Around 43% of US businesses had temporarily closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis.

At the same time, 45% of big and small US businesses moved some of their employees to remote work.

Revenue generated by businesses

Source: Later

Closing offices and downsizing has affected customer relationships. There is a new limit to how much we can communicate face-to-face.

This made business professionals feel detached and disconnected from customers.

But, not all hope is lost. Customers are more likely to remember you when the hard times are over if you stay in touch and provide updates and support wherever possible.

Whether you are fully operational or on standby mode, you can leverage online communication tools and strategies to maintain relationships with your client base.

Ways to Personalize Customer Experience Without Being There in Person

In an Epsilon research conducted in 2018, as many as 80% of surveyed customers reported they are more inclined to buy from brands that offer a personalized experience. Also, around 90% said that personalization is appealing to them. So it was no surprise that online retailers drove 35% of their revenue in 2020 through tailored recommendations.

But how can you be there for your customers without actually being there? Can you make up for what gets lost when there’s no chance to read body language or other subtle cues that occur in human-to-human interaction?

Exploring these strategies can help you offer your customers the best possible experience.

#1 Leverage Your Social Media Profiles

Social Media Profiles

Source: GWI

Social media is at the epicenter of our experience online. Many people browse through feeds to battle loneliness and stress, get news and updates, or find sources of entertainment. A recent study by GWI has shown that users do most of their brand discovery and research on social media.

And you can contribute:

  • If you don’t have accounts on social media sites, such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Tik Tok, or LinkedIn, it’s time to set them up.
  • Update your profiles with relevant and up-to-date information regarding work hours, delivery options, and contact information.
  • Make sure to indicate if your brick and mortar business is temporarily closed and when customers can expect the reopening.

In the meantime, look into what your audience is interested in. Launching discussions around relevant topics and providing useful tips will improve how they perceive your business.

Consistent engagement is key to personalization as it will allow you to gather feedback and insights from customers directly.

Social media will also give you a window into your customers’ lives to see how they were affected by the crisis. It’s important to let them know you understand their hardships and are there to support them. Share positive and useful advice on how to handle the stress caused by current events. This establishes an emotional bond and promotes brand loyalty. Even though they may not buy from you right now, people will remember your business when the situation changes.

#2 Be Open About What’s Happening with Your Business

Customer Trust

Source: Oberlo

Edelman’s study tells us that trust unlocks a huge gateway between the consumer and the brands.

Transparency builds trust. There’s no reason for clients to expect something that won’t happen. Customers will appreciate your honesty, whether you have to delay a new release, close an office, or reschedule a reopening.

Don’t take the high ground and try to appear unaffected by current challenges. Share what you are doing to overcome problems and how you’re supporting your employees. Suppose you’re making efforts to keep employee salaries and cut costs elsewhere or covering the cost of their therapy sessions. In that case, this will add a human dimension to your business. Social media profiles, email newsletters, or company blog pages are good places to share this information.

#3 Craft Your Messaging Carefully

About 50% of customers see brands as an extension of themselves, which indicates an emotional connection. So, a dry recount of events will not resonate with clients. Try to sound more like a human talking to other humans and not a robot dishing out reports.

Take these two messages:

Example 1: “We, at Company, decided to help our employees by providing free therapy sessions.”

Example 2: “Don’t know why you’re feeling stressed all the time? Even if you have a job and your family is healthy, the weight of uncertainty might be getting to you. Our employees started using the help of a therapist to improve their mental health, and we’re lucky to be able to partially cover the costs for them. Maybe it’s time you took care of your mental health? If you can’t afford a psychologist, here’s a list of contacts where you can get help for free” [followed by a list of local or online platforms where you can get psychological help for free].

There’s no doubt that the second message will resonate better with your audience. It shows empathy and uses shared experience to build stronger connections. In addition, it identifies a common problem and introduces a solution, followed by a list of free resources to improve quality of life.

The first message, on the other hand, can produce split reactions. Some will simply not care, and for some, it may even create adversity. If customers feel you’re just better off than them or possibly even thriving while they’re stuck in a rut, negative feelings can emerge.

