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April 2020

How to connect with customers during COVID

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The COVID crisis is constantly changing the way we do business. And our customers are also changing the way they think, what they buy and the way they are choosing to interact with the world.
Now more than ever we need to understand our customers and their changing pain-points to be able to meet their needs. Constantly adapting our marketing, products and services to stay relevant in a rapidly changing economy.
This article aims to provide some insights to the change in our customers thinking, and some practical tips for connecting with your customers in our new normal for business.

How customers thinking is changing

At the start of the COVID crisis we saw shortages of loo paper and panic buying of pasta as people grappled with a fear of the unknown. Nine Media Weekly Moodtracker has been monitoring trends in Australia and as the weeks roll on, our anxiety, fear and negative emotions are now trending downwards, while positive emotions trend upwards as we get used to our new normal way of life.

 

NINE Media Audience Insights
Mood Tracker – 23 April 2020

 

For the first time since the crisis stared, the positive emotion of Hope was the most dominant in the mood tracker as we start to imagine the world post-COVID.

 

Shopping online for a homebased lifestyle

With a change in emotions will come a change in spending patterns, and as we get used to spending more time at home, the Nine Audience Insights research also showed we are buying online more than ever before. And while our overall spending has decreased the research showed:  

  • 92% of us are shopping online, from groceries to take-away, entertainment and retail as we seek to improve our home-based lifestyle.
  • 40% of us are interested in DIY projects to improve the house or garden including interior decorating, furniture and appliances. 
  •   90% expressed an interest in supporting their local stores and small business, recognising the adverse impact on SME’s during this period. 

Our media use has exploded

As we seek home based entertainment and connection, we are also spending more time online than ever before.   

Nieslen Media Research Jan to Mar 2020 showed that across all age groups media use from Jan to March our digital media consumption has grown 80-100% as we google, stream Netflix and Youtube our way through the day and night. This increased media consumption gives businesses an increased opportunity to get in front of our customers and gain their attention.   

Nielsen Digital Media Use Research
Jan – Mar 2020

So how should we be communicating with our customers during COVID?

In case you were thinking that the last thing that customers want at this time is being sold to, then think again. A research study by DDB Global of over 4000 participants showed that people overwhelmingly want to hear from brands, even more so than pre-COVID.

The research showed people felt:

  • A definite need to feel that they are not alone, and brands
    gave them a sense of ‘the world is not completely ending’
  • A need of ‘help me today and be useful’/ action and
    helpfulness.
  • Keeping me safe was the #1 priority.
  • People want to know how you are operating during the crisis
    (home deliver, store open etc.).
  • Hearing about deals and offers is welcome – it is OK to sell stuff.
  • People are looking for a signal that life has not ended despite
    COVID-19.
  • Only 19% of respondents expected brands to continue as normal.
  • 52% wanted to know how brands were looking after their employee’s –
    a strong sense of wanting brands to put people first

8 tips to connect with your customers during COVID

Building trust, loyalty and bringing a human element to your communication with customers will help them reduce any barriers they may have with buying from you during the COVID crisis.   

Here’s 8 tips to do exactly that during the COVID crisis.

Website

1.Provide an update on your home page with any new precautious you are taking for customers and staff to keep them safe, any changes to trading times and operations, promote any special offers and ways you are helping customers during COVID.  

2.Audit your website content to ensure your messaging and services are updated and COVID friendly. You don’t want an image on your website of your staff standing right next to a customer or people shaking hands during social distancing measures.     

3.Increase your customer touchpoints by offering more ways to connect with your business.
You could use live webchat plugins like Zendesk or Livechat , video calls/consultations using Facetime, Zoom or Skype and private messenger apps like Wattsapp, rather than meetings and home visits.

4.Allow customers to buy-online by adding an ecommerce plugin to your website, particularly if your business offering is a physical product, and offer a delivery services that keeps them feeling safe. Woocommerce and Shopify are two easy ways to add ecommerce to your offering.  

Social Media

5. Stay active on social media. Whether Facebook, Instagram, Linked-In or Twitter provide regular updates on any changes in your business operations, any special offers and create content that makes people smile. Show customers how you are helping your staff and the community to show them we’re all in this together.  And get creative.  People are craving entertainment during this time and tired of hearing the COVID doom and gloom. You could livestream or video a demonstration, class, seminar or product overview for your customers.      

6.Consider using video or livestream to provide an update on your business to personalise any messages you have for customers.  You could do a short video providing your customers with the confidence that you’re still open and appreciate their support.   

 Email

7.Emailing your customers using an email marketing tool like Mailchimp or CampaignMonitor is still a highly effective way to directly reach your customers.  Send a monthly update telling them about how your business is going, promote new services and offers, how they can help your business and thank them for their support. 

