The headlines are alive with the sound of coronavirus, with experts recommending businesses take this time to consider their contingency plans. And while we can’t speak to whether COVID-19 will blossom into a full-blown pandemic here in the United States, it is a good opportunity to talk about communicating with customers in case of emergency, whether that is due to a blizzard or outbreak of illness.
Let’s start with figuring out when & what you would communicate. Some events, such as a car driving into the side of your building, cannot be anticipated. But other events, such as delayed openings or early closings due to weather events, can be planned for and copy can be written ahead of time. Storing the text and any images in the cloud, either through Basecamp, Google Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive will ensure you have what you need when the time comes, and you won’t be scrambling to get something written. If you have a graphic you want to use to indicate a special alert, make sure that is also in the file – sized properly and ready to go.
Now, let’s think about how your message can be distributed:
Your Website – With the rise of Content Management Systems, the good news is, updating your website with alerts and other messages has become much easier. The bad news is, many website hosts restrict access to the back-end systems by IP address, meaning you have to be at a certain location, such as your office, to make changes.
Using tools like GoToMyPC or JumpDesk can allow you to access your work computer remotely, but also assumes a working internet connection and electricity at your office. To ensure access, you may want to consider asking your host provider to give access to a few trusted people using their home IP addresses, and then have those people test the connections on a regular basis as residential IP addresses can sometimes change.
Email Marketing – Assuming you are already using email marketing to communicate with customers, email can be a great channel to communicate in a time of crisis. Have a “Special Alert” template ready to go, and update your customer list on a regular basis. Don’t forget to make sure you have the user ID and password somewhere easy to access (we recommend using a Password Manager like Dashlane which stores user IDs and passwords securely).
Online Banking – The messaging and advertising tools within your Online and Mobile Banking system can be another great way to connect with customers, particularly as they are likely checking in to their accounts during the crisis. Again, make sure you and your team are able to access remotely before an emergency occurs.
Your Social Channels – Let’s face it, in times of crisis many people go to their favorite social channel to connect, complain and keep updated. Use your institution’s Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin to reach customers and neighbors, as well as learn what is happening within your community and if customers are running into unanticipated issues.
Did we forget Instagram? No, but given its nature as a photo-sharing platform, it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to ongoing updates. You can, however, use it at least once to remind customers that information will be updated on your website.
Whatever channels you choose, take the time now to ensure everyone who needs to be able to access these channels can access these channels, either by granting them editing privileges (LinkedIn and Facebook) or making sure they know the user ID and password (Instagram and Twitter).
Your Partners – Your marketing and fin tech partners may be able to help with these communications. Make sure you know how to reach them outside of the office, confirm they have access to any of the channels for which you need support, and ensure they understand what & how you would like information communicated.
The Press – Depending on the size of the emergency, you may need to speak to local media. Keep contact information for local reporters and editors on hand – again, a cloud-based solution can help, or you can just put them on your phone – and consider giving your information, including a mobile number, to them so they can connect with you quickly.
We never know when an emergency will strike, and communicating with customers and clients is only part of the disaster planning your organization should do. But it is an important part that can make, or break, your contingency plans.