How to talk to customers during COVID-19

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Take a different tone

For the last few months, the entire globe has been in the grip of the highly infectious coronavirus or COVID-19 virus. As a small business owner, you’re faced with seemingly never-ending changes and you realise this calls for a new way of communicating with your customers.

Clear, reliable communication with your loyal customers is more important than ever before.

But where do you start? What’s appropriate to share with your customers during a pandemic … and what should you avoid?

Related: 5 ways to keep your customers informed about changes to your business

Ditch the high-pressure sales approach

Many small business owners are accustomed to talking to customers in a certain way. During stressful times such as COVID-19, you may need to adapt your strategy in order to hit the right note.

  1. Attend to their needs.
  2. Change your tone.
  3. Use to-the-point communication.
  4. Spell out the details.
  5. Send timely updates.
  6. Connect with them on social media.
  7. Be authentic.

Use these seven tips to strengthen your relationship with your customers in all your communications so they’ll still be with you when we all come out of lockdown.

Step 1: Attend to their needs

Focus on your clients
X Talk only about your business

Now is the time to establish your business as one that puts people first. Not just in words, but in action.

Every communication must place the customer squarely in the limelight.


Take this for example:

“During these extremely difficult times, our thoughts are with you as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world in a matter of months. We’d like to assure you that we’re doing everything we can to keep you safe and your products/services coming.”

Many small business owners take this a step further and create a list of helpful resources on their websites, including reliable sources of health information and government aid.

Related: Pandemic pivot — how 3 businesses are responding to COVID-19

Step 2: Change your tone

Saturate your words with compassion
X Stick with an aggressive, salesy voice

We’re all professionals, but during a worldwide crisis that threatens hundreds of thousands of lives, it’s imperative to inject compassion into our messages. Your customers want to know you actually care. Now is not the time to promote your products.

For example:

“Our thoughts go out to our fellow Australians who have lost loved ones. Now is the time to stand together as a nation to support those in need, while fighting this virus to ensure it is defeated.”

Rather than dive right into the reason for your text or email, it’s best to recognise what they’re going through first.

Step 3: Use to-the-point communication

Be clear in your communication
X Talk about a variety of issues

Your customers are constantly bombarded with news, social media and coronavirus updates. Their concentration spans are short. For every piece of communication, determine its purpose and tell your clients exactly what they need to know.

“As a business offering essential services, we are reducing the number of people in our store at any one time to 12. Please wait for the employee standing at the door to motion you in before you enter. Thank you for your patience as we work to keep everyone safe.”

Related: Embracing digital technology — 3 SMBs transform themselves

Step 4: Spell out the details

Be specific
X Mention only the big picture

As government measures change from day to day, it’s crucial to let your customers know how you’re abiding by these rules. The steps you’ve taken to ensure hygiene and safety must be communicated clearly.

“Hygiene is our top priority: we sanitise work stations twice daily and staff members wash their hands regularly, in addition to using hand sanitiser. All checkout stations have plexiglass shields to protect you and our workers.”

Communication Strategy Person Using Hand Sanitiser

Step 5: Send timely updates

Send messages in response to an important change
X Drown your customers in messages

Lockdown is an anxious state for many. New measures seem to come into play every couple of days. It’s important to let your customers know you’re aware of the changes, but only when they directly impact how you deliver your products or services.

Think about how you can reduce your client’s anxiety.


“We’re still open for business, but please note our changed opening hours. We also ask you to use contactless payment instead of cash to reduce the risk for you and us. Together, we can keep Australia safe.”

Step 6: Connect with them on social media

Post daily with relevant info and show you care
X Use social media to push your products or services

Most customers use social media daily. Right now, this connectivity is what keeps many people sane. Be sensitive in your choice of posts. Mix serious COVID-19 info with light-hearted and encouraging posts.

“If your children’s school hasn’t yet reopened, we’ve created a list of games you can play at home with them. Let’s make this challenging time a memorable one with lots of fun activities your kids will want to do again and again.”

Related: The absolute beginner’s guide to social media marketing

Step 7: Be authentic

Stay true to yourself and your brand
X Pretend to be someone you’re not

People respond to authenticity and customers know when you truly care. They can also pick it a mile away when you’re pretending to be someone you’re not.

Now is the time for you and your business to show customers that your concern is for their welfare. This is your opportunity to be real with your customers.

“The pandemic has stressed our business — both through slower sales and the cost of implementing new safety protocols. But we’re committed to serving you throughout this crisis. We hope you will stand by us.”

Communication Strategy Wash Your Hands Movie Marquee

We’ll get through this

It’s been said many times before, but it’s important to remember that we’ll get through this. What matters now is HOW you navigate this pandemic as a business and a person.

What are you doing right now for your customers, and how will you be remembered?


Some restaurants have made the news as a result of breaching government guidelines, damaging their reputations. Others have appeared in the headlines because they offered free meals to people who were struggling. How you respond to this stressful business environment is entirely up to you.

Stay safe.