The global pandemic has prompted an exuberant amount of COVID-19 emails. As it becomes overwhelming to know which ones are important to read versus which ones have something different or important to daily life, remember the various ways of communicating with your customers through the remainder of this pandemic.
Remember Your Brand
No matter if you send one or fifty emails, tweets, posts, or other communication to customers, be consistent with your business branding. If you’re already working on a new branding scheme, put it on hold until this pandemic has turned for the better. Everyone is under enough stress and pressure already. Changing branding during tough times can further hinder the continued success of your business.
Additionally, keep branding consistent regardless of the platform used. You can simply send shorter messages for Instagram and twitter than Facebook or an email. Recognize that if you already had a set time for delivering messages, it’s best to keep those times for now. People need comfort, and simply sticking to your routine for customer communication can help with this need.
Email the Simple Truth
At this point, so many pandemic focused emails are being received, many are just ignored as ‘oh, another one of those emails.’ Usually the subject gives it away, so to ensure your customers will open your email, have a subject different from the typical “COVID-19 Update for Our Customers.” This really does not take much effort on your part; it’s simply rephrasing what it states. Here are some subject line examples:
- Yes, We’re Open During the Pandemic, Call for Take-out Now
- Additional Efforts to Flatten COVID-19
- This Week’s Take-out/Delivery Special
- How COVID-19 is affecting our business
- Supporting local restaurant workers during COVID-19
By all means, if you have cheeky emails, keep those going – just don’t directly throw any punches with COVID-19 as the target. The expectation is that the pandemic is being taken seriously, and you want to keep communicating with your customers in specific terms.
Then, in the body of your email stick to the subject including a short opening, and three to five supporting sentences. Honestly, more than that may be ignored. Additionally, sharing how your business and your employees are doing their part to flatten the curve, builds trust and can inspire loyalty. Next, you’ll follow up with any critical information for customers, such as calling or ordering online, or stepping in to pay for your order before going back to their vehicle. Then close the statement with a word of thanks or provide a local resource in the neighborhood, or a simple link to the guidelines being followed.
All Social, Just Not All the Time
Keep your social media accounts moving just like ‘business as usual’ except with reminders like, ‘Order from Us for Dinner Tonight” or “What’s your favorite dish at D’lish?” to engage consumers and regular customers. With the number of stay-at-home policies being put into place, people are sure to start craving their favorite comfort dishes from their favorite local restaurants. If you regularly have in-house specials, make them virtual specials. Customers will find this comforting and you may be surprised in the uptick in orders. It’s okay to capitalize on this, just don’t call any specials anything related to the pandemic or shutdowns.
The key here is to ensure customers know that you are open and entice them with a special to choose you. If you haven’t started a social platform, there is no time like the present… just be sure you are ready to take it on.
Whether your loyalty program is paper or digital-based, there are certainly opportunities to communicate and engage with loyalty customers. While COVID-19 has slowed down business, your loyalty members will appreciate your communications. Send regular communications as you normally would and provide opportunities for them to support your local business. Loyalty members will particularly be happy to engage if they are regulars or semi-regulars and are likely to purchase gift certificates for later use.
Check all your platforms on at least a daily basis to ensure you are responding to customer comments, questions, or concerns. Answer them genuinely, with empathy, and thankfulness. Even when you must answer with ‘Let me get back to you’ – that is okay. Just be sure to mindfully answer them within another 24 hours.
Remember to Update Your Hours
Updating open hours on your door will not be enough to help business. This digital age we’re in requires updating our website, Facebook, and other online accounts to reflect our business hours. Tedious, yes. Critical, yes. If you don’t already have one, be sure to start a media communications list of all online mediums you regularly post to, or ones you update information on. It will be helpful when you need to change them back.
It’s easy to forget… or perhaps you never knew. Nearly every business has a Yelp and Google ‘page’ that includes information like your address, phone number, website address, and hours of business. It’s an easy process to claim your business, then update your hours of business. Add them to your media communications list, to update your hours when restrictions are lifted.
If you have other sites where consumers post photos or look for your information, be sure to update information there as well. It’s important only because hungry customers who are under the impression you are open for regular hours to find out you are not, will be disappointed and likely to overlook your business in the future.
The only way for the food service industry to have a fighting chance for an abundantly healthy recovery after COVID-19 is to start communicating with customers. With regular, predictable, scheduled communication, using familiar branding, and taking the time to respond to those who reach back in return, your business will draw foot and delivery traffic to keep you open during this uncertain time.