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  • Writer's pictureEric Van Meter

Small Business & COVID-19: Comms to Customers & Staff (1 of 2)

26 March 2020

If you run a small or midsize business and aren't sure of what you should be telling customers and staff, here are 5 tips to help with fundamentals.

My previous post offered 10 COVID-19 comms suggestions for any organization. I'll follow this post in the next day or so with additional advice on some more nuanced issues.

Contact customers directly if you can. Reach out by mass email, phone calls or text message to share, at a minimum, these 3 pieces of info: If you're open/doing business, when, and how operations are different.

This is in addition to messaging on social media and your website.

If able to do this by email, do it again in a week or two. Keep doing it.

Be explicit about your safety measures. Even your most loyal customers want assurance they can support you with reduced risk to them and their loved ones.

If you sell a product, note how you’re facilitating safety, such as curbside pick-up for orders placed online or a takeout waiting area that allows for social distancing.

If you or your employees interact with customers in person, list precautions you’re taking. Be specific: “Our door is propped open” “We have touchless ApplePay” “We wipe down hard surfaces 3x/daily with bleach.”

Share alternate ways customers can support you. Do you offer gift cards? Mail order? Can people "bank hours" now that you'll deliver on later? Are your products available at multiple locations?

Share this info simply without a heavy pitch: "To help our customers and our business in this difficult time, we'd like to remind you that…"

Help customers help themselves. If you can't provide your product or service, or for customers who are unable or unwilling to engage right now, share anything they can do to help themselves.

Are you a massage therapist? Share 2 tips for physical self-care. Do you provide landscaping? What are the most important things clients should do while service is suspended? Cafe? Share one of your recipes.

Communicate with staff. I mentioned before that it's important to communicate with all your employees at least once a week, on the same day weekly for consistency.

Communicate any changes in operations.

Be explicit about safety measures you expect of different roles. Repeat this info more than you think you need to. Link to resources if you have any concern about employees following correct protocols.

I highly recommend doing this in email. Even if you're talking to staff directly, recap in email: people are stressed and may not be processing or remembering information well.

If you can share any good news in these weekly updates, do it!


You can sign up for updates on additional posts here. If you know someone who owns or runs a small business, please consider sharing this post.

If you're wondering about something, someone else is, too. I'll answer you directly and answer an edited version of your question here, fully protecting your anonymity.

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