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COVID-19: 10 Tips and 9 Examples for Communicating to Your Retail Customers

COVID-19 surprised everyone with the speed and efficiency of the virus's spread, leaving all companies with the need for a solid communication plan--no exceptions. Here are some best practices to help you with your customer communication strategy, as well as nine email examples from big brands such as: Clarks, Walmart, Home Depot, Macy’s, Supercuts, Marriott, Wellesley Toyota, Aubuchon Hardware and Delta. Being proactive and frequent with customer communication, especially in the crisis we now find ourselves in, can have a positive impact on customer experience if handled properly--and create a lot of good will.

  • DO communicate your message as quickly as possible. Timing is everything in a crisis. Social media moves with lightning speed so it's critical to get your message out ASAP. When you communicate nothing in the face of a crisis, customers have a way of creating a narrative of their own, and it may not help your brand.

  • DO be human. Now is not the time for a buttoned down corporate communication. An authentic, warm and genuine tone will go a long way. Show empathy and concern.

  • DO consider how the crisis will impact all customers and create talking points for each scenario.

  • DO reach out personally to those customers that will be most affected if/wherever possible.

  • DO pay attention to what is being said about your brand on social media and respond with the same empathy as mentioned above. Don't engage trolls. Block them when appropriate. Keep it positive.

  • DO empower your employees. Let them in on your communication strategy and empower them to respond to customers via social media. One social media manager won't be able to handle everything. It takes a village to be successful in a crisis and as stated above, timing is everything.

  • DO communicate on all channels. Email alone is not sufficient. Post your content to your website and social channels as well. AND be sure to indicate a date on your communication to help people know how recently you've updated your messaging and when you intend to revise your guidance/information.

  • DO make your communication helpful and informative. DO NOT be self-serving or try to take advantage of a bad situation. You do not want your company to appear self-serving in any crisis. It will only serve to harm your brand. Tips include offering ways that you can help your customers stay safe, providing discounts on products or services, indicating if/how your business will be operating differently, etc.

  • DO indicate that your customers' health and welfare are #1, and share what you're doing as a company in response to the situation at hand to ensure your customers’ safety, in this case regarding COVID-19.

  • DO include information about what you're doing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of your own employees. (e.g., keeping them safe during working hours, supporting them in case of illness, etc.);

  • DO provide other business-related information in a personal tone, including the desire to welcome customers in stores as a subtle way of indicating you're still open for business. This is also a great opportunity to promote other channels for your customers to do business with you - e.g., your e-commerce website/app, take-out or delivery services, in-home services, etc. (e.g., Toyota is offering test drives of any of its vehicles, new or used, directly from your home)

Following are a few great email examples for you to help craft your own customer communication about COVID-19:

Clarks Communiqué

Subject Line: Coronavirus Precautions at Clarks Stores

 

To our valued customers,

At Clarks, we love our customers and take very seriously our role as a responsible employer and place you choose to shop. As part of Clarks’ global commitment to help protect the welfare of our employees, each of you and the broader public, we wanted to share with you the precautions we are taking across our U.S. stores in response to the coronavirus.

Our thoughts are with all who have been impacted by the coronavirus. While we take pride in our everyday practices to maintain a clean and sanitary environment within our Clarks stores, at present, we have implemented additional measures that reflect the recommended standards of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in response to the coronavirus.

In our stores, all high touch and high traffic areas are being cleaned with an approved disinfectant every two hours and this activity is being tracked. We are also actively communicating with our store teams about the role each of us can play to help prevent the spread of any germs, including thorough hand washing, avoiding contact with people who are sick and, of course, staying home if they are not feeling well.

Our team looks forward to continuing to serve you however you choose to shop with us, be it in our stores, by speaking with our Customer Service team at (800) 211-5461, or online at ClarksUSA.com where shipping is free.

