Our thoroughly cleaned hands have been forced into a working structure we didn’t ask for.
For some, it’s a welcome one, with employees and business owners realising that remote working environments can deliver productive, more autonomous habits. There is little place for micro-management, and workplaces are benefiting because of it. For some, it’s more difficult, whether due to personal and professional preferences, or that some industries are less conducive to snuggly fitting in the iso paradigm.
In either situation, we are levelled by the digital bridge we have to our consumers in a way that has never been so prominent and, indeed, vital to business survival. However, what has occurred concurrently is the idea that working from home, or having almost exclusively digital communication, has no clock on or clock off. It’s a 24/7 direct line. While this has been the appeal prior to COVID-19 (in that you can reach your audience in their most receptive times, whenever that might be), it is now also an open-around-the-clock communication line toward business. While we want to keep our customers and clients, future and current, aware we are still here, how do we draw the digital line in a way that respects the needs of business owners and employees, while still maintaining consumer relationships?
You don’t need a constant presence to be top of mind
Incessantly posting on social media, responding to messages immediately (despite the time of day or night) and sending twice daily EDMs might seem like a good strategy to (over)compensate for your lack of face-to-face interactions, and to not feel left behind in a heightened digital time. It’s true, businesses need a digital presence even if their pandemic pivot isn’t necessarily embedded in a digital foundation (for example, switching your service or product offering to align with current consumer needs, or offering delivery). In these instances, you still need digital to effectively get your message to your consumer community.
However, you don’t need to panic post your way through.
Pace your digital strategy in an intuitive way at first (if you're new to the digital game) or through your previous data if you have it. If your pre-COVID data shows you that your audience does not respond to relentless messaging about your business, they are unlikely to suddenly want it now. Further, you are creating unnecessary digital distress for yourself, throwing out more communication lines than you not only need to, but that you can realistically and sustainably handle.
Recalibrate your panic, and turn it into considered strategy. Pace yourself and, as always, let your digital presence be driven by your customer’s online behaviour. The focus is on your messaging and your offering, not how many times and ways you deliver it.
Set up automated response caveats
If you have any kind of automated response function on your website, socials messaging, chatbots or text service, give yourself a realistic response buffer. Your consumers will feel like they’ve been recognised without branding you the burden of constant, immediate response time. A reasonable response time frame is anywhere between 24 and 48 hours. AND MAKE SURE YOU STICK TO THIS AGREEMENT. In the meantime, you can also include helpful links or information within your automated response, such as interesting or relevant blogs, updated news relating to your industry and anything else your data shows is of interest to your consumer.
If, instead, you continually respond immediately in real time, you are setting up an unsustainable precedent that will burn you out, and leave your customers unsatisfied.
Be transparent with what your position
It’s important to not leave your customers in the dark, digitally or otherwise. If you are struggling to keep up with demand, or struggling to sustain certain services or product due to a temporary drop in demand, let them know before they take it upon themselves to send your digital platforms into enquiry meltdown. Send out an EDM to explain the change in business, and solutions you can offer. Post on your social media with honest but positive messaging, and reach out personally to clients if it feels appropriate and relevant to your business. In these unprecedented, unpredictable and sometimes difficult times, you will be surprised how responsive people are to a transparent and real approach.
If you’re able, handball your digital responsibilities
It can be hard to allow messaging autonomy to someone else. After all, who could possibly know your business better than you do, right? It’s true. But sometimes it’s just unrealistic, and potentially detrimental to your bottom line, to not do it. Digital agencies and professionals are across the intricacies of audience behaviours, changes in algorithms, search, and social pivots, as they happen. Digital is not our secondary thought, it’s the whole game. By allowing your digital to be handled in a strategic, cohesive way, your presence through the pandemic can be the thing that keeps your head above water. Or, at least, lifts a burden off your shoulders in a time that requires more professional agility than ever.