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COVID-19 Customer Communication Templates and Examples

Madeleine Doyle  //  April 28, 2020  //  12 min read

In this article, you will find COVID-19 customer communication templates, resources, and recommendations for engaging with your customers during this uncertain time. We’ve shared messaging suggestions, example survey questions, best practices, and ideas of how you can leverage the tools you have—like Apptentive—to talk directly to your customers.

The key piece many major brands are missing right now: Listening.

Customers are so tired of being talked at. They want to be heard and to have two-way conversations – especially now. What might have worked well for them in December might now be what they need now. Brands need to give customers the opportunity to express these needs and then actually make changes based on that feedback.

If you want to learn more about how to make sure you’re being helpful rather than creating more noise for your customers, we highly recommend reading this article by Apptentive CEO and Co-founder, Robi Ganguly. He dives into exactly why listening is so critical—especially during a pandemic.

COVID-19 customer communication template recommendations

Although we’re about to cover plenty of tactics, our most important recommendation is to make sure you’re helping rather than adding to the noise. Remember to ask before acting, understand your customers’ current emotional state, and learn which communication is actually wanted.

Launch a Survey

Surveys are a great way to take a general pulse to understand current customer preferences and behaviors, but they also provide an efficient way to gather more specific and relevant feedback.

If you are in the position to help your customers or improve their lives in any way right now, start by asking:

  • What can we do to help?
  • What do you need from us right now? (Include single-select options relevant to your business, such as free delivery, promotions, travel alerts, news alerts, financial information, etc.)

Use surveys to gather feedback from your customers on how you are currently handling the situation and use it as an opportunity to build trust. This data can inform or help pivot your communication strategy moving forward.

  • How satisfied are you with how we are handling this issue? (Range of 1-5)
  • What are we doing right and should continue?
  • What are we doing wrong and should stop?
  • What are we missing that we should/could be doing?

It’s important to also include an open-ended question to allow customers to vent or share positive feedback. This is a place for them to share feedback on items you didn’t cover in your previous survey questions.

  • What else? Tell us!
  • What other feedback do you have?

Pro tip: Apptentive recently launched a new Survey template for COVID-19 customer communication. This makes it super easy for our customers to go live with these recommendations in just a few clicks.

Run a Note

Notes are a great way to communicate proactively to your customers on a variety of topics. They also include an option to deep link (if your app supports this), link to an external URL, or introduce a Survey.

If you launch a new app version in response to your customers’ needs during this crisis, use Notes to encourage customers to upgrade to the new version faster. It’s also helpful to direct customers to an FAQ page outlining how you are addressing the COVID-19 outbreak and what you are doing to support them at this time.

Sample copy: Our team has put together resources to help answer your questions during this uncertain time. Click the link below to view our FAQ.

A great strategy to get customers to opt-in to take a Survey is by using a Note to introduce it first. This allows customers to cut down on too much noise while letting those with time to spare the opportunity to provide valuable feedback.

Ultimately, it’s critical to let customers know what you are doing to help and share resources around where to donate if they are able.

Sample copy: We are donating to [X] charity at this time. If you’d like to contribute, you can do so by clicking on the link below.

Use Targeting Thoughtfully

Keep in mind that typical targeting suggestions don’t necessarily apply in situations like this. You want to avoid interrupting customers, but get them the information they need as soon as possible. With that in mind, consider using a homepage viewed, dashboard viewed, or other event early in your app cycle to capture customers when you have an important message.

Consider where in your app it will be most impactful to show the interaction and determine the right language to use. Use our suggestions above for language, or if you’re an Apptentive customer, ask your CSM or support@apptentive.com for help.

Think about the right cadence. Should you show a Note or Survey to users once or multiple times? It’s important to also think about your audience. Which customers should you message? Do you want to send this out broadly or to a select group of your most-loyal or active customers? Answering these questions before taking action will help shape your communication strategy.

Additional Communication Tips

  • Be thoughtful about the frequency of Notes and Surveys you send to customers to avoid being too noisy or disruptive.
  • Notes have character limits. You have 64 characters for your title and 320 for the body, so choose your words thoughtfully.
  • Notes also allow you to link to an external URL. This can be used for app store updates, links to FAQ pages, and more.
  • Read your industry’s section of Apptentive’s 2022 Mobile App Engagement Benchmark Report to see how your current app metrics stack up compared to others in your category. This is a good way to check the overall health of your brand.
  • Consider how long to run a Survey or Note and ensure that the content is current. The state of our world is changing rapidly, so be sure to update accordingly.
  • If your app is available in multiple languages/countries, be sure to upload translations once you have built your interactions.
  • Benchmark these responses and check back throughout the coming quarters. How have your customers’ attitudes changed over time? Have their needs changed?

Industry-Specific Coronavirus Customer Communication Recommendations

Food & Drink

  • Share an update on restaurant hours, or policy changes such as drive-through or take-out only.
  • This is also a great way to notify customers of free or discounted delivery.
  • Inform your customers of offers or promotions you have created to support them at this time of uncertainty.
  • Encourage customers to use mobile ordering to provide safe distance while speeding up orders.

Sample copy: We are now offering buy one, get one coffee when ordering through the app!

 

 

 

Finance

  • Share your support and resources for those who need financial assistance at this time.
  • Link to an FAQ about what you are doing to help your customers.

Sample copy: Our team has put together resources to help answer your questions during this uncertain time. Click the link below to view our FAQ.