At Clarks, we have a nearly 200 year legacy to uphold—one that rests on integrity, passion for craftsmanship and our deep commitment to being responsible in all that we do. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

Be Well,

Gary

Gary Champion

President, Clarks Americas

Walmart Communiqué

"As the coronavirus situation continues to evolve, we know it is top of mind for our customers. We see it in the items people are buying and hear it in the conversations we’re having in our stores. So we believe it’s important to share the steps we are taking to keep our people safe and our facilities clean.

We are monitoring this situation daily, and, as we do with any unusual event, we will watch what’s happening locally and adjust business operations and policies as needed. We are in close communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as other health organizations, and are following their guidelines as well as the advice of our own Chief Medical Officer.

First and foremost, we are taking preventive measures to keep our stores clean and maintain a healthy environment. Stores are cleaned daily, which includes using sanitizing solutions in high-touch, high-traffic areas. We have increased associate focus on cleaning and have dedicated an associate to maintain key areas throughout the day. We’ve seen increased foot traffic, so we’re sending additional cleaning supplies for use in places like the registers and on shopping carts.

Looking forward, we are pursuing easier ways to sanitize shopping carts. We also have plans in place for third-party sanitization should it be needed for a store impacted by the virus. And we are evaluating whether to modify store hours at some 24-hour facilities to allow for additional cleaning.

Second, we will work to keep our stores stocked and prices fair. As one would expect, paper products, cleaning supplies and other items are in high demand as customers prepare for the possible impact of COVID-19. We are working to replenish those items quickly, including diverting products to areas of the country where they are needed most and routing deliveries directly to stores. We have also authorized our store managers to manage their inventory, including the discretion to limit sales quantities on items that are in unusually high demand. Online, we are taking a firm stance related to the potential for price gouging by third-party sellers. Violations of our seller pricing policy and seller prohibited items policy will not be tolerated and will be resolved quickly.

Third, as the largest employer in the country, we take the health of our associates seriously. As we’ve said before, we want any associate who is not feeling well to stay home. We shared with our associates details of a new policy that gives them additional flexibility to stay home if they are not feeling well, and pay options and support if they are affected by the virus. Out of an abundance of caution, we have also shared additional guidelines pertaining to company travel over the next couple of months.

Finally, we want to remind our customers there are many great ways to shop at Walmart, including pickup and Walmart.com. Many of you are already taking advantage of these services. If you’re not, this could be a good time to try online delivery or our store pickup options or to use the Walmart Pay feature of our app when paying at the register.

Thanks for the opportunity to serve you. Rest assured, we are doing everything we can to provide a safe shopping experience for our customers and a healthy environment for our associates and communities."

Home Depot Communiqué

Subject Line: COVID-19 UPDATE: HOW HOME DEPOT IS PREPARING AND RESPONDING

As the situation around the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to develop, our paramount concern has been for the health and safety of our customers and associates.

Several weeks ago, The Home Depot established a task force led by our Medical Health Management team to plan for the potential impacts of COVID-19. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are some of the precautions we’re taking across our business.

Stores & Non-Store Facilities:

As part of our normal practice, our stores and other facilities are cleaned and sanitized daily. Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we’re increasing the frequency of cleaning and general hygiene maintenance in stores and other locations. We’re also stepping up our efforts to disinfect high-traffic and high-touch areas like self-checkout, door handles, and bathrooms, as well as posting signage about handwashing and other preventative actions.

Events:

We have temporarily postponed or cancelled several large external and internal gatherings that would have been held in our stores, office locations and off-site venues. For example, we have temporarily paused our in-store Workshops, which are often attended by well over 100 people at a time.

Our Associates:

We've relaxed our time-off policies, so associates don’t exhaust sick, personal, or vacation time if they’re directly or indirectly impacted by COVID-19. And as always, we’re encouraging associates who are sick to stay home. We'll continue to follow the U.S. Department of State and CDC’s guidance on international travel, and we’re asking all associates to curtail non-essential domestic business travel.

