Businesses are finding it increasingly challenging to effectively communicate to both staff and customers due to the sudden reliance on remote working. The need for clear communication has never been more important. Businesses therefore need to find innovative ways to continue to engage with staff and their customers. This post will give you tips to help improve your communications to staff and clients during this difficult time.
At this year’s Microsoft Inspire (Microsoft’s yearly partner conference) it was stated that nearly 60% of people feel less connected to their colleagues since moving to remote working. Microsoft Teams usage has also increased greatly, to more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes in a single day across the platform. It’s no wonder that organisations are needing to find innovative ways to keep staff engaged and connected in a new virtual world.
Virtual company catchups, virtual drinks, and regular group information sessions are just some examples of where companies are keeping that connection with staff.
Communicating to staff
Casual informal catchups
These replace ‘water cooler’ type conversations. Keep it casual, short, and let the person know your intention for the call upfront (to simply catch-up) and try to save the conversation for mostly non-work matters to maintain staff connection and morale. Talk about what new activities you are doing at home or the latest show you’ve been watching on TV. Keep a note of any business matters to follow up on afterwards but where possible try and keep these informal.
Friday afternoon social virtual drinks
Schedule these in but take this time as an opportunity to debrief about the week and share plans and ideas of things to do over the weekend. These can be held as large scale events involving the whole business or you may choose to host these as individual team catchups. Have a laugh and remember this an opportunity to celebrate the week that has been.
Regular virtual group exercise
These types of exercise events work well in the morning before the workday starts and are a great way to get the blood pumping. These can be hosted by someone from the business that has a passion for fitness or a professional. Generally, these are no longer than 45 minutes and involve various types of exercise activities. When working from home its also good to encourage staff to bring their family along.
Virtual group information sessions and updates
Schedule regular group information sessions and updates to keep all staff abreast of business and technology developments. These sessions can be held on a regular bases and should involve different hosts. These more formal type of events should be held during business hours and where possible all staff should be encouraged to attend.
Businesses also need to find ways to communicate with clients
Here are some useful tips to stay connected with your clients and partners.
Keep customers in the know
Keep your clients and customers informed about your intentions. Are you continuing operations as usual? Have you implemented extra safety measures when it comes to your customer engagement?
If you are limiting or suspending operations, make sure to communicate that too. You do not want customers turning up to a closed business as that experience could end up with you losing their business forever.
Be there to help
Reinforce that you are here to help and ditch the hard sell. Your customers will likely be experiencing fatigue from all the messages they are receiving from businesses. Keep your messages genuine about how you can help them, rather than just trying to close a sale. A hard sell for products they don’t need right now will just turn them off and leave them feeling pressured. Genuine support right now is more likely to translate to profits later. They will remember that you were the organisation that helped.
Get them involved
Think about how you can involve your clients and partners with updates and announcements. Are there sessions or events you might be hosting that would be appropriate for your customers to join in on and take an active role? Perhaps you can also look at hosting events to meet their current needs?
Be innovative with how you can deliver your services remotely. Entertainment, conferences, workshops, medical appointments, and even exercise and wellbeing classes have moved online. Depending on what your company offers, you may have a captive audience just waiting to be connected with. Offering your services online gives you the possibility to reach this new audience.
Show empathy toward the challenges your customers might be facing. What can you do to really help your customers in this difficult time? Are there new products you can offer to meet a genuine need and help them? Can you defer payments or set up a payment plan?
Establish a dedicated Communications Lead. One source of truth helps to ensure that all communications from your company are consistent. Make sure to establish procedures and principles to follow so that all communications (both internal and external) have been approved by this Communications Lead.
Microsoft Teams recent updates
Hosting all these types of meetings in a virtual world can be difficult. Microsoft Teams is rapidly increasing its capability to help accommodate this evolving business landscape. The following changes have now just been released and are available if you select “Turn on new meeting experience” under your settings in Microsoft Teams.
- Large Gallery View now allows you to see up to 49 participants. This allows you to see more staff or customers and keep that personal connection. To access this large gallery view, you will need to select “Large Gallery” under more actions once you have joined your meeting.
- Together Mode is another great development that allows you and your meeting participants to appear together in a virtual space, it takes a virtual live avatar of yourself and places in a room with the others from your meeting.
- Virtual Breakout Rooms are also coming soon during Q4 of 2020 and will allow meeting hosts to create breakout rooms for use by meeting participants for smaller group discussion. They will be able to assign participants to a room and call them back to the larger group when the breakout is complete.
Consider “change fatigue” and how to avoid it
Change fatigue is something that both customers and staff will be experiencing at the moment, its therefore important to be deliberate and considered when it comes to your communications both internally with staff and externally with customers.
Just because this new normal has been brought on by a global pandemic, like any change, a structured change management program is essential to helping overcome these challenges. As a change management specialist, I have witnessed first-hand how difficult these rapidly changing times have been. However, at the same time, it has been very rewarding to help organisations overcome these current challenges whilst laying the foundations for businesses to operate in a new virtual world.
I hope the tips in this post will help you stay connected.