The COVID-19 outbreak (previously known as Novel Coronavirus) has had a significant impact on many businesses, not-for-profit organisations and other employers.
And now there are so many changes happening, such as employers allowing employees to work from home, event promoters cancelling major activities, clinics asking patients to reschedule appointments, supermarkets pausing home deliveries due low stock, as well as some businesses closing their outlets.
Due to these changes, there’s an expectation that each business reach out to customers via email to explain what’s changing and how they’re dealing with things.
But what should you include in your COVID-19 email update to your customers?
Here are some tips to get you started.
The recipient’s first name
I always encourage that you address your customers by their first names if you have their first names in your database. Especially when you’re trying to be personal and caring and want to help put their minds at ease.
“COVID-19” in the subject line
This makes your subject line shorter (leave the longer name for the body of the email). It also helps customers identify the important information as it comes into their busy inbox. Right now, they’re keeping an eye out for everything relating to the virus outbreak.
“COVID-19” and “coronavirus” in the email body
As you write your email body, include “COVID-19” and “coronavirus” in the text. This is not only so that the names stick in their minds but it helps if customers miss your email but then start searching for emails containing these two words. Your email will show up in the results.
Now, be sure to spell them correctly in case their email services don’t recognise typos.
What you’ve been doing
Start with a summary of what you have been doing since the beginning of the outbreak.
What have you done to prepare your business?
What have you done to prepare employees so they’re well informed to assist you if any issues arise? Are they ready to help keep your community of customers safe?
Reassure customers that while the overall risk of contracting COVID-19 in the community may be low in Australia, you’ve taken the steps to enhance their protection at your outlet(s) or when you go out to visit them at their businesses or homes.
What you’ll continue doing
Now that you’ve explained what you’ve been doing, let the customer know that their health and safety is a top priority to you.
Include your plans, e.g. are you staying open to the public? Is it business as usual?
Plus, include what you’ll continue doing next to keep with what the rest of the country is doing.
You might want to mention that you’ll be keeping track of what the State Government and Federal Government health authorities and the World Health Organization recommend and adhere to the official health advice.
If you have a team of managers meeting regularly to discuss how you respond to the bans and the latest information from health authorities, mention this as well.
If you have employees working remotely due to COVID-19 so they can ensure your services are up and running, say so.
And if your customer service and support teams are available around the clock, tell customers how to gain access.
Also consider mentioning how often your outlet and equipment are cleaned (e.g. every 24 hours) and what you mean by “cleaned” (e.g. using products that reduce the risk of harmful viruses spreading).
Potential changes that could affect customers
Next, consider listing any other changes that are occurring with the business that will affect how and when the customer receives your services or products.
This could be changes to the opening hours, the amount of stock available, the number of employees available, the length of time to expect a response or delivery, whether your social media accounts will be active and anything else that would affect the customer.
If you need to, then add what to expect and what would happen if the business needs to shut down during the crisis.
How they can help protect your employees and other customers
I recommend that you remind customers what to do when they visit your outlet. Do this by offering them brief common-sense advice such as:
- “We’ve always maintained the highest cleaning and hygiene practices…”
- “Wash your hands before…”
- “Remember to practice the following cough etiquette…”
- “Shield your cough…”
- “Use the hand sanitiser that we’ve made available in/at the…”
- “Our office is equipped with hand sanitisers and wipes…”
- “If you’re unwell, please…”
- “Wash your hands regularly with soap and water…”
- “Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms…”
- “Stay home if you feel unwell…”
- “We would rather you reschedule…”
- “We would rather offer free delivery…”
- “If you present with flu-like symptoms, we’ll…”
- “Please take extra precautions and reconsider your participation/visit/attendance…”
This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and taking the precautions needed to help minimise the risk of COVID-19 entering your outlet.
Whether you’re issuing refunds and free cancellations
Is your business allowing customers to make changes to their orders or bookings due to COVID-19?
Do you allow cancellations?
Are you waiving change fees for eligible customers?
What are the steps your customers need to take so they don’t miss out nor complain about your lack of flexibility?
Whether you have employees returning from overseas
If you have employees banned from returning from overseas or employees who need to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival before rejoining your team, don’t let customers find out from someone else. No need to hide this information, just be honest about it. The last thing you want is for someone to call you out on it.
The best thing to do is let customers know what precaution you’re taking regarding this and let them know that you’ve been in contact with these employees to offer your support and assistance and to help them follow the protocol.
You’ll keep them in the loop
As you start to wrap up your email, thank the customer for their support and let them know that you’ll keep them updated if anything changes.
This is also a good opportunity to ask them to follow your updates on social media. Include the links.
You’re an email away if they have questions
I don’t believe that this is a time to use a firstname.lastname@example.org email address. That’s best left for content that doesn’t require direct email replies.
If you really want customers to trust you and stay calm, be approachable and reachable. Use an email address that they can reply to and then as you close your email you invite them to email you if they have any concerns or questions.
If you have additional information for customers to read or share about the health and safety measures you’re taking, point them to it.
Your name, signature and logo
In these uncertain times, people want to hear from the boss. Therefore, write the email to come from you (or the boss, if that’s not you).
I recommend using “I” for yourself and “us” for your team throughout the email, and then signing off as the boss with:
<An image of your signature (optional)>
<Your full name>
<Your position, your business name>
Remember to use your logo either in the signature or in the top banner. This helps the customer identify that yep, this email came from your business.
A bonus tip…
Throughout your COVID-19 email message, try to include positive words that make customers feel safe. Use words like “confidence”, “keeping you safe”, “keeping the community safe”, “keeping our offices safe”, “a safe place to…” and “stay safe”.
Need help writing your COVID-19 email message to your customers? Simply send me a quick email to check my availability to write it for you or edit what you’ve prepared.