At this critical juncture, the COVID-19 emergency should give us some food for thought on the activities of our company, on what we offer, and how and what we communicate to our customers.
After all we can’t not communicate. Silence can send a message to your customers which can often be misinterpreted. At worst, it says that you don't care about how your clients feel and what they are thinking about. At best, you lose the opportunity to transmit your business’ values. At this critical juncture, the COVID-19 emergency should give us some food for thought on the activities of our company, on what we offer, and how and what we communicate to our customers.
As you well know, the latest measures introduced by the government to block the spread of the infection has brought a halt to most client facing businesses, but it is also an opportunity to reinvent oneself in ways not thought of until now.
If you have closed your business, let your customers know immediately. Continue talking to them throughout your closure via the available communication channels (email, newsletter, Facebook, Instagram, website). At this point in time it is not as important to sell as it is to communicate your brand’s values.
Rather, share the latest news that may be useful and interesting to the sector in which your customers operate. Remember that the news you publish reflects your corporate values, the issues you care about, your personality. It is the perfect moment to build more customer confidence – not only now that you are closed but also when you reopen for business.
Furthermore, if you are planning to close your business or have just done so, do a quick check of any perishable items that you may have in stock and do not hesitate to invite your customers to purchase this excess stock from your inventory (there are applications that allow you to do this easily, like TooGoodToGo).
If it’s true that every crisis hides an opportunity, some businesses have already set in motion a “reconversion” in order to continue distributing their product. We are talking about all those possibilities that already exist but that you, like many others, have never put into action due to a lack of time or because you just didn’t know how to.
For example, have you ever thought about home delivery? This is a good time to experiment with it – and perfect it for the future too. What about, for example, a captivating (perhaps organic) sealed packaging that keeps your product fresh (if you need advice to start, the Foodys.it brand has also started a free online advice desk for all Italian restaurateurs).
Another idea, assuming we will be "social distancing" for a while longer, is that you could choose to invest in e-commerce: definitely a winning strategy which you could pursue in the long term. In the meantime, start with a simple platform and then gradually invest in professionals and switch to a more functional system down the track.
Now more than ever, forget the “pre-packaged messages” and speak clearly and directly while maintaining a message of trust and reliability. If you are continuing to produce for delivery, it is important to communicate what you are doing to ensure the safety of your product: think about your product’s value chain, analyse where risks could arise and think about what you are doing to minimize them. You will find that these continual product & service improvements will give the perception of quality and reliability.
Also, be honest and communicate any possible delays: it is important to align with your client's expectations, avoiding any potential dissatisfaction.
Use your phone and its messaging service capacity so that the customer can keep track of the delivery and thus feel reassured. Once this emergency is over, the entire delivery sector will probably change and become much more flexible, on both the customer and supplier sides through messaging services (e.g. Messenger, WhatsApp).
Think of new sales mechanisms that can reassure the customer if there are delays: like pre-order, and “buy now, pay later”.
Think of new strategies and sales formats for your product, above all for the future. We have all seen the race to the supermarket to secure home supplies, especially long-life products. It is likely that this trend towards large formats will continue, changing consumer habits. An idea is to create and offer “family packs”; larger Bundles that can provide long lasting stock and avoiding short-term re-orders and frequent trips to the supermarket.
Perhaps offer discounts and free delivery, if possible, during this period and keep those discounts active on subsequent purchases in the future to retain customer loyalty. It doesn’t hurt to insert something extra that was not included in the order – an “easter egg” - that creates that WOW factor. The item value does not count but the gesture really does, like a handwritten note to personally and heartily thank your customer for their custom.
The clean-as-you-go method is not just a risk minimization policy at work, it is a way of thinking about work, a mental state. For those unfamiliar with the technique, briefly, it is well described by the phrase I once heard, somewhere: "You open up, you feed people, you clean up, you close up, and you go home". Effectively, cleaning is integrated into the work routine; it’s not done after you’re finished work but while you’re working. The bonus is that you can finish your shift content and satisfied of a job well done. This is a well-honed practice abroad but a little more difficult to get into the minds of businesses in Italy.
Don't wait to be forced to adopt it; after all, using your own initiative will always be more satisfying than being forced to do it.
It could and should be our calling card, our hallmark.
How many of us working from home have smiled blissfully at the idea of working from the table of a bar with a big cup of caffè latte nearby and then suddenly realized that it’s now impossible.
Some cafes have also rethought their service, in terms of where and how, by removing seats and limiting consumption to take away, for example. All those venues that stood as “the third space” between home and work, where we could be alone but in public, have closed or are greatly limited in the way clients can now consume their product.
Even if we are currently forced to settle for coffee in our favourite mug, this can very well be an idea for the future, perhaps adding takeaway coffee to the usual service you offer.
Coffee "on the road" is widespread abroad, especially in Northern Europe, but hasn’t yet caught on in Italy. Maybe it’s because of the small size of our traditional drink, the espresso - which we drink often and in one shot. You’re probably thinking: What reason is there to take it for a walk when it’s just going to go cold? However seen in another way, perhaps it is an opportunity to rethink about expanding your range of coffee and service models while also maintaining quality with filter coffee and cold brews for the summer.
Regardless, take advantage of this shutdown period to rethink your menu, the blend of coffee you serve, as well as your suppliers. Above all focus on communicating to your customers clearly and effectively what they can expect once all this blows over.
If you need advice for your business, make yourself heard: Mr. Bloom and his staff will find a solution for you.
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