As you navigate the move toward a “new normal” post COVID-19, how you communicate those changes to your customers or clients may seem like a big challenge. People have widely varying points of view on everything from the pandemic to the recovery and the vaccine, which can make it difficult to discuss certain issues.
Often, that value can be conveyed via the tone of your messaging. The tone of your messaging may be able to help you navigate through tough conversations. Tone encompasses how you talk to your clients (word choice and point of view) as well as frequency, style and design. Taking the right tone with customers can give you a competitive edge and help you rebuild.
To get your tone right, consider these do’s and don’ts.
Revisit any automated communications
Determining when and how often your customers want to hear from you. Customers may be craving a return to normal and automated messaging can help convey a pre-pandemic feel. However, your customers may be looking for a deeper connection than what is often provided in automatic communication. Think through:
- Is this information they need?
- What type of information is this (fun, serious, strictly business)?
- 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: 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.
Build flexibility into your communications
Reopening is a process, as is rebuilding, and it’s likely that your communications will need to change as things evolve. Matching your message to whatever phase of reopening you’re in can go a long way toward striking the right tone. Even as things 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 explaining how you plan to open tables inside to updates about new food offerings and focused communications.
- 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 was hard-hit by COVID-19, you may need to talk about safety for much longer than a similar business in an area with fewer cases.
Action: Outline your rebuilding plan and decide what you’ll talk about at each stage, then make a note of it. If your rebuilding schedule changes, you can use this outline to determine how your messaging needs to change, too.
Adjust your tone
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.
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 closed or different, try to highlight things that are reopened, 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: 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.
People want to support small businesses, and many are excited to get back to normal. Hitting the right tone in your messaging can help you capitalize on your customers’ goodwill, so they feel like they’re rebuilding with you as part of a community.