Product:

We’re seeing an increased demand for face masks, hand sanitizers and other cleaning supplies in our stores and online. Our merchandising and supply chain teams are working very hard to replenish these items as quickly as possible, and we’ve been restocking on a regular basis. To best serve as many customers as possible, we’ve implemented a purchase limit of 10 face masks per person.

Deliveries & In-Home Service:

If customers have an installation or other in-home service scheduled and want to postpone to a later date, we’ll be happy to reschedule. We've advised all delivery and Home Services associates to follow everyday preventive actions including washing hands often, disinfecting frequently touched objects, and carrying hand sanitizer.

We’re grateful to our 400,000 associates and thousands of suppliers who are working diligently to provide our customers with essential products and a great shopping experience. We are staying in close contact with the CDC as this situation evolves and will continue to make sure that our business practices and other measures for the safety of our customers and associates are consistent with the most up-to-date information.

MACY’S Communiqué

Subject Line: A message to our customers about the coronavirus

Dear Valued Customer,

I want to provide you with an update on how we at Macy's are addressing the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19). We have stores nationwide and know that many of our communities have already been impacted.

As always, the health and safety of our customers and colleagues is our top priority. We have put in place enhanced cleaning measures including additional cleaning staff in each store during open hours. This means more frequent cleaning of heavily trafficked areas and hard surfaces including entrances, customer service stations and checkout stands, escalators and elevators, restrooms and colleague break rooms.

We are prepared to address the needs of each store and facility on a case-by-case basis to combat any potential health concerns and will follow the Centers for Disease Control's recommended preventative protocol.

We are being proactive with our colleagues to both protect their health and provide support for those who develop medical issues related to the virus. We have enacted the Macy's, Inc. COVID-19 Emergency Leave and Pay Policy which ensures that any colleague who is confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 or who is required by the government or Macy's to self-quarantine will receive compensation during that two-week period.

March is also our annual Bag Hunger campaign, and each of our stores and corporate offices are engaged in raising funds and providing volunteer hours for food banks across the country. This is the 21st year of the Macy's Bag Hunger campaign, and we are deeply committed to helping support food security for our communities.

Our stores are open to serve our customers and we hope to see you soon. However, we understand that in the current environment, some customers prefer not to visit a store. We are here for you 24/7 through macys.com or on our mobile app.

Macy's is proudly America's department store. And we're committed to take the necessary actions to help support our customers, colleagues and communities in this challenging time.

With respect,

Jeff Gennette

Chairman and CEO of Macy's, Inc

Supercuts Communiqué

To our valued Supercuts customers,

We care deeply about the health and safety of our customers, employees, and stylists. That is why we want to share the steps we are taking at our 2,700 salon locations throughout North America.

We are closely monitoring the current situation with COVID-19 (the coronavirus) and are committed to taking appropriate steps to navigate this challenging time.

Our Salons

When you visit one of our salons, we strive to ensure you are as comfortable as possible. Getting your hair cut, colored, or styled should be a relaxing and enjoyable experience for you and your stylist.

Please know that cleanliness and sanitization have always been a big part of running a great hair salon, and we already follow strict guidelines from local health departments. However, due to the current situation, we are increasing and adding to our current supply of cleaning and sanitizing materials to ensure our stylists can clean and disinfect the salon even more thoroughly throughout the course of the day.

Our Employees

As with much of the advice you have seen from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), we recommend everyone be conscious of this potential health risk and follow official preventative recommendations. We believe the CDC’s website is the best destination for that advice.

In accordance with the CDC’s protocol, we have asked all employees displaying symptoms to avoid coming to work for a period of 14 days. This same guidance is in place for those who live in a household with members who have visited, or who have themselves visited, China, Iran, Italy, or South Korea.

Our Customers

We kindly request that if you are not feeling well, please reschedule your visit for when you are feeling better for the safety of our team and other customers.

