What do you do when you are unsure of how to navigate a problem or situation? At Kolbeco, we seek out mentors and experts to help guide us in best practices. This has always presented us with the best course of action, but as I am sure you realize, this is not one of those times where you reach out to an expert for help. While this time is certain to spark a plethora of articles and books written on lessons learned from Covid-19, this does not help us right now.
So what do we focus on at present, with no previous experience at running a business during a pandemic? I would argue, we focus on what makes up the core of any relationship – communication. As we start to navigate the reopening of businesses and figuring out what consumers feel comfortable with for themselves and their families, it is important to have a solid plan in place and to communicate that plan on multiple platforms.
No Communication is Miscommunication
A few days ago, the automated system for my dentist started blowing up my phone. It was time for my bi-annual dentist appointment, and they wanted me to text, email or call to confirm my appointment. As COVID-19 restrictions had just been lifted in my area I wasn’t sure if they were open and what the protocol and process would even be. I also wasn’t really sure how comfortable I felt about going into the dentist, but I trusted that they had put a solid plan in place, and I made the decision to get my teeth cleaned. I emailed the dentist office the day before my appointment with no response but was not too concerned. I know that offices are working with a skeleton crew these days.
The morning of my appointment, I pulled into the parking lot only to find that there were zero cars there. I took a quick glance and the time, and I realized I was a bit early so I figured I would wait until they were supposed to open. After a few minutes, it was clear that nobody was coming and that the office was closed. I got out of my car and walked up the paper sign posted on the door. The door had a number to call, which I did, and it was then that I confirmed what I knew, they were indeed closed.
My dentist office was closed and clearly had not done a complete job communicating the closure. I did leave them a friendly voicemail letting them know that their automated system was encouraging people to make their appointments. I have not heard back from the office, nor do I expect to. I made sure to empathize with them that I understood that these are tough times and it must have been a simple mistake that I wanted to prevent from happening with a less understanding patient.
I have a great relationship with my dentist. I own a marketing firm, and I know how reviews can make or break a company or business. I also know that I do not represent the average consumer, and right now, people are being pushed to the maximum with the stress that they can handle. Stress and poor service, no matter how innocent the motivation for the poor service is, can leave a customer with negative feelings toward a business. In fact, prior to the dentist appointment, I was watching the local morning news, where people were complaining about how they waited over an hour and half for quesadillas on Cinco De Mayo. Keep in mind some of these restaurants were just allowed to open up that day. But the lack of timely service, even if it was expected, led to them getting trashed in online reviews.
What can you do as a brand to minimize getting attacked online right now?
- Acknowledge mistakes quickly and apologize. While the customer is not always right, in this case they have the right to be annoyed if your communication is not clear and well thought out.
- Make a list of all platforms your customers may go to, and make sure you communicate on all of them what your intentions are and how you are operating as a business. Check each one off the list each time you have an update in policies, which right now might be daily.
- Update your Google My Business, Yelp and other related pages with your current operating hours and policies. Again, make a list so that you do not leave off a platform unintentionally.
- Be honest and transparent with your communication. Now is not the time to act like everything is perfect and you have all of the answers. Thank your customers and clients for their patience and understanding.
- Continue to innovate and think through what your customer and client’s needs are today.
- Remind yourself no matter what, you cannot please everyone. So, focus on your core customers and amplify your positive communications with your loyal customer base.
- While it is outdated for some consumers, many people still rely on email, not everyone is going to see your social media post. Leverage email communications more than ever. This is a great time to get your client emails in your database.
These are tough times as an entrepreneur and businesses are making mistakes. All you can do is the best we can each day to remain focused on who you serve best, you are operating on strained resources. Do not waiver from the pillars that you founded your brand on. Stay true to who you are while innovating how you deliver, and there is great potential to come out better on the other side.