#4 Put All Communication Tools into Action

Quote

Source: Close

Many people have found relief and entertainment in social media, but that’s not the only communication tool you can use to connect with your clients.

There are many communication tools at your disposal. Making the most of your outreach and personalization efforts often means combining different methods to keep customers happy.

#5 Use Email for Outreach and Engagement

In omnichannel marketing, email is the most preferred means of contact for customers.

Let’s take a look at these numbers:

  • As much as 72% of surveyed participants in 2016 reported that they prefer to receive communication from businesses via email.
  • In 2019, email communication was the preferred method of contact for customer service or any stage of purchase for 57% of people.
  • The same number of email users reported that they read over half of all items that land in their mailbox.

When it comes to brand messaging, customers respond best to discounts and offers, and advanced notice of new product releases.

Put this knowledge into action and start building up your mailing list. Fun and useful newsletters will attract new leads and keep existing subscribers engaged.

Then, you can also use email marketing to send updates about your company. These can include:

  • Relatable facts on how you and your employees are working to overcome the crisis.
  • What you are doing to go the extra mile for customers.
  • New services you’re developing and or news about upcoming products.

Or, like Close.com mentions, add value with content from non-competitors that could be useful to your reader.

You can also use email and custom signatures to draw traffic to social media channels. Share links to useful posts, promote your groups and pages, and start discussions.

Use an email client to customize your inbox entirely. This will enable you to have a personalized email signature to make it easy for subscribers to find your business online.

As you gather information about your clients and their current troubles, you can use emails to send them offers and promotions for products. Focus on products and offers that will be most helpful to them while they’re in lockdown or working from home.

#6 Personalize Offers With Chatbots and Communities

Communication apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram allow you to create chatbots and communities and bring your brand closer to your user base.

Chatbots are gaining in popularity because they act as 24-hour customer support. The more you use them, the more effective they will become.

Automate your processes while personalizing customer experience by employing chatbots to:

  • Help customers reach a decision about purchasing the right product or service.
  • Place and track orders and deliveries.
  • Provide a Q&A-based knowledge base to educate users on your offering.
  • Suggest similar products and services to existing customers based on their preferences.

Chatbots provide ample possibilities for different types of businesses. See the table below for examples of what chatbots can do to enhance customer satisfaction and increase sales.

Type of Business Fashion Travel & Leisure Medical Services Finance
Chatbot Functionality Suggest matching styles, provide theme-based outfit inspiration, create item bundles for a complete look. Handle hotel bookings, provide checkout times, local information, make restaurant reservations, room service orders, taxi bookings. Provide diagnosis based on symptoms, refer users to appropriate medical professionals. Provide bank account and investment information, notifications on balance changes.

Unlike sales agents and customer support operators, chatbots are always available to all users. Developing specialized bots and configuring your settings can be a worthwhile investment of time and resources.

Building a community around your brand increases brand awareness and engagement. Members can share experiences and give you valuable feedback. You can use this feedback to gauge audience interests and opinions. When you identify their pain points, you can share useful information.

It’s important not to be too heavy on the sales side within communities. Tips, tricks, humorous and entertaining content are always welcome. Create positive experiences and relate to your audience through emotions.

Conclusion

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses were forced to close their brick-and-mortar stores, at least temporarily. Hordes of workers began working from home and 1-on-1 interaction with customers seized.

Being disconnected from customers for prolonged periods can devastate businesses. Luckily, companies can employ online communication tools and strategies to maintain the connection during these difficult times. Most customers still prefer to receive brand updates, offers, and newsletters via email. Building and refining mailing lists and knowing what kind of content to send out can keep the interaction going.

Setting up social media profiles and sharing updates is also a good strategy as most people are turning to social media to pass the time and find support. Chatbots are another trending topic. With advanced personalization and suggestions, well-designed chatbots can offer customers consistent and valuable services.

The key takeaway is to remain open and honest about your business. Providing up-to-date, relevant information and a glimpse of a better future can go a long way in customer retention.