Staying connected to your customers during coronavirus outbreak

These are the most unusual of times. Within a span of few months, COVID-19 has completely altered our day-to-day routine and life as we know it might never be the same again. Organizations, of all nature and sizes, have had to evolve and overhaul their business model overnight as lockdowns are issued, movements are restricted and self-quarantines imposed.

The economy has greatly suffered in the US, with 6.65 million people filing for unemployment benefits last week. The US Chamber of Commerce states that some estimates of the economic shutdown predict a 40% drop in the country’s GDP in the second quarter.

Among the hardest-hit industries during the COVID-19 outbreak is the food services sector, including restaurants, which made up more than half of the net losses in the month of March. But despite these unprecedented adversities, restaurants are carrying on doggedly to stay open for business. During this coronavirus crisis, one of the most important things to do is to continue conversing with your customers. Here are a few strategies to help you stay connected with your customers the right way.

Inform about the precautions you’re taking

Be transparent about all the steps you’re taking to safeguard your customer, from introducing contactless deliveries to sanitizing your kitchen and encouraging employees to showing COVID-19 symptoms to quarantine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided a guideline to employers and businesses. Makes sure you’re following all the advisories and communicating the same with the customers.

You should also let customers know what preventive measures they can take when receiving their orders and interacting with your delivery staff.

Tailor digital to customers’ needs

What has helped many a restaurant stay afloat in these trying times is their online delivery and take away services. Even fine dining establishments have had to transit to online delivery in order to survive. But going digital isn’t that simple. You have to adapt your business according to the customers’ needs. Speaking to Bon Appétit, Misti Norris of Petra and the Beast in Dallas says, “We created an entirely new menu…We couldn't get rid of the pasta, so we chose certain kinds of pasta that travel well, like cavatelli.”

To make sure your customers sent disengage with your brand and they get the best of what you have to offer, Accenture suggests that businesses have to expand existing offerings and creating new lines of service.

Extend online offers

With declining sales amidst the pandemic and closure of dining rooms, brands need to do more to invite customers to order from them. One of the ways to entice them is by offering online deals. But you have to make sure that these deals and discounts are not cutting into the already slender sales. Some of the things you could do are provide free delivery for an order of a certain amount which could help increase check size, offer online-only gift certificates and loyalty programs, etc.

According to McKinsey, companies that provide superior digital experiences now can increase audience adoption and retain these customer relationships even after the pandemic.

Amp up your social media game

A latest global survey carried out in March 2020 showed that 40% of consumers are spending longer on messaging services and social media amid the coronavirus lockdown. To reach your customer you have to go where there are, which means increasing your restaurant’s social media presence. Post consistently on these platforms with relevant, interesting and topical content. A 2019 study conducted by Pew Research Center reported that 55% of U.S. adults get their news from social media. This figure could be on the rise at the moment when people are constantly looking for the latest updates on the coronavirus. So along with brand-related content, you can frequently post updates on the current outbreak.

Show compassion

Empathy was always one of the principal characteristics that a brand necessitated and now more than ever brands must show care and concern for their customers. Chef José Andrés of LA has started a camping #ChefsForAmerica, which will feed those in need including quarantined people on cruise ships, while also guaranteeing revenue for restaurants. He has also promised that active doctors and nurses will dine free for the rest of the year at his restaurant. Of course, it’s not possible for all restaurants, especially small ones, to contribute on such a scale. But you can always show empathy through the language you use to communicate with your customers, by regularly checking up on their well-being and showing that you are all in this together.

Share reliable resources

You don’t always have to talk about your brand and business with the customers. You can also closely connect with them by sharing useful resources on the current situation through newsletters, blogs and social media. Reliable and up-to-date facts and figures, guidelines on how to keep themselves and their families safe, support on how to get through these uncertain times are all useful information that your customers will genuinely appreciate. This could give people clarity in a sea of overwhelming information on the coronavirus at present. When the crisis is over, they will also remember that you were a trustworthy brand that lent a helping hand.

Let them know how they can help

As stated earlier, the restaurant industry has received a battering during this coronavirus outbreak. Billions of dollars of losses and millions of job cuts will leave the sector handicapped in the wake of the crisis. Many restaurants have already been forced to shut shop. Just last year, Americans ate out 5.9 times a week on average and now the scenario is all but bleak. Most customers are more than eager to help their favorite restaurants see through this difficult time but they may not know how to. You can compile a list of different ways that they can offer help and share the same with your customers. This could help restaurants ride the current storm with some ease.

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