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Trends and Insights | Building Your Team | Leadership

Ascend Benefits Solutions Insurance Services is proud to be a Covid-19 Business Partner with the County of San Bernardino.

Los Angeles allowing retail stores, churches, drive-ins, and more to reopen

Although Los Angeles leads the state in COVID-19 cases and deaths, Mayor Garcetti announced on Tuesday, May 26 that in-store shopping and religious services could resume in the City of Los Angeles on Wednesday so long as stores and religious institutions followed the county’s guidelines. Per state regulations, in order for counties to reopen, there must be no more than 20 COVID-19 hospitalizations on any single day in the and fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days. A closed LA County Board Supervisors meeting determined that the county met those standards.

Retail stores can operate at 50% capacity, while places of religious worship may operate at 50% capacity. Community pools, drive-in theaters, and flea markets can also reopen. The City of LA published safety protocols and best practices for businesses to follow when they reopen.

Help Your Small Business Stay Healthy with a Coronavirus Crisis Communications Plan

By Rieva Lesonsky

For businesses of all sizes, but especially for small businesses without large cash cushions, the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be enormous, affecting cash flow, sales, jobs and business survival rates.

As a small business owner, I know how, where and when I communicate with my clients during this crisis will greatly influence how my business will fare during the crisis and when it is over.

Take a moment to go over this small business crisis communications checklist to help your business remain healthy.

1. We are here! We are here!

In the words of Dr. Seuss in Horton Hears a Who, you need to let your customers know you are still running your business and making every effort to keep your services/products available any way you can. You can’t assume your customers know you’re still operating (even in a diminished capacity), so make sure you tell them right away what you’re currently offering and that you’re working on a longer-term game plan.

Emailing your customer list is likely the quickest and easiest option. If you send out a regular e-newsletter, include your message in there as well.

2. Going on hiatus?

What if your business is closing—temporarily? Some businesses will have no choice but to close their doors. I’ve gotten a lot of emails from retailers announcing they’re closing for several weeks. All have mentioned their websites are still operating and many have eliminated or reduced shipping fees. If you’re in retail, now’s the time to ramp up your e-commerce business, and email marketing, again, seems like the fastest way to spread the word. Also consider social commerce, selling via your social media channels.

3. What should be on your website?

Where are your clients going to check first for information about your business? If you said your website, you are right and so you should have already posted information about any changes to the business such as new store hours, delayed deliveries and the best way to reach you. It’s also a good idea to acknowledge the crisis, offer advice and words of comfort. To be really helpful, post links to resources for more information on the crisis.

4. Email to stay in touch

After your initial outreach to your customers, it is imperative you keep the lines of communication open. If you’ve been communicating primarily by email, continue to use that channel. If you’re open for business, whether you’re selling products online, meeting with clients via telecommunication tools (Skype, Zoom, etc.), or selling food via takeout or delivery, consider emailing your customers and clients weekly. Customers will be bargain-minded, so offer incentives and promotions to persuade them to buy.

Many people are encouraging consumers to help out local businesses by buying gift cards now, for use later. This gives the businesses an influx of cash. So make sure you offer gift cards and visibly promote them.

Think about what your customers want to hear from you, in addition to discounts and other promotions. Can you offer information to help get them through the next few weeks or months? My hairdresser already texted me instructions on the right way to trim my own bangs. Depending on the type of business you operate, consider offering relevant tips, such as how to be productive working from home, tech tools, ways to entertain the kids while you work, best music or movies to help pass the time, favorite recipes, exercises, etc.

Consumers are stressed right now and would welcome hearing from a familiar business owner once or twice a month.

And make sure you let your customers know when you might be open for business again. When my dentist called to cancel my upcoming appointment, they rebooked me for a month from now, but added they’d be in touch with regular updates.

5. Start a dialogue on social media

Isolated consumers will be turning to social media for news and to make social connections. Start with the social platforms you usually use to engage you’re your clients and customers. But explore other social channels to find out where the conversations are. Ask open-ended questions to get a conversation going and make sure you answer questions customers have for you.

What you do not want to do is act the expert on the coronavirus. Refer people to the CDC website for the latest information.

6. Get creative

Now may be a good time to try communication channels you haven’t used before. Consider live streaming to show customers how to use your products, starting a podcast, or beefing up your YouTube channel.

What about holding virtual meetings with your clients over video chat, especially if your customers want face-to-face interactions, or you need to show charts or other visuals? Consider hosting webinars so you can interact with many of your clients at one time.

How are you planning on keeping communication going with customers during this global pandemic? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.