One thing that all successful brands have in common is their ability to communicate effectively with their customers. Many regular communication channels in pet businesses rely on face-to-face interactions with pet owners.
Across Canada, many areas continue to be under stay-at-home and lockdown orders. The current public health crisis has limited or eliminated face-to-face interactions. Businesses have had to pivot to digital-based communication to continue to serve pet owners.
As life (slowly) returns to normal, or at least a new normal, we can take what we have learned forward to be better prepared for the next crisis, whether it be a global pandemic or a local emergency.
Building Relationships without Face-to-Face Interactions
At least temporarily, gone are the days of pet owners coming into a store, veterinary clinic, or grooming shop with their pet and having a detailed conversation with an employee. These interactions are how pet based businesses built bonds with their customers, a shared engagement in the pet’s best interests. So how can we build a bond, connect with owners, and build an engaged audience today?
The success of pet care businesses will rely heavily on digital platforms and presence. While we are constrained from in-person interactions we need to find ways to connect with the same depth online.
Start with Internal Communication
Your team can’t help your customers without first being clear on your company’s policies. The pandemic situation is ever-changing, and you will need to keep updating your approach. Keeping your team up to date requires exceptional internal communication strategies.
Business collaboration apps, like Slack, can be a quick and easy way to communicate with your whole team. The informality of these apps encourages participation and discussion. However, a simple group email can also keep your team up to date. If your company relies on email, you may want to set a weekly time for a comprehensive update. Your team will expect the email, making it is less likely to get lost in the shuffle of daily communication.
Engage your team to interact online with owners. If you previously built a bond with owners when they came into the store, have your squad answering questions online, directing clients to resources, and continuing to find them what they need.
For many brands, your team can be your most effective ambassadors and advocates. Have clear social policies about who can interact on behalf of the company. Discuss appropriate tone and outline anything off-limits. No one knows your products or services like your team. Empower them to join the conversation online and engage with owners.
Effective Communication Requires the Right Channels
Dedicate a section of your website to covid-updates and keep a pinned post on FB, Twitter, and other social platforms that is up to date with your current procedures and policies. Ensure the information is where your customers are. Use your social media platforms to link to your updates and guidelines.
Post a Covid FAQ on your website that you can link to through your social platforms. Ask your team what questions they are regularly getting, and ensure you include those answers.
What do your Customers Need?
Think about what your customers need in challenging times. What can your business provide that will help them? Does your organization have essential pet services that you can create a strategy for customers to access? Does your brand make products that could help owners entertain their pets while they work from home?
In addition to the basics of how your business is operating, communicate about the products and services that pet owners need. Continue to grow your business by solving the problems pet owners face.
Bringing Solutions to Pet Owners
You can build a discourse on your social media by asking what challenges pet owners are facing. Grow your audience by bringing valuable information.
If owners have trouble managing zoom meetings and enthusiastic pets, have a pet trainer do a guest blog about training strategies. If your business is in an area where grooming services are suspended, host a groomer to do a live event about managing grooming basics at home.
Live events can help recreate the feeling of collaboration that came with face-to-face interactions.
The Information Pet Owners Need
If you have pet owners coming into your business, communicate:
• What steps have you put in place to keep your team and customers safe
• What are your adjusted hours, and how else can you serve your clients (delivery, curbside pickup, etc.)
• What products and services are available? And what is not available at this time
• What instructions do owners need to follow to come to your business?
Connect Regularly and Often
Your customers want to hear from you. There is a lot of emotion, fear, and concern about not seeking the services or getting the products they need to keep their pets safe and healthy. Regular effective communication can relieve your customers’ angst.
Do’s and Don’ts of Crisis Communication
DO ensure any information you share is accurate.
DON’T pass along a change in regulations that didn’t come from an authoritative source. Sharing misinformation can be confusing, misleading, and damaging.
DON’T speculate about what will happen next. Crises change rapidly, and there are many factors at play. Simply communicate about what you know now and how your business is responding.
DO be clear about your organization’s policies, restrictions, and changes in how you are operating your business. Make it clear to your customers what will happen when they arrive and what is expected of them.
Refocus on your Website
Many businesses have focused more on social media and less on their website in recent years, but with business shifting to online sales, your website can be your greatest asset. Your website can showcase your products and services and facilitate direct sales. Your website can also host all of the information a pet owner needs to make the right buying decisions. Check out our blog about the value of a website here.
Expand to Social Sales
Many social media platforms are now offering direct sales tools. Ensure your audience can access your products quickly and simply, where they already are spending their time.
Supporting your Digital Efforts
The team at StreetDog can help you hone your communication strategy. If your website needs a refresh, they can help you build a tool that will drive your business and connect pet owners to the products and services they’re looking for.