As we work through this together, we are committed to providing customers with the information they need to make informed decisions around their salon services. For our customers throughout the country, our salons are open and our stylists are available.

Thank you from everyone at Supercuts and your local salon. We value your business and the trust you place in all of us.

Marriott Communiqué

Subject Line: A message from our CEO

Dear Mister,

For more than 90 years, Marriott has lived by a core value established by our founder, JW Marriott, Sr., to "take care of our guests and associates." This enduring value guides us as we face the difficult challenge of responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19), which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on Wednesday.

Our hearts and thoughts go out to the people who have been affected by this unprecedented event and we appreciate the healthcare workers, local communities, and governments around the world who are on the front line working to contain this coronavirus. Please know that we are vigilantly monitoring the COVID-19 situation around the clock and have precautions in place to ensure a healthy stay at any of our hotels across the globe.

In this climate, we know travel may not be your first thought, but I want you to know the safety of our guests and associates is our top priority. I want to thank you in advance for putting your trust in Marriott as you plan for future travels. Below is an update on what we are doing, keeping your safety top of mind.

When You Book

You should have confidence when you book a stay at any of our hotels across the globe that we are doing everything we can to have accommodations ready for you. We are closely monitoring the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local health agencies for the latest developments related to COVID-19 and following the guidance of government and public health officials. We are reinforcing these agencies' recommendations on the appropriate health and safety measures with our own hotel management teams and the hotel operators in our portfolio.

Before Your Stay

Given the impact of COVID-19 on how we work, socialize and travel, we have been adapting our cancellation policy over the past several weeks to the evolving nature of this epidemic. Today, we are updating our policy to provide our customers the most flexibility we can offer during these challenging times. Generally speaking, for guests with existing individual reservations, including reservations with pre-paid rates that are typically more restrictive, we will allow changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival as long as the change or cancellation is made by April 30, 2020. For guests making new individual reservations between today and April 30, 2020, we will allow those reservations to be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before a guest's scheduled arrival date. Please visit our website for the most up-to-date information and for additional details about availability and exclusions.

During Your Stay

We recognize that the COVID-19 virus has required all of us to be more mindful as we go through our regular activities. Daily, our hotels around the world are working to ensure that they meet the latest guidance from the CDC and WHO on hygiene and cleaning. Our hotels' health and safety measures are designed to address a broad spectrum of viruses, including COVID-19, and cover everything from handwashing hygiene and cleaning product specifications to guest room and common area cleaning procedures. Specific steps we are taking as a company can be found on our website.

For Our Marriott Bonvoy Members

We are focused on how the coronavirus is impacting our Marriott Bonvoy Members and have made some important updates to our loyalty program to provide greater flexibility when planning future travel. Specifically, we have paused points expiration until August 31, 2020 allowing Members ample time to redeem their points. In addition, we have extended the expiration of suite night awards (SNAs) with an expiration date of December 31, 2020 by one year to December 31, 2021. Lastly, Members who currently have an active Free Night Award (FNA) expiring in 2020 as part of their credit card benefit, annual choice benefit, promotions or travel package will be able to use it through January 31, 2021. We understand that earning status for 2021 may also be on your mind. As the current situation is still evolving, it is too early for us to make any changes. We will keep you updated on all loyalty program changes through our Marriott Bonvoy member benefits website.

We recognize that these are unsettling times and whether you are traveling now or in the future, we want you to know that your safety and wellbeing are our first priority.

Whenever you travel, we are waiting with open doors and open hearts to serve you.

Arne Sorenson

President and CEO, Marriott International

Wellesley Toyota Communiqué

Subject Line: A NOTE FROM WELLESLEY TOYOTA ABOUT CORONAVIRUS

To our valued customers and friends,

We are concerned about the spread of coronavirus and its growing impact on the business community. At Wellesley Toyota, we are taking the following cautionary steps to help protect our customers and staff:

For our service customers, we will offer increased availability of our pick-up and drop-off service. If you live within a five-mile radius of the dealership, we will pick your car up at your home or office, bring it to the dealership for service and then return it to you. (Please contact us if you live beyond this radius as we will consider special circumstances.)

