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How to support your small business customers during the COVID-19 pandemic

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If you’ve felt worry over the last week, you’re not alone. Maybe you’ve experienced fear, doubt, anxiety. We are all in uncharted territory; a global pandemic is not a situation many businesses prepare for.

There’s one thing that’s certain; we are all going to have to stick together if we’re to come through this. Perhaps in recent weeks, this community spirit has even inspired hope, optimism and an appreciation of the small things. The health crisis affects all of us, in life and in business. Now is the time to be a source of support to each other: to family and friends, to strangers and especially your customers.

With that in mind, we’ve outlined what you can do to support small businesses. We hope you find it useful.

Positivity – tempered with practicality

The situation is dire. Being downcast won’t help, but don’t blow the trumpet of positivity and pretend that everything is fine.

Focus on practical things your customers can do:

  • Focus on the possible – restrictions on our daily lives mean there are many things we can’t do right now. Encourage your small business customers to focus on what is possible
  • Remember that everything is impacted – the banks, the transport system, the postal service, every aspect of daily life… as long as it is safe and legal to do so, encourage small businesses to keep doing what they can. The most important thing for SMBs to remember is that it won’t be business as usual right now, for anyone; times are challenging, though they will get better eventually
  • Review your own communications with small businesses – are they appropriate now? Is the tone in keeping with the situation we face? Small businesses are more likely to suffer in tough periods than larger businesses. Be sensitive in dealings with them; carrying on as normal is admirable, but be careful not to alienate smaller companies who are less equipped to cope with shocks to the market

Let customers know how you can help

Make your support hours widely known. Publish them on your website, tweet them regularly, share them on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or wherever your customers are.

If they have a problem, clients will be eager to get in touch now more than ever. It’s your responsibility as their service provider to ensure that they can keep running their business.

That said, acknowledge that service may be slower than usual. For instance, if your staffing levels have been affected or if demand has increased, let people know! Be realistic and manage your customers’ expectations. People are understanding, as long as you keep communicating and you’re honest about what you can provide.

Reassess your own business structure to help with demand

In the current climate, there will be plenty of people moving towards online selling if they’ve had to close their bricks and mortar store. Do everything you can to help small companies take their business online. Consider creating helpful content that makes the process as smooth as possible. Times are tough; discounts which provide genuine value could be a good incentive to small business owners. Be careful! Make sure the discounts offer something genuinely appealing. If it comes across as a cynical sales tactic, you could risk alienating people or losing them as soon as the offer period expires. Our blog on selling to small businesses has plenty of practical tips to help you.

Make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch and – ultimately – to succeed. If certain areas of your business are quiet, consider asking staff to help with busier areas, such as onboarding or basic troubleshooting. Even if they have no specific product knowledge, those staff can help answer calls. Not only does this appease customers, it means calls can be directed to the correct place as quickly as possible.

If your marketing team are reassessing their communications for the next few months, why not get marketing and the product team in a room? There is plenty of content that could help small businesses, and keep your phone lines quieter too: explainer video content, useful pointers on social media, a series of super-clear onboarding emails, detailed troubleshooting guides, actionable FAQs. These all provide value to a customer and help them in a time of need.

Be the human face of business for your customers

The most important thing businesses can do at the moment, is to be human! Empathy, compassion and understanding are critical. Not only in helping customers through these unprecedented times, but for communities. Be as helpful as you can, as often as you can, and the effects of your support will be felt far and wide.

For more advice or questions on how to support your SMB customers, get in touch. We’ve been helping organisations do just that for over a decade and would be happy to assist. If you’re an existing partner, remember your account managers are always there to support you, provide advice and share best practices.

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