Phone

8.Don’t discount a good old fashion phone call to your customers to make them feel the love. Although we’ve quickly evolved to facetime and video conferencing, it’s a personal one-on-one approach that we all know and trust.  Ask how they are going personally and professionally and see if there’s anything your business can do to help.  They will appreciate the effort in reaching out to them. 

 

For more information and overview of the digital tools you could use to improve the way you connect with your customers, check out the resources and downloadable guide on Council’s website here.

   

Survive and thrive working remotely – A guide for employers

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Lisa Crawford-Jones, Converge Marketing

Remote work and flexible arrangements can be tricky at first. How do you choose the right technology, engage and support your people, facilitate team collaboration, and ultimately drive your business forward during this time? 

While it can take some effort to get it right, there’s many benefits to flexible or remote work. Globally, many successful companies use remote working tools and practices both in and out of the office, so consider the longer-term benefits of introducing some of these approaches.

Here’s our quick guide to help you thrive:

Get the right tools for the job

Enable your team with a tech set up that suits your business. Factor in a budget, time to train staff, and don’t be afraid to experiment and change tools until you find what works best. Take advantage of freemium options, or free trials until you get the mix right.

The first step is getting clear on your needs before diving into the technology solutions available. Here’s five things to ask when choosing the right tools for the job:

  1. How many staff do you have and do employees need to collaborate across teams?
  2. What business functions need to be done remotely? For example, do you need cloud storage, online and shared calendars, email access, chat or communication tools, bookkeeping and billing, online task lists and management, or video conferencing?
  3. What is the cost for subscriptions in the short to medium term?
  4. Is data you store in the software going to be adequately safeguarded?
  5. What internet speed is required to run the tools, and do your relevant people have adequate internet access?

A basic technology set up might include:

  • Google Suite for easy collaboration and document sharing
  • Zoom for team face-to-face catch-ups and external client meetings
  • Slack for quick questions and updates throughout the day. Create project or team channels as well as a #general channel for whole of business issues and a #watercooler channel to help build culture online. And, best of all – look forward to reducing your email by up to 90 per cent! 
  • Trello for capturing whole of team to-do lists and handovers for part-time staff, or Asana for even more advanced project management and KPIs-to-tasks tools.
  • Email (if you really have to) for major pieces of content or decisions you don’t want to lose.

Establish etiquette for using the tools

Like any communication, it’s easy to be misunderstood. Even more so when you’re not working face-to-face. Do some research into etiquette for tools like Slack and consider how using it would translate to an in-office work situation. For example, direct messages are private and should remain so; praise in public but criticise in private; use ‘do not disturb’ for deep work; be reasonable with response expectations; and always, if in doubt or it’s urgent, pick up the phone.

Trust

It’s absolutely possible to nurture productive, engaged and thriving teams online. But beyond fancy tools it requires trust. If you’ve never had staff working remotely before, this is an opportunity to lead by example, build trust, and have faith your people will reciprocate with loyalty and enthusiasm.

Set expectations

Flexible work and working remotely needs guidelines. If your people haven’t worked remotely before, don’t assume they know what’s required of them or can transition easily to working at home. Chat about any questions or concerns, check their assumptions, and be very clear on your expectations.

There are fundamental policies you’ll need to put in place, such as a Workplace Health and Safety Policy. You may also like to implement a Remote Work Agreement, for example. 

Work hours and degree of flexibly, in particular require discussion and may vary across your business. Consider your business and customer needs and the challenges many staff will have in working at home with children during this time. For example, you might implement core work hours from say 10am-3pm, then additional hours could be done when it suits the employee.

You’ll also need clarity on how to use tools like Trello and Asana or shared documents on Google Drive. For example, agree time periods for updating and how much detail is required. 

Remote working is an opportunity to operationalise your company values into behaviours. Consider your company values and what each behavior looks like in this new work arrangement. 

Support culture and productivity 

In person interaction can be the first thing people miss when working remotely and it can have flow-on effects on productivity and morale. It’s harder to understand what’s going on in people’s lives, but you can facilitate natural socialising or digital watercooler chitchat using a #social channel on Slack.

Working remotely can increase productivity as it can be easier to stay focused. The downside is that employees can power through lunch breaks, reducing productivity and effectiveness. Encourage your people to get to know their natural energy peaks and encourage short breaks, standing up and walking around. 

Maintain phone and face-to-face video communication 

Maintain contact with one-on-one video check-ins and team meetings. It will help keep your people engaged, moving towards your common business goals and supported during a time of upheaval.

Engage your local support team

For those times when technology gets the better of you, reach out to local information technology experts to help. There’s a thriving community of IT specialists, digital marketers and web experts on the Sunshine Coast who can help you get it done, and fast!


For more information, check out the resources and a free downloadable guide on Council’s website here.