Many companies were unprepared for the COVID-19 crisis. As global workers were ordered to stay home, some businesses ground to a halt, while others had to rapidly transition to remote work.
As a service company, it’s imperative that you have an effective crisis communication plan in place at all times so your clients remain confident in your ability to deliver your best work.
During this time, your clients may have been unsure of whether their projects were still progressing or whether they’d been put on hold. Simultaneously, some may have struggled with their own business and personal concerns related to the pandemic.
Effective customer communication tools can put your clients at ease and help you move projects forward — even in the toughest business climate. Below, we’ll cover five top crisis communications tips and three essential communication tools to have on hand to best manage client relationships. But first, let’s discuss why an emergency communication plan is so vital.
Why you need an emergency communication plan
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are struggling with supply and labor shortages. Clients are likely aware of this and may worry that you’ll be lacking the resources to finish their projects on schedule. This fear, combined with stress and worry over how their own lives and businesses will be affected by the crisis, can lead to rash decisions.
While a lack of transparency can destroy client relationships and lead to failed projects in the best of times, it’s even worse during a crisis. If clients are left in the dark too long while you’re trying to plan your communications, it may destroy trust and harm your long-term relationships.
Communicating strategy and business continuity plans early on can salvage these long-term relationships and keep projects moving forward.
Top crisis communication tips for dealing with clients
You need an emergency communication plan in place before a disaster happens so that you are prepared to provide effective crisis communication immediately and frequently.
Here are five effective crisis communication tips for your client services team:
- Prepare your plan in advance. The most important advice we can give is to plan how you will communicate before the crisis happens. Your plan should include vital information such as who will be in charge of communicating, how they will deliver the message, who they need to communicate with, how frequently it should occur, and more.
As with a stakeholder communication plan, there should be a list of people you will need to reach out to (including current clients, past clients, the media, etc.) and important information about each one. You should have each client’s contact info, preferred type of contact, the person in charge of contact, and any important notes.
- Support your team. Your client services team will likely be bombarded by more client requests than ever before. It’s essential you provide them with everything they need to effectively and efficiently address client concerns.
Be sure to prepare briefings and talking points so your team doesn’t have to worry about what they’re supposed to say. Plus, publish answers to common questions so your team and clients can easily access the information. You may also have to reduce workloads or bring in additional support if your team is getting overwhelmed.
- Show your clients you care. Now is the time to be reassuring and focus on the client relationship. This means when you reach out to clients, don’t just send them a project status report. Someone they are familiar with should personally reach out to see how they’re doing, ask about any concerns they have, and discuss the status of their project.
- Be upfront about any issues. If their project is facing potential delays due to the crisis, it’s vital that you address this as soon as possible and discuss it with your client. Talk through possible options and involve your client in the decision-making process. Including them early will help build trust.
- Follow up. One phone call or email is not enough to keep your clients happy, especially as a crisis stretches on. Make sure to reach out regularly, especially whenever any new or significant changes occur. This helps you quickly address any concerns that crop up and maintain trust.
Important customer communication tools to have on hand
Customer communication tools can help you manage your crisis communication more efficiently and help keep your team from being overwhelmed. Here are three tools to support effective crisis communication:
- A central knowledge base. A centralized source of truth containing important information about each client and project can save your team a lot of time searching for information. It can also keep track of which clients you’ve already contacted and who your team still needs to reach.
- Video conferencing software. Often, the best way to communicate with a client, particularly amidst a crisis, is face to face. If you can't see them in person, video conferencing is the next best thing. It allows for more of a personal touch than written messages.
- A client collaboration tool. Any software that provides clients with greater visibility into the state of their project will increase trust and reduce the volume of information requests sent to your team. By sharing collaborative software with clients, they can monitor progress, find answers to many of their questions, and leave comments or notes in a place where they can easily be tracked and responded to.
With the proper communication tools, you can more efficiently and effectively implement the five crisis communications best practices covered above.
Wrike is a collaborative project management software that enables your clients to easily see real-time project updates, review work, leave comments, and discuss concerns with your team — manage client relationships all on one platform.
Plus, you can easily use Wrike as a central knowledge base, where you maintain client information, store relevant project documentation, and share important updates such as notices about how a crisis has impacted your business.
Sign up for a free 14-day trial today and see how Wrike can help your client services team better prepare for the next crisis.