It can be tough to know what to say to customers at this point in the pandemic, when we’re trying to figure out if the “new normal” has already arrived. People continue to have widely varying points of view on COVID-19 issues, and that’s unlikely to change. So how do you ensure you strike the right tone, especially if your website and other communications haven’t been updated since early 2020?

Tone encompasses how you talk to your clients (word choice and point of view) as well as the personality of your brand. Taking the right tone with customers can give you a competitive edge and help you grow and expand.

To get your tone right, consider these do’s and don’ts.

Revisit any automated communications

First, determine when and how often your customers want to hear from you. Customers may have come to rely on automated messaging; however, they may also be looking for a deeper connection than it can provide. Think through:

  1. Is this information they need?
  2. What type of information is this (fun, serious, strictly business)?
  3. Will this message help me build a connection with recipients?
  • Don’t cancel all communications. Sending messages creates a sense of normalcy and boosts comfort levels.
  • Do review your automated communications to ensure they still make sense. Each message should feel relevant to current circumstances.

 

Action tip: Make a list of topics and things your customers may be expecting to hear from you. For instance, they may expect updates about seating restrictions or masks as the recovery progresses. This is especially important if different businesses in your area have varying policies.

 

Update communications more often

Rebuilding is a process (as was reopening), and it’s likely that your communications will need to change as things evolve. Even as life begins to feel more normal, some consumers may remain wary about public spaces, close contact, or mask-free communications. The nature of your COVID-19–related updates, and how long you’ll need to provide them for, may vary based on your customer base.

For a restaurant, that could mean pivoting from emails about outdoor dining and takeout options to updates about new food offerings and special events, such as live music.

  • Don’t be afraid to adjust your communications plan as circumstances — or the attitudes of your customers — change.
  • Do pay close attention to how your customers are feeling. If you live in an area that is now or was recently hard-hit by COVID-19, you may need to talk about safety for much longer than a similar business in an area that has had fewer cases.

 

Action tip: Update your operating hours on your website as needed so customers will know when you’re actually open. This means making sure to revise it on days or weeks when you’re opening late or closed for a holiday, for instance.

 

Adjust your tone for the audience

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it,” then you know what we’re getting at in this section.

Ensure you’re saying things in the right way by putting your customers’ needs first and basing your communications on how you interact in person. Put another way: Empathize and use a human voice. If you sense someone is still fearful, for example, you’ll want to be even more reassuring than may be necessary with other customers.

Try to write how you speak, using contractions and casual language. And think through design elements as well. Dense text blocks may feel intimidating to readers and using all caps can be construed as yelling.

Positivity can help, too. Instead of focusing on what’s still unavailable or different, try to highlight things that are new or coming soon.

  • Don’t lead with yourself or with negativity at the expense of your customers. For example, avoid: “We need you to be patient.”
  • Do start by thinking about the challenges your customers are facing, including their needs and emotional state. Try: “We’re so happy to have you back and are working hard to give you the best experience possible.”

 

Action tip: When in doubt, express your appreciation for your customers and their business. You don’t need to go overboard but a sincere thank you goes a long way.

 

Many people are excited to support the small businesses in their community. Hitting the right tone in your messaging can help you capitalize on your customers’ goodwill, so they’ll feel like they’re helping you rebuild and thrive.

 

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