We have added vehicles to our shuttle fleet to enhance our ability to offer drop-off and pick-up service to you after you bring your car here for maintenance. The service is available within a 10-mile radius.

The customer lounge in our service department is receiving more frequent cleaning and disinfecting from our custodial staff.

Our service technicians will wipe down door handles, steering wheels and other areas of your vehicle that they come in contact with.

For our sales customers, we will bring a new or pre-owned vehicle to you for a test drive if you live or work within a reasonable distance from the dealership.

We have told all staff to stay home if they exhibit any signs of sickness.

For the past 30 years, your trust and confidence in us has always been our paramount concern. We hope that confidence will continue through these efforts. Please contact us if you have any concerns regarding protective measures when you visit our dealership.

We wish good health to everyone in the Wellesley Toyota family.

Aubuchon Hardware Communiqué

Subject Line: Our response to Corona Virus

Public Statement (COVID-19 Coronavirus)

To all customers,

The current outbreak of COVID-19 is certainly unsettling. Anxiety and fear is a totally normal reaction. Therefore, we encourage everyone to take the following to heart:

Our Purpose is to “serve those who depend on us…,” so people are our top priority. By “people,” we of course mean our employees and customers (including their families), but we also have a responsibility to our broader communities. COVID-19 is calling all of us to serve, and take care of each other —we will always put people first.

In a time of 24/7 news and social media, we encourage everyone to take care of their own personal well being and mental state by focusing on what you can control (for example: simple cleaning procedures, personal hygiene, helping others and smiling :). Panic will not solve this situation. Focus on what you can control —one day at a time.

COVID-19 is not a nor'easter that is scheduled to blow off the coast in a couple of days. For the near future, we are in a “new normal.” We need to all be switching mental gears —this is a marathon, not a sprint.

The true heros are all the medical providers —we thank all our healthcare workers!

With all that said, our team is working hard on the following:

 

  • We are implementing a “Sanitary Wipe” procedure in all stores to be completed every 60 minutes in high-touch, high-traffic areas.

  • We are replenishing cleaning supplies, paper products, and other in-demand items as quickly as possible at our same every day prices.

  • We are encouraging employees who aren’t feeling well to refrain from coming in. We will also provide extra flexibility and pay options and support if employees are affected by the virus.

  • We want to remind you that we have built alternative ways to shop with Aubuchon Hardware:

  • You can view the live local inventory of all high demand products on our website

  • We encourage you to try our store pickup option ($10 off your first $30+ order!)

  • We accept contactless payment options in all stores including Apple, Google, Samsung, etc

Additionally, we continue to follow guidance from official local, state and Federal government and public health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). As always, thank you for being a loyal customer. Rest assured, we’re doing everything in our power to provide a safe shopping experience for you and a healthy environment for our employees and communities.

William E. Aubuchon, IV

Delta Communiqué

Subject Line: Our Commitment Remains: Your Update from Ed Bastian

Dear Mister,

We are in unprecedented times. With the ongoing spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the incredible speed at which things are changing around us, we are continually adapting our operations and business. With recent reductions in our flight schedule, I personally want to ensure that every member of our Delta family is informed on an ongoing basis, including you.

As an airline, we have faced many challenges and each has made us better prepared for a situation like this. Caring for you continues to be our top priority, and our people are working tirelessly across the globe, taking every precaution to make sure that when you are ready to travel, Delta is here for you.

We are working around the clock to:

  • Protect you and your loved ones when you fly. You have my promise that our team is going above and beyond the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to ensure your safety. We are building on an ever-present focus on cleanliness and continually assessing ways to enhance your safety throughout the travel experience. This includes disinfecting check-in kiosks regularly, more frequently cleaning and disinfecting gate areas, and doubling down on our regular aircraft cleaning. We’ve added a fogging process to disinfect most transoceanic flights and are quickly securing more equipment to expand fogging to even more flights. As always, in-flight air is filtered through Delta’s state-of-the-art circulation system with HEPA filtration. Here is a comprehensive look at the work we are doing to protect you.

