers. Announce partnerships.
- Find a mentor. These times are tough, but that can be mitigated by reaching out to others.
The COVID-19 crisis is causing unprecedented disruption to individuals and small businesses around the world. But we’re all in this together. Please reach out to us here at WESST. We are here to help!
About the Author
Lorena Schott is a native New Mexican that brings a wealth of experience to the WESST team. Before joining WESST in 2009, she worked for Intel where she was acknowledged for her establishment of Intel’s centralized on-line system, rewarding and recognizing employees worldwide. Lorena is devoted to her husband and two sons. She enjoys the outdoors and spends her free time reading, hiking, and baking.