Times of crisis like the one we face right now with the coronavirus (COVID-19) are one of your business’s most important opportunities to communicate thoroughly and effectively with your customers. Texting can be a powerful tool to maintain a close relationship with the people you do business with and ensure they get the right information from you at the right moment, but at every step you should respect your customers and their time. Here are some tips to help you text effectively in a crisis.
Add value, not noise
The first question you should ask yourself is whether or not your customers need to hear from you right now. Be empathetic to their experience and understand that most people are being hit with messages from companies left and right. Do you have a valuable message to share, or are you just trying not to miss out on the conversation? You can easily jeopardize future communication with your customers if you waste their time with a message they don’t need.
Stick to what you know and get your facts straight
Bad actors use crises like these as an opportunity to spread misinformation and fear. You should speak to what you know and what you’re an expert in, and for everything else, leave it alone or point to verified sources.
Well-meaning or not, if you unintentionally share incorrect information you can irrevocably harm your brand’s reputation and your customer’s trust. Reversing inaccurate statements is difficult, if not impossible. So err on the side of caution and ask yourself whether or not you’re 100% confident in what you’re sending.
Don’t wait too long
Your customers always expect fast communication, but in a crisis that expectation is even stronger. If you have important information to share and you know your customers want to hear from you then don’t wait for them to ask, be proactive.
If you use texting software like Zipwhip’s you can utilize the Group Messaging feature, which allows you to send a BCC text to up to 100 contacts at once.
Make sure the right people are on board
Remember that a desire to move quickly can lead to errors, including the common mistake of sending sensitive communications externally before all of your internal stakeholders are informed. In order for your message to carry weight, it needs to be a unified one. Even when information needs to be shared with your customers ASAP you should prioritize informing your internal team and gaining buy-in. You may be the person hitting “send” on a text but remember you’re not the sole voice of the company.
Features like Admin Controls can help keep team members in the loop on planned texts before they’re sent, as well as provide the necessary oversight.
Take a holistic view of your current customer communications
Text is just one of many methods of communication your customers can have with your brand. Do a quick analysis of other touchpoints – including email, automated campaigns, call center recordings and social media – and make sure you’re using the right tone and messaging across the board. If your other communications channels are being overloaded be prepared for potentially frustrated texts coming in from customers who can’t get through. Build some Templates ahead of time that your team can use to quickly respond to negative or frequently asked questions.
Personalize your message
When the subject matter is serious in nature, people expect to receive personalized communications. Instead of sending a blast short-code text that the recipient can’t respond to, send a personalized two-way message from the phone number they already recognize and call. Using features like Dynamic Fields, your team can send a batch of texts to many recipients at once while still personalizing each message with the recipient’s name or other unique information.
Reflect the tone of the current environment
A crisis is no time for flip emojis or texts sent in all caps. Reflect the tone of the current environment in your customer communications and be respectful of the gravity of the problem. Siren emojis and exclamation points may get attention, but it’s at the expense of appearing insensitive to the seriousness of the situation.
Be ready for follow-up
Regardless of how thorough your text is, anticipate questions from customers in response and be prepared to answer them. Set up an Auto Reply letting customers know you may not be able to respond immediately but that you’ll answer their question as soon as you can. And if you can anticipate particular follow-up questions, insert relevant Keywords in your Auto Reply so your customers can text back for more specific information.
Plan out your long-term communications strategy
A situation like this changes drastically day-to-day, so it’s unlikely that one text will be enough communication. Consider your long-term communications strategy and map out a timeline for continued communication. Will your outreach be set to a regular cadence, or is it triggered by certain milestones? This is a time to maintain a consistent presence in your customers’ lives, so don’t expect one text to begin and end it.
Don’t forget to follow up with your customers once things are back to normal and you return to regular operations. They will appreciate your thoroughness and knowing there’s an end to the uncertainty. And yes, there will be an end!