Travel

  • Alert your customers that call volumes are high, redirect them to a help page or online support.
  • Inform your customers of offers or promotions you have created to support them at this time of uncertainty.
  • Alert customers that they may experience travel disruptions during this time.

Sample copy: Due to unforeseen circumstances, you may experience travel disruptions at this time.

  • Offer discounted or free memberships to travel programs.

Sample copy: Enroll in our travel program below, we are extending a 6 month free membership for all enrollments before April 1st.

Media

  • Let your customers know about new content to watch.

Sample copy: Check out the latest episodes of [X] show, all seasons are now available!

  • Guide them towards the latest news and turning on app notifications.

Sample copy: Follow the latest updates on COVID-19 by turning on your app notifications. Click the link below to enable.

  • Encourage people to subscribe to your newsletter to keep them updated.

Shopping

  • Promote ordering in-app since stores are closed.

Sample copy: Use the app to purchase your favorites items!

  • Let customers know they can schedule a grocery delivery.

Sample copy: Schedule delivery windows for the next two weeks to have your groceries dropped off on your doorstep.

  • Alert customers of an update to store hours or closures.

Sample copy: In light of recent circumstances, our store hours have changed.

  • If you are offering free shipping at this time, announce that via a Note.

Sample copy: Free shipping is available on all orders through April 15th!

Facebook

At Apptentive, we talk a lot about using customer emotion to help drive product decisions. Facebook has done exactly this. They noticed the social media community expressing more and more care, appreciation, and empathy for one another during this time. In order to allow customers to truly showcase that emotion, Facebook is adding a “care” reaction emoji to help people express this sentiment.

 

USAA

USAA put their members first by returning a large portion of insurance premiums to members due to reduced mileage. Their data revealed members driving less due to stay home orders, so they’re offering a 20 percent credit on two months of premiums to everyone. Actions certainly speak louder than words, and USAA just showed their members how much they care about their needs. Because they were listening to the data and monitoring their customers’ behavior, they were able to be proactive in this time of turbulence.

“We understand the impact this pandemic is having on our country, and especially our military community and their families, many of whom also are working on the front lines of the crisis. Returning premiums provides timely help for our members,” said USAA President and CEO Wayne Peacock. “USAA has been facilitating the financial security of military members for nearly 100 years, and this is another way we can serve them well.”

Burger King

We’ve all seen it – companies taking advantage of the current situation and creating robust advertising campaigns to capitalize on the new messaging. But PR stunts and fancy new commercials don’t actually make a difference in customers’ lives. Burger King, on the other hand, came up with a practical solution geared toward actually helping their customers. They’re offering two free kid meals with any purchase made via the Burger King app. Yes, they then created fun ads to share the news, but only after they decided to take action and make a difference.

“I think that before jumping on ads, brands need to take action. There are lots of good examples of brands helping people via concrete actions that help communities. In times like this, we all need to help.” – Fernando Machado, Burger King global CMO

Burger King’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International, released an open letter on March 30th outlining additional measures they were taking to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of their employees after the QSR industry received quite a bit of pushback from these essential workers.

Learn how other food and drink brands use sentiment data to make product decisions.

Ally Bank

In a revolutionary move, Ally Bank forgave all overdrafts without asking for repayment so their members could receive their full stimulus check. They also have increased payment leniency on loans after hearing from 25 percent of their members asking for assistance with auto loans.

“At Ally, we recognize there has never been a more critical time to deliver on our promise to ‘do it right’, and we are committed to supporting the people we serve safely and confidently through this crisis,” Jeffrey Brown, Ally Bank CEO

Zappos

Well-known for its stellar customer service already, Zappos has set up “customer service for anything” to help assist customers at this time. They’ve advertised this service as support for anything and everything – no purchase required. By putting the customer (and even people who aren’t customers yet) first, they’re showing – rather than telling – the world what they value.

Instead of talking at their customers and assuming their needs, Zappos instead simply asked, “How can we help you?” That has made all the difference.

Book of the Month

The Book of the Month has always been a customer-centric company – asking for feedback after each book in a very non-invasive way. When this crisis happened, they didn’t wait for customers to come to them trying to cancel subscriptions or delay payments. They proactively anticipated this and sent out swift communication letting people know they had options if they had lost their job and needed support. When you have a consistent VoC listening system in place, you can accurately predict when customer feelings start to shift in a downward spiral and get ahead of the issue.

Book of the Month Coronavirus message

Shake Shack

We saved the most controversial example for last. Hear us out – Shake Shack is a great example of making a mistake, listening to their customers, and making changes according to this feedback.

While most restaurant chains – specifically QSRs – quickly pivoted to offer to-go ordering amid the coronavirus pandemic, Shake Shake shook things up even more when they returned their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) $10 million small business loan to the Small Business Administration. This move was fueled largely in response to the disapproval from their customer base when it was first awarded.

They listened to what their customers had to say and made a strategic decision to address these concerns. Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti wrote an open letter to customers, employees, and community members letting them know that they wanted to help out smaller, local businesses and would be raising the money they need from selling shares.

The transparent move won big points – building trust with stakeholders, customers, and employees.

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Although there are many companies doing the right thing during these times, these were the few that have stood out to us the most. 

Want to learn more about how to harness the voice of the customer during these times? Connect with an expert at Apptentive!

About Madeleine Doyle

Madeleine Doyle is the Senior Content Marketing Manager for Apptentive. No stranger to B2B tech, Madeleine enjoys translating complex concepts into easy-to-digest pieces of content.
View all posts by Madeleine Doyle >

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