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4 ways small businesses can improve crisis communication with customers

Communication crisis
October 19, 2020
Author: Hamster, www.hostens.com

It was in March 2020 that Cleveland-based Connor hurriedly began drafting tailored customers communication ideas for his clients. The coronavirus pandemic was spreading rapidly across states, affecting every business on its way. As an entrepreneur who runs a digital marketing agency for small businesses, Connor had to revise his clients’ marketing strategy to focus on customer communication, engagement, and improving online traffic.

While a strategy revision is necessary for most aspects of a business, customer communication needs a special treatment. It should be designed with an aim to maintain a good customer relationship even in the face of a crisis.

Here are four proven ways to help you improve crisis communication with your customers.

1. Tell your customers the truth

The biggest impact of the ongoing crisis has been on small businesses. The Covid-19 pandemic has directly or indirectly caused companies to revise their business models, change their product or service, or, worse, shut shop.

Regardless of the nature of your crisis, you should start by informing your patrons about your situation. This is because consumers want to know how their favorite stores and suppliers are doing and if they are available for business.

When you proactively share the status of your operations with your users, you fulfill a duty. Your customers have the right to know, even when you are dealing with a challenging time.

How you do it can be testing because there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to communicating with your customers. Much like in the case of Connor’s clients, your patrons could be spread across the country. A strategy that works for a cloud kitchen may not even be relevant to a craft store operating out of an apartment.

Businesses with an online presence should immediately send out messages via their website, mobile app, social media channels, and email. Do not worry about repeating your statements because catching your users where they spend most of their time is more important.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have an online presence other than social media, start with a website. It can act as a hub for all your communication resources. It could just be a one-page website on a meaningful domain name such as www.businessupdates.online and share it with your users.

2. Keep serving your customers through available resources

Just because you are not able to sell your products and services does not mean you should stop serving your customers. Several studies, including Nielsen’s media consumption report, suggest that digital media consumption has skyrocketed during the pandemic.

With more people working from home and turning to their screens for essentials as well as entertainment, it is a great time to replenish your digital marketing efforts.
Here are some activities that you can immediately start:

  • Keep interacting over social media.
  • Create and publish articles on relevant, topical themes. For example, if you sell sportswear, write about the importance of being physically active even while quarantining.
  • Curate and share third-party resources and guides that will help your patrons throughout a crisis, if it’s mutual, as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
  • You can also create your own resources. As mentioned, if you sell an essential product, consider helping out a community by distributing free products or selling them at subsidized rates.
  • Respond to all queries regardless of their nature. This last point is critical and can help you maintain a strong relationship in the long run.

3. Go the extra mile in customer relationship

Do you run a B2B enterprise with a small, select set of customers? If yes, reach out to them individually. This can be to either inform them about your crisis or just ask how they are doing. Personal, directed messages can go a long way in maintaining customer relationships. It shows that you care.

If you’re worried about making mistakes, start slow, and keep improving your communication style. Did the first personal message go unacknowledged? Do not fret instead, try another medium and use a different approach. As long as you maintain a friendly tone and be sensitive about the situation, your efforts will yield a positive outcome.

Being sensitive means not taking advantage of every opportunity. The ongoing pandemic has been devastating for both businesses and individuals. While it is good to share useful content in this period, you should take special care to not use it as a marketing opportunity.

For instance, avoid bumping up your prices if you sell face masks and sanitizers. Instead, consider charity and helping out a community with your available resources along with running your business.

4. Keep all communication channels open

Crisis communication can sometimes be a two-way street. Consider the case of Grace, a small-time solopreneur who runs a tailoring shop in Alytus. Due to the pandemic, she had temporarily shut her online store and was focusing on her health.

She had routed her store’s communication channels to her personal profiles. So, she received at least half a dozen emergency orders from orphanages and community centers looking for assistance in stitching face covers. She was not looking for business, but she could help the people in need just because she kept the channels open and still, maintain her business.

This shows that informing your customers about your crisis is not enough. Sometimes you need to listen to them too and provide them with possible assistance. Businesses who make themselves useful even during a crisis are the ones who are respected by their customers.


In times of crisis, continuous customer communication is the holy grail for a lot of businesses. In the initial example, Connor looked at creating various digital marketing strategies that would fit his clients’ specific needs. But the important takeaway is that the strategies revolved around these four critical pointers.

Whatever you do and whichever channel you choose, make sure to be honest, and transparent with your customers. Oftentimes, that is all that matters to maintain a healthy business-customer relationship.

As you prepare your crisis communication strategy, make sure that the nature of communication is tweaked according to the situation, your audience, and the current position of your business. The key is to start communicating immediately and maintaining it.

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