5 Tips for Virtual Communication With Clients During the Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, water testing labs are calling on virtual communication methods to stay connected with their clients. As you embrace new technologies and means of staying in touch, you'll need to strike the right balance with the tone and frequency of your messaging. These five virtual communication tips can help you deliver sincere and appropriate messages that don't interrupt your customers' busy and stressful lives.

1. Share Important Announcements

Be sure to let customers know about business changes made during the pandemic, such as if you're operating with a reduced workforce or under shorter business hours. Be upfront about slower turnaround times. Your clients are likely to understand testing delays, as they're also facing extenuating circumstances in their personal lives. Communicate any procedure changes for sample collection and whether on-site testing is on hold.

Even if your facility's operations remain unchanged, you should still remind customers that your lab is an essential business that's open during the pandemic. This allows you to raise awareness for your services and maintain the customer relationships you built before COVID-19.

2. Keep in Touch, but Don't Bombard Clients

Communicate key information early and often. Announcements such as changes to your services should be shared directly through your email marketing list and on your website. Share the steps your lab is taking to ensure the safety of your employees and customers. Keep messages informational and focused on how your facility is helping solve its clients' most pressing needs.

For casual communications, such as friendly check-ins or regular back-and-forths with clients, stick with the same frequency you had before COVID-19, and be careful not to overdo it. Be sensitive to the fact that your clients are inundated with information right now, and calibrate your communication efforts accordingly.

3. Adapt Your Tone

As you use virtual communication to replace in-person discussions with clients, you'll want to adjust your tone accordingly. Be more concise