How can SMBs be there for their customers during this time of uncertainty? It’s more important than ever that small business leaders remain flexible and empathize with their customers’ needs. At CallRail, we’ve seen service-based SMBs like restaurants and salons shifting to engaging with customers online, setting up websites with the option to purchase gift cards or to book appointments in advance. Other strategies to consider include policy changes like waiving change fees or extending cancellation grace periods, as we could all use a little extra support and understanding right now.

When you can’t meet customers face-to-face, it’s important that support is accessible via email, mobile app or directly through your website. Offering to chat with customers over an instant messaging or video conferencing platform can also provide a greater feeling of community during social distancing.

Today, being there for your customers means prioritizing their health and safety. So communicate any health and hygiene protocols you’re following, whether it’s through email or a sign on your storefront. Also let them know you and your employees are following all local or state mandates.

What are best practices for communicating with customers via social media channels?

Be empathetic and considerate. Your customers are likely checking their social channels more often to connect with friends and family and to get the latest news updates–in fact, recent research shows people have been spending 20% more time in apps during the COVID-19 lockdown. Posting good news and supportive content often will help SMBs remain visible in customers’ feeds. Be understanding. Be a bright spot in their day, without minimizing the anxiety and unease many of us are feeling.

Lastly, make sure you closely monitor any mentions of or messages to your business on social media, as customers may try to reach out there as well. It’s also important to relay important business updates like any closures or reduced hours.

How should SMBs adjust to changing customer behaviors?

As the world continues to navigate through this crisis, businesses need to prepare for shifts in customer behavior and adjust their strategies accordingly. With social distancing measures in place, many customers are looking for ways to shop online so they can stay safe and reduce exposure to public places. So now is a good time for brick-and-mortar stores to open up an online store. And existing e-commerce sites should plan for an uptick in sales, and prepare customer support teams to handle increased demand.

Right now, it can be hard for SMBs to think about adjusting long-term strategies, especially with news updates changing daily, so it’s okay to take this process day-by-day. Keep in mind, the actions you take now will vary based on the needs of your business and your customers. For example, reducing budgets or pausing on certain projects altogether are actions SMB leaders may need to consider to keep their businesses afloat.

What are some resources helping SMBs stay connected to their customers?

A growing list of organizations is stepping up to provide financial relief for SMBs. Google will offer $340 million in ad credits and Facebook announced $100 million in cash grants to help SMBs stay connected to their customers and communicate important business updates. As more companies step up to show their support with reduced cost or free services, SMB leaders should keep an eye out for resources that can help them stay engaged with customers and communities.

On a local level, some people have started GoFundMe pages to collect donations for their favorite small businesses. Here in Atlanta, some restaurant operators have set up similar efforts to aid the wellbeing of their staff and the communities they serve. While it’s certainly a difficult time, it’s inspiring to see all the ways in which individuals are stepping up to support SMB owners and employees. It reinforces my belief that in our current situation, every effort to help each other goes a long way.

Palmer Houchins is the VP of marketing at the leads-focused analytics platform CallRail. The team at CallRail is prioritizing helping small businesses optimize their ad budgets and understanding where their most valuable leads are coming from with their two-month free trial.

Supporting customers stock photo by SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock