5 ways you can use email to communicate with your customers during the coronavirus

During the COVID-19 crisis, digital channels are especially valuable for helping businesses react quickly and keep their customers up-to-date. Here is a run down on how you can use email to improve communication with customers.

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4 min read

There are many instances where email is particularly useful - either on its own, or as a key element of a specific communication. Small businesses often prefer social media because it’s quicker and easier to post an update from a mobile. However, although sending out an email requires a bit more time, sometimes it’s worth sitting down to do this.

1. Important changes which directly impact your customers

Email is an important channel to proactively reach out to existing customers and update them on these issues which specifically impact them. In the coming weeks these might include:

  • Whether your business is open or closed
  • Major policy changes
  • Updated contact details
  • Altered terms and conditions
  • Refund processes

Under normal circumstances, most businesses would make this type of update once or twice a year at most. However, during COVID-19, it may be appropriate to send more frequent updates relating to your coronavirus service status - particularly when a change to legislation or government guidance has an immediate impact on how your business operates. Your email will probably include or link to your coronavirus statement.

A quick reminder on GDPR - if you need to email a customer in relation to a specific order then that is generally fine. However, with emails for more general reasons, to comply with GDPR, you will of course need permission.

For Covid-19 updates, on your website and social platforms, you could give customers the option to opt-in (and unsubscribe) to email updates.

2. Detailed information and instructions

Social media posts are ideal for simple messages and straightforward information. However, during COVID-19, many businesses have had to provide a lot of detail around changes to their service.

  • Customers may need instructions on how to use the existing service in new ways. For example, if a dairy managing home deliveries is short-staffed at their call centre, then email is ideal for giving customers information on how to set-up and manage their account online.
  • Some businesses will be operating completely new services. Instructors switching to online classes, for example, may need to email a step-by-step guide on how to access Google Classroom or use videoconferencing.
  • It might be important to ensure customers have read and understood instructions. A business such as a gardening company operating within social distancing guidelines, may need to ensure that all customers play their part in keeping staff safe, e.g. not offering refreshments and keeping children out of the garden when staff are working. Email is ideal for providing that information and asking customers to reply to confirm they’ve read and understood the message and have the opportunity to ask any questions.

3. Timely reminders

The frustrating restriction with social media is that you can’t be sure that organic posts will reach all your audience, at the time you want them too. In fact, according to Hootsuite only 5.5% of your Facebook followers will see your posts in their newsfeed (unless they’re paid-for promoted posts).

If you’re live streaming or hosting a video conference, then it’s useful to send out email reminders, both the day before, and on the day itself - especially if this is part of a service customers are paying you for.

  • Live streaming: users only receive notifications when they’re on the platform itself - many people check email more frequently than their Facebook newsfeed.
  • Video calls: Normally, participants will put video conferences in diaries, but just now, changed routines (often involving looking after children) mean many people miss their previously fail-safe reminders!

4. Offers and promotions

You can still promote your services and any offers to your regular customers and verified email list, but in these times they really should be timely and add genuine value (for example, short-term excellent value discounts, one-off offers, new course announcements, etc.). Customers may well be responsive to, and appreciate, good value offers.

However, take care on tone - overly urgent phrases such as ‘you’re running out of time’ or ‘don’t miss this offer’ are not appropriate. Right now, nothing is more pressing or important than actions related to COVID-19.

And be honest with yourself - if it’s the usual 10% off you run every other week, then constant reminders will not be appreciated. Neither will a series of too-frequent emails. Now is the time to focus on adding value to your customers, as pushing too hard for more business could have the opposite effect.

5. Tailored personal approach

For businesses with a very small customer base, email is ideal for a personal communication from the owner or CEO, which can be completely relevant for that customer. At the moment, personal connections are so important, so it’s worth bearing this option in mind - even for a small subset of your customers.

If a 1-2-1 approach is not possible, there is often scope to segment your email database to ensure the message is specific for that customer group - perhaps related to when, why or what they have previously bought from you. It could be as simple as a personal ‘thank you’ email for all those who have supported your business during lockdown, or who have been patient with longer delivery times. A gentle prompt to those who have previously bought gifts at this time of year, can be mutually beneficial.

Further information

For more information and guidance on email marketing, go to https://www.bgateway.com/assets/templates/Email_Marketing.pdf

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