This article originally appeared on SmarterCX as “4 Ways Communications Can Improve CX During a Crisis.”

How do you continue to provide a great customer experience during a crisis, when the very definition of “customer experience” may have changed? Now the priority must be to address customers’ needs, not to try to persuade them to buy your products.

As McKinsey & Company points out, “Particularly in a times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with a company can trigger an immediate and lingering effect on his or her sense of trust and loyalty.” Therefore, open, transparent communication is a necessity, not an option.

Communicate and communicate well

In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, Paul A. Argenti, Professor of Corporate Communication at Dartmouth College, states, “As someone who studies crisis communication, I regularly tell my students and clients that you need to communicate early and often with your key constituencies throughout a crisis.”

Now is the time to openly, honestly, and regularly communicate with your customers. According to Argenti, “Even if you’re still trying to understand the extent of the problem, be honest and open to maintain credibility.”

To avoid coming across as tone-deaf in your CX, keep in mind these four things when communicating with your customer base.


Think transparency, trust, confidence, and empathy, not business as usual. Being clear and concise goes a long way. Readability is also essential when communicating with customers. Overly descriptive, intense communications are likely to receive pushback. Also, keep in mind that people read differently based on the medium they are using. When it comes to digital communication, we tend to scan. We read the first line of each paragraph, glance at section headings, scan lists, and generally hop all over the place to see what interests us.


Write for your audience. To do so may require segmentation and utilizing different communication tactics. Follow these four questions from Forrester to help segment your audience accordingly:

  • What is the most important information for my specific audience?
  • What is their emotional context? In other words, what are they feeling because of what is going on around them? Consider regional and demographic differences and perhaps segment your audience accordingly.
  • Why am I communicating with them?
  • How should you deliver communications? Email, video? Social media? Post/banner on the website? Press release?


Things change in the blink of an eye, so communicate frequently and with relevance. For example, if customer service hours have been scaled back, be proactive in getting that message out, and provide alternatives. If you offer free returns but require customers to drop off merchandise at a brick-and-mortar location, keep them in the loop about how to return merchandise and the timeframe for doing so.


There are a variety of social media monitoring tools that provide insight into how audience segments are reacting to a crisis and your response to it. Don’t let the name fool you—many of these tools work across social, blogs, forums, newsfeeds, and the web. Again, the results will be different across different types of businesses and industries, so don’t let one example of what a particular company does impact your decisions. Monitoring what customers are talking about, what they are reading about, and what they are clicking on is key to staying in touch you’re your customers’ sentiment.


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