  • Make it easier to adjust travel plans. We know customers trying to contact us are experiencing extremely long wait times, and we are continuing to do everything possible to address your needs as we work through a solution. Our teams are currently focused on helping customers whose travel is scheduled within the next 72 hours. If your travel is further out, you may cancel or change your flight anytime before your travel date using My Trips on Delta.com. To allow even more flexibility, any Delta ticket expiring in March or April is being extended to enable rebooking and travel until Dec. 31, 2020. Whenever your travel may be, rest assured that all changes will be processed and applicable credits will be issued; if you don’t take your flight, your ticket number automatically becomes an unused eCredit within 24 hours. We promise to resolve your issues and sincerely appreciate your patience.

  • Address your SkyMiles® Medallion® Status questions. We’re grateful for the loyalty of millions of customers who choose to fly with Delta each year, and I know some of you have questions regarding Medallion® Status and promotions. Please know that we hear you and understand your concerns. Right now, we are 100 percent focused on helping our customers with immediate flight needs. As soon as we get through this critical time, we will address questions about what we are doing to help ensure you can continue to enjoy Status and benefits when you fly now, and in the future.

While we are reducing our flight schedule, we know the ability to travel remains essential. Many of you have reached out to us to express your support for our people – it means so much to me and our Delta family, and I thank you deeply for your care.

I want to reiterate my commitment, and that of the world’s best airline professionals, to safely connect you to the places and people who mean the most to you. We appreciate your loyalty and never take it for granted.

Sincerely,

Ed Bastian

CEO

Petsmart Communiqué

Subject Line: Coronavirus Update: Your health & safety is our priority

 

Dear friends & family,

We understand the growing concern surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19) across our communities, and our hearts go out to all those who've been impacted. As pet parents, we understand you may have specific questions about how to keep your pets and families safe, and we are here to support you every step of the way. PetSmart is working around the clock to ensure we're able to provide the products and services you need, and to keep our customers, our associates, and the pets we love healthy and safe.

We love pets, and we're passionate about the care we provide to them in our stores and throughout their lives. This means that every day, as part of our regular operations, our stores are cleaned and sanitized. Recently, we've increased the frequency of cleanings, and are providing supplemental supplies to our store teams. As always, we provide hand sanitizer throughout all our stores for customers and associates, and we work closely with our teams to ensure that anyone who is not feeling well understands that we support them staying home.

We will continue to refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and other public health agencies to determine the safest course of action for everyone who enters our stores.

We're taking additional steps to keep pets and people safe in our Grooming Salons, PetsHotels and Doggie Day Camps. Our associates follow regular cleaning practices using a disinfectant formulated to kill coronavirus, among other germs. Plus, we'll continue to follow the steps below:

  • Cleaning and disinfecting all grooming tables, kennels, water/food bowls, Doggie Day Camp toys and grooming tools between every pet service

  • Sanitizing and cleaning all surfaces and playrooms every night

  • Changing air filters every week to maintain clean, healthy air in our Grooming Salons

This situation continues to evolve quickly, and we will be monitoring it closely. Based on current guidance and our own standards and practices, we remain open for business and are committed to providing an outstanding experience for you and your pets.

To date, there is no evidence that companion animals or pets can spread COVID-19 (per CDC guidance). For the latest information about coronavirus and pets, we encourage you to visit the links below:

At PetSmart, everything we do is with a heartfelt commitment to bringing pets and people closer together. It's our honor and privilege to serve you, particularly during challenging times, and we thank you for being at the heart of what we do.

Sincerely yours,

J.K. Symancyk

CEO, PetSmart

 

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