How Should Home Services Companies Communicate During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Let’s cut to the chase: This whole COVID-19 situation sucks—on multiple levels. For the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical shops I’ve been talking to this week, the uncertainty is what’s causing the most concern. Since we don’t know how many people are currently carrying the virus, we can’t predict how long it’ll take for it to move through the population… which means we have no idea how long we’ll need to practice social distancing. And though you have a critical service to provide at this time, social distancing for home services companies is brutal.
I’m going to offer some suggestions for navigating through this, but I want to say a couple of things first:
1. There’s no secret formula for keeping your business afloat through a global pandemic. None of us has ever been through something like this before, so we can’t know what “works” and what doesn’t. I’ll share some ideas, but keep in mind that’s all they are: ideas, not promises.
2. This thing will be over at some point. As Matthew McConaughey recently noted, “Every red light eventually turns green.” I realize some of you reading this post are genuinely concerned about your businesses surviving until the light turns. If that’s you, I hope you’ll find these ideas useful.
Above All, Don’t Panic
This tip is less about how you communicate with customers than it is about your leadership at your shop. As always, you will set the tone for your techs, so it’s important for you to be calm and clear-headed. It’s OK to be concerned and frustrated, of course, and it’s certainly fine to be cautious and prepared. But resist the temptation to freak out and/or give up.
Instead, make a plan. What do you need to do in the next 30, 60, and 90 days to protect your business?
- What capital purchases can you pause?
- Do you need to work out payment arrangements with vendors to help with cashflow?
- If you have credit accounts, can you temporarily switch them to cash?
- Do you have techs who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19? If so, can you temporarily move them to positions that limit their exposure to the public?
- Should you consider ordering overstock of supplies, tools, and equipment in the event of a longer-term supply-chain interruption?
- If you experience a significant slowdown, at what point(s) will you have to lay off employees, and how can you support them through that? (e.g., helping them apply for unemployment, offering a small severance to help with immediate needs, and so on)
How to Communicate with Customers and Prospects
I’m guessing you’ve been inundated with email messages from every company you’ve ever done business with—each of them describing what they’re doing in response to COVID-19. Many of those messages share the same two flaws: they’re too long on words and too short on empathy. When you communicate with your customers about the virus via email or social media, keep these two, very important things in mind:
1. Be human.
2. Be generous.
Many of your customers will experience some type of financial burden from the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider how you might ease some of their worries by, for example, offering a special discount or extending service agreements.
Here’s a sample email you can swipe, edit, and send to your list and use on social media:
Subject line: Everyone OK out there?
Hi [First Name],
Like you, we’ve been glued to our TVs, trying to wrap our heads around all the coronavirus news. We get that you may be feeling nervous about having a [e.g. plumber] in your home right now, so we wanted to check in.
First, know we’re here for you. [Your service] problems rarely cooperate with our preferred timeline, and if you have an emergency situation, we’re prepared to help.
Please know we’re taking the government and professional recommendations seriously, and we’ve stepped up our already top-notch sanitation practices. (If you’d like to know exactly what we’re doing to keep our customers safe, just hit reply. We’d be happy to share our checklist with you!)
Second, we care about you. We always encourage our staff to stay home from work if they’re not feeling well, and we’re being especially careful about that now. Thankfully, no one’s been sick!
Still, we’re aware that some people may have the virus without showing symptoms, so when our team arrives, they’ll clean their hands with an antibacterial wipe and put on gloves and booties.
Third, we care about our team. Please reschedule your appointment if you’re not feeling well or if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19. You can reach one of our friendly team members at [phone or email].
Also, please wash your hands before one of our team members arrive, and greet them with a wave instead of a handshake.
Finally, we’ve paused service contracts. If you have a contract that’s expiring soon but you’re nervous about having us out for a preventive maintenance call, please don’t worry. We’ll honour those contracts when we’re on the other side of this pandemic.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We look forward to serving you soon. Be well!
How Can I Help?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about how to get your phone ringing more—particularly in light of our global health crisis – let’s chat. I can offer some simple ideas to keep your business on track. Send me a message, email me, call me – whatever you’ve got to do.
With that, I just want to end this blog post with this message: Stay safe, stay healthy, stay active. Use this time to think of new ways to market yourselves, learn new skills, improve current skills, and most importantly, take care of yourselves. Cheers.