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How to email your customers during a crisis

- March 31, 2020 11 MIN READ

Connecting with our customers, suppliers, and partners during a crisis can be difficult. Yet it’s also an opportunity to strengthen our relationships. Responsive and careful communication is an underrated part of running a business. It’s important usually, yet even more so when your business and customers are affected by crisis situations.

 

  • What do you tell customers when you’re inundated with orders and are struggling to cope?
  • How do you encourage customers to walk in when they’re not sure if they should?
  • How do you share with customers the need for you to shut down or change operations?
  • Should you just keep quiet?

These are the types of important questions many businesses, organisations, schools, and community groups have been dealing with over the past few weeks.

Browse your inbox, and every day you’re sure to come across a handful of Covid Update messages.

Well, I’ve analysed four of these emails from real businesses and deduced a list of 10 ways to help you respond quickly with messages your customers want — need — to hear during a crisis, such as the Covid-19 situation. You’ll also get a list of 20 positive phrases you can use in your own way.

The One Thing Businesses Must Never Forget

Firstly, before we review the emails, we’ve got to understand one crucial thing that’s tough to remember given the circumstance — but it applies more strongly now than usual:

It’s not about you.

It’s typical for businesses to focus on themselves: what we did last month, what are we doing next month, what specials are on now, what this product does, why customers have to use this service today.

Your customer rarely cares about the ins and outs of your business and products, unless they have a need for it right now. Instead, their world — their attention, care, and need, revolves around themselves. As yours does.

What I’ve noticed amongst almost all the communication at this time is reassuring:

Many businesses are focusing more on their customers than themselves.

That’s crucial. You see, no matter how badly your business is suffering, we’ve got to keep three questions in mind:

  • How do customers feel?
  • How do we want them to feel?
  • What can we say that will help them feel that way?

Let’s run through each of these questions.

3 Customer Considerations

1. How do customers feel?

In a time of uncertainty, fear, and loss, customers would feel:

  • Scared
  • Stressed
  • Anxious
  • Panicky
  • Alone
  • Worried
  • Negative
  • Doubtful

2. How do we want them to feel?

As a business, we want them to feel:

  • Assurance
  • Calm
  • Certainty
  • Reliability
  • Confident
  • Secure
  • Positive
  • Peace of mind
  • Trust

3. What can we say that will help them feel that way?

Let’s look at four business emails in their response to the Covid-19 situation. I’ll share the overall vibe I felt from each email, do an analysis, and pick out positive phrases used. The vibe you get from an email, like in many situations in life, is important — vibes and emotions are proven to drive our decisions.

Examples

Note: Australian English has been kept in these real Aussie business emails.

Example 1: Tennis Academy

Dear all,

As some of you may have heard the new Tennis Victoria guidelines will still allow tennis to be played, however, due to the discussion in our organisation, it is our social obligation to remain shutdown temporarily as we need to reduce the spread of the virus in every way possible.

Health and safety always comes first, and it is alarming that children under the age of 8 are asymptomatic (which means they can hold the virus and not show symptoms). It is our duty to take a sensible approach and take this into consideration when protecting our wider community, especially those with pre-existing health and immuno-deficient conditions.

Also a reminder that we are holding an online program to continue to promote tennis, health and fitness. The deadline for the online course is this Wednesday 1pm, we will then be able to understand how many participants there will be, and thus be able to reduce the price for this online course as low as possible.

Online Courses: High performance, strenth & conditioning, Hot shots , groups , squads and psychological training.

Please contact Vuk at <email> if you would like to be part of this program or call on <number> if you have any further questions.

Thank you,

Vuk and the team at Australian Alpha Tennis Academy

Vibe

I felt reassured and positive that the team are doing the right thing and have our best interests in mind. Initially, the academy didn’t mention anything about the issue — yet they invited us to enrol our daughter for next term. This made us feel uncertain and we began to doubt their ability to manage the situation. We didn’t plan to enrol.

When they started to acknowledge the situation and showed thought and care, we signed up again. This email was sent afterward — it strengthened my trust and support in the academy. I am looking into the online program and will enrol my daughter again when classes begin outdoors. I feel that we are part of a caring, professional, and responsive community.

Analysis

  • Shows proactivity and genuine care for students by going over and above what guidelines are currently in place. They’re shutting down even though they’re legally allowed to be open: “due to the discussion in our organisation, it is our social obligation to remain shutdown”
  • Explains the reason behind the decision. Shows they’re making an informed decision as a team: “Health and safety always comes first, and it is alarming that children under the age of 8 are asymptomatic”
  • Provides an alternative offer. They do it tactfully and share their purpose “to promote tennis, health and fitness”
  • Signs off with a call to action that manages to continue the feeling that they genuinely care: “contact Vuk at xxxx if you would like to be part of this program or call on xxxx if you have any further questions. “

Helpful words and phrases

“discussion in our organisation”

“our social obligation”

“health and safety always comes first”

“our duty”

“sensible approach”

“protecting our wider community”

“if you have further questions”

“the team”

Example 2: Bakery

During these unprecedented and challenging times, demand across our entire product range has significantly increased, and we would like to thank you for your patience and understanding as we respond.

