Close personal interaction is an integral component of the wellness and hospitality industries; physical contact and proximity is essential for many services and cannot be avoided. Social distancing during COVID-19 is putting many of these businesses into crisis mode as they search for ways to adapt and adjust.
Although companies everywhere are making hard decisions to survive beyond the pandemic, hotel and spa owners, massage therapists and estheticians, and restaurant and catering businesses in particular must find ways to nurture the interpersonal relationships they have built with clients and the community until they reach the other side.
Below, uncover five innovative ways to remain actively connected with customers during COVID-19 and beyond.
1. Maintain a Strong Connection with Customers During Shutdowns
Especially during such a stressful time, it is important for clients to feel that support is being provided even if the methodology has shifted. Despite social distancing, connectivity can still be maintained through social media. It’s true that with everyone stuck at home, the amount of time spent on social media has increased dramatically. Therefore, it’s an opportune time for your company to broaden its reach. Take advantage of social media to maintain comradery with clients by sharing experiences and opening discussions. While your business may not be open to receiving clientele, providing customers with valuable and entertaining content will whet their appetites for when your doors do finally reopen. Popular content ideas can include any of the following:
- Share wellness tips, relaxation techniques, or product recommendations if you are selling online.
- Supply instructional content on how to create at-home spa experiences.
- For masseurs, provide tips and advice on how to massage a loved one or even a pet.
- Suggest thematic activities that families can share in and enjoy together.
- Ask questions or create polls to engage your customers.
- Post answers to commonly asked questions and offer expert advice.
- Create stories and present data with infographics (which you can create for free from templates on infographic websites) offering step-by-step guides or to liven up statistics.
- Share links to free resources.
- Create weekly live videos, like “Hot Tip Tuesday,” “Fun Fact Friday,” or convert FAQs into informative videos.
Many business owners are already on top of their blog and podcast game. However, it's important at this time to recreate content that reflects the current situation—coping with COVID-19. Provide content that helps customers stay safe and enhance their daily lives, especially since so many individuals are feeling hungry for fresh and relevant information. In addition to staying connected via your social media platforms, invest in your blog or podcast by sharing what safety measures your business will be undertaking now and in the future. Focus on your areas of expertise by providing ideas on enhancing home life, such as creating a meditation space, DIY treatments or tutorials, and how-to guides on techniques and services. Consider writing a blog post that highlights customer success stories or a podcast interviewing a specialist or an influential person in the industry. It’s okay to go off-topic from time to time, like sharing a favorite book or product that provides comfort or joy.
Above all, be timely! With days lacking structure, providing content on a daily schedule is helpful. Send out a daily tip or updates for upcoming online activities that can provide a sense of normalcy for your stressed-out clients. And don’t forget to share it all on social media, not just your website.
2. Develop a Local Connection
Building upon connections with the local community is essential during both the good and tough times, but strengthening these relationships now is even more essential. Providing support to the vulnerable within the community helps to boost morale of those in need, but also provides a meaningful network and support for businesses. If you are not at a member of the at-risk community, you may wish to volunteer on behalf of the business. Take direct part in providing meal delivery services, or doing the shopping and pharmacy runs for at-risk individuals in the neighborhood during the time your business is closed. Seek out local support groups on social media or start a group for those in need. Focus on local priorities to find out who is in need and what is lacking within the community, and champion local businesses within social channels and actively support them. Try providing free advice in your areas of expertise to those in need, or find a personal niche on how to contribute, even if it is not exactly themed with the business. All help is positive! And be sure to utilize guidelines found online to keep groups small, safe, and secure, all while making a difference.
3. Anticipate Changing Needs as the Circumstances Evolve
Developing the right message and foreseeing the needs of customers can be daunting, especially when faced with a rapidly shifting situation. Always tread lightly in the shadow of tragedy. At the same time, be attentive and empathetic as you anticipate of the wishes and needs of your clientele. It’s important to not only be reactive but also proactive to customer sentiment and behavior.
Before the advent of COVID-19, some consumers may have formed a deep relationship with a company’s brand, while others may have developed trust issues. Depending on their reactions, businesses can use this opportunity to rise to the occasion and further strengthen solid relationships or aim to repair damaged trust. More than ever before, listening and anticipating a customer’s needs and feelings will cultivate loyalty.
Be sure to carefully monitor concerns or sentiment obtained through phone calls, emails, or online chats, and pay attention to what is being said online via social media or other sources. Always reach out to customers whether the feedback is good or bad to address the situation. Here are a few tips for monitoring the pulse of your industry:
- Use social media to monitor various customer health concerns or discussions of needs that are relevant to your business.
- Take advantage of Voice of Customer programs to tap into topics related to COVID-19 or other important shifts.
- Offer live chat or video chat for real-time assistance or support to prevent customers from feeling neglected.
- Be proactive and ask customers for feedback regarding weaknesses or issues.
- When mistakes or issues occur, face the problem head-on, alert customers, and offer apologies. Include a discount or refund if needed.
- Respond with honesty and avoid short-term solutions that undercut customer trust and loyalty.
Most importantly, focus on being customer-centric and supportive of their issues, during and after this crisis.
4. Uncover and Invent Long-Term Opportunities
Sometimes it takes a crisis to see opportunity and force businesses to think on their feet. Those that embrace the changes will develop more effective survival tactics. Even though the focus is presently on putting out the fires cropping up daily, take the time to research and develop new revenue streams for the long-term that may prove to be a substantial opportunity.
Learn new skills or enroll employees in online courses to broaden potential services offered. Brainstorm with employees or colleagues on how to proactively create a strong plan heading into the future with an eye on new opportunities. Also, be aware of how consumer consumption patterns are shifting and develop new income streams to be ahead of the change. You need to be creative in imagining how to can tap into solutions that can connect to people at home.
Once a list of ideas is established, narrow it down to solutions that resolve real the problems that customers face and explore solutions that can be offered. Present the ideas to new and returning customers to validate or dismiss the new opportunities. And continue to anticipate demand for the long term—worried customers might not yet have a solid view of where their needs may lie.
5. Look Towards the Future
It may be hard to imagine what’s to come, but some groundwork can be laid in anticipation of a return to normalcy. Contact customers who have had canceled reservations or appointments and offer options on rebooking. Work on an email list of customers to contact when the situation improves and offer added value, discounts, or perks for rebooking. Offer discounts on prepayments, vouchers, bundles, or gift certificates for future services, but be careful to only offer what can certainly be honored down the road.
Provide rewards to loyal customers who actively share social media posts or updates that keep others thinking of the business. You can track these shares manually or invest in tools that measure social media engagement and offer free merchandise or discounts to motivate involvement. Consider including online retail during COVID-19; many salons and spas have a lot of product on hand that customers are hungry to access while stuck at home, and this can add to your revenue while you’re not open for services. Also, rethink company activities that were postponed due to the pandemic and transform them into a pre-order opportunity for customers. Create some compelling buzz around the official release, people need some things to look forward to!
Despite the unknown that lies before us, focus on being adaptive in marketing, business, and career paths. Given these points, investing extensive effort into coming out on the other side of COVID-19 showing flexibility and growth will put businesses ahead with a necessary advantage.
About the Author: Edward Coram James is a UX design professional and the CEO and cofounder of Go Up Ltd, an international marketing and design agency dedicated to helping its clients navigate the complexities of the digital world and maximize their online potential.
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