We have increased our production capability with sites working around the clock to re-build supply and meet increasing demand. In addition, we are working closely with our retailers, wholesalers and others in our supply chain to see products restored to shelves as quickly as possible.

Supplying our bakery and other food manufacturing customers also remains a priority, as we understand these customers are also experiencing heightened demand for their products.

Sales via our online store have been temporarily suspended to enable us to fulfil existing orders and upgrade the website to deal with the increased sales traffic. We apologise for the inconvenience this may have caused our valued customers and assure you bringing the store back online is a priority. We will be progressively re-opening online sales within the next fortnight.

We remain committed to the health and wellbeing of our customers, staff and communities and accordingly have introduced some temporary public access restrictions to our Strathalbyn and Bridgewater-on-Loddon facilities. We appreciate your understanding of this measured and important move to protect our staff and our production capability.

We continue to closely monitor the latest information and advice from health authorities and assure you we are adopting all recommended pro-active measures. These include restrictions on staff travel, remote working arrangements, strengthened hygiene measures and contact minimisation.

The impacts of the current situation are wide-ranging, and our thoughts are with the businesses, industries and communities being most heavily affected.

Given the rapid rate of change, we will continue to provide updates as they become available, with a focus on protecting our people, our customers, and the continuity of our business.

Tony van der EL

CEO

Vibe

This email gave me a great feeling. I felt acknowledged and more understanding of why it has taken so long to receive my order.

I felt empathy, respect, and patience knowing their struggles and their dedication to their customers and suppliers. I felt honored that they would share details of their business with us. It showed their vulnerability, yet it came across as strength.

It gave me a better understanding of what they’re going through, and I greatly admired how they shared their struggles while managing to make me feel like I was their focus. I can tell they truly care for their customers and suppliers, and they’re working hard to serve. They stand out and now I’ll go out of my way to buy their products, even more than before.

Analysis

  • Quickly informs us of their situation and responds to our feelings with gratitude: “demand across our entire product range has significantly increased…thank you for your patience and understanding”
  • Shows trust and transparency by sharing what’s going on behind the scenes to help us understand how they are working to meet our needs: “We have increased our production capability”
  • Explains the reasons for change and apologises while reassuring us about what will happen next, making us feel valued: “Sales via our online store have been temporarily suspended to enable us to” and “We apologise for the inconvenience”
  • Shows awareness and proactivity: “closely monitor the latest information and advice,” “assure you we are adopting all recommended pro-active measures. These include…”

Helpful words and phrases

“thank you”

“our thoughts are with”

“we will continue to provide” “updates as they become available”

“focus on protecting…”

“assure you we are”

“we understand”

“we apologise”

“your patience and understanding”

“we remain committed”

Example 3: Yoga retreat

I’m writing to let you know about the impact of the coronavirus on our retreat program.

At <retreat> we feel the responsible decision is to postpone all upcoming retreats for the next 6 months, in order to minimise the risk of infection. Specialist advice we have sought indicates the coronavirus epidemic will likely last for at least 6 months.

<Retreat> is a very small business, run solely by my partner Paul Macgregor and myself. Retreat bookings are our only source of income. The next few months will be a very difficult time for us financially.

We look forward to resuming retreats, and having you join us here, when the health emergency has passed. At that stage we will develop a new schedule for all the postponed retreats, and look forward to inviting you back to share the retreat experience with us.

If you are in a secure financial position yourself, you may like to help us by offering to book a retreat now for when our retreat schedule resumes, and paying a deposit now.

And if you have a regular yoga or meditation class, we ask that you bear in mind the possibility of continuing to support your teacher financially, say, by continuing to pay class fees, even if you do not attend classes for the duration.

In the meantime we hope that you, your family and friends, and your community, remain safe and well over the coming months.

All the best,

<Owner>

Vibe

I didn’t feel good after reading this email. It felt like it was all about their business and I felt it was insensitive and inconsiderate to prompt people to pay for services they wouldn’t receive.

In a later email, they also suggested we leave our deposit with them to help them through their financial struggle. This didn’t sit well with me because it showed they weren’t bothering to gain a deeper understanding of my situation — and that of other customers.

Analysis

  • Shows care for clients and proactivity “we feel the responsible decision” and “Specialist advice we have sought”
  • Shares what the business means to them “Retreat bookings are our only source of income. The next few months will be a very difficult time for us”
  • Invites us to help them if we can “If you are in a secure financial position yourself, you may like to help us”
  • Encourages us to pay for services we are not getting: “continuing to pay class fees, even if you do not attend classes for the duration”
  • Shows care “ remain safe and well over the coming months”

Helpful words and phrases

“we feel the responsible decision”

“specialist advice we have sought”

“look forward to inviting you back”

“your family and friends, and your community”

“remain safe and well”

Example 4: Annual large market event for small creative businesses

To our entire Community, Sellers, Supporters and friends of FK.

We’re all in this together.

In 12 years of operation and after hosting 64 successful events, this is the first event in our history, we’ve ever had wobbly legs. It breaks our market hearts to advise our community that our Autumn Winter Sydney Event will not be going ahead on the proposed dates due to this global pandemic.

A tremendous amount of time, resources and cold hard cash is already sunk for what will now be a massive loss for The Finders Keepers. To future proof our existence, we’re working effortlessly to try to minimise this blow. At the same time, we’re balancing the safety of our community at the core of our decision making.

To all of our Sellers and Visitors, Partners and Suppliers thank you for the ongoing support and warmth you’ve displayed so far during this crisis. Thank you for believing in us to bounce back and continue to serve you as a leader and champion of creative small business in Australia.

The health and safety of our community is our first and foremost priority, and we are monitoring the situation closely with regular updates from the federal, state and city governments, as well as our venues. We’re currently assessing the situation in Brisbane very carefully with our June event. We will continue to update this page weekly with any further developments. Stay tuned. Our Melbourne event is going ahead in July.

Like the entire events industry and the creative community, The Finders Keepers will do everything they can to bounce back! We are a small business, and our business is markets. This is not our side hustle. It’s our core business. Trust us that we will do everything in our power to continue to do what we can to support the creative community, but we also need you to help us.

Until we have new plans or can get some of our wild ideas off the ground to withstand this storm, please continue to support us and continue to support the small businesses we support too.

You can shop now Online from the comfort of your own home, and support small creative business at the Finders Keepers Online Marketplace.

Until the next update, everyone stay safe and wash your hands with plenty of hope soap.

The Finders Keepers team x

Vibe

It gave me reassurance that they’re dedicated to running the event and appreciate all the support given by their stakeholders and customers.

It would be better if they rearranged the beginning few paragraphs to address their readers immediately — or incorporated some mention of their reader in those paragraphs.

Analysis

  • Explains the situation with heart and personality about why they’ve made such a big decision: “It breaks our market hearts to advise our community,” “we’re balancing the safety of our community at the core of our decision making”
  • Directly addresses the stakeholders who make the event happen. Shows gratitude: “To all of our Sellers and Visitors, Partners and Suppliers thank you for the ongoing support,” “Thank you for believing in us.”
  • Shows awareness and proactivity: “we are monitoring the situation closely”
  • Shows dedication and gives passionate reassurance: “This is not our side hustle. It’s our core business. Trust us that we will do everything in our power to continue to do what we can”
  • Shares ways to keep supporting the businesses involved, shows they care about others: “You can shop now Online from the comfort of your own home, and support small creative business”
  • Uses humor with tact “wash your hands with plenty of hope soap”

Helpful phrases

“working effortlessly”

“minimise the blow”

“balancing the safety of our community”

“core of our decision making”

“thank you for the ongoing support”

“continue to serve you”

“health and safety of our community is our first priority”

“we are monitoring”

“we will continue to update”

“we will do everything in our power to continue”

“shop now online from the comfort of your own home”

“stay safe”

How to Respond to a Crisis by Email: 10 Tips

From the examples above, we can take away 10 general tips to use in our own crisis emails to customers:

  1. Identify the situation and show it’s been carefully considered.
  2. Address your customer and their concerns.
  3. Provide offers tactfully where appropriate.
  4. Invite customers to contact you for more information if needed.
  5. Show unity from the business.
  6. Saying nothing gives customers a message.
  7. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable — it shows strength.
  8. Word selection matters.
  9. Be human — show personality and passion, and sound like a real person with feelings.
  10. Be specific in sharing insights about your business.

20 Helpful Phrases for Crisis Emails

Each of the examples uses helpful phrases that can give our customers trust, confidence, and reassurance. It can also give our businesses credibility and show we genuinely care for our customers:

  1. “discussion in our organisation”
  2. “our social obligation”
  3. “health and safety always comes first”
  4. “our duty”
  5. “sensible approach”
  6. “protecting our wider community”
  7. “if you have further questions”
  8. “team”
  9. “working effortlessly”
  10. “minimise the blow”
  11. “balancing the safety of our community”
  12. “core of our decision making”
  13. “thank you for the ongoing support”
  14. “continue to serve you”
  15. “health and safety of our community is our first priority”
  16. “we are monitoring”
  17. “we will continue to update”
  18. “we will do everything in our power”
  19. “shop now online from the comfort of your own home”
  20. “stay safe”

Summary

We’ve analysed four real examples and gained valuable tips — and a handy list of 20 positive words to use in our own difficult emails.

Connecting with our customers, suppliers, and partners during a crisis can be difficult. Yet it’s also an opportunity to strengthen our relationships.

Let’s choose to take our customers along with us in our struggles by being honest, transparent, and dedicated to their best interests, despite our own struggles. After all, without customers, there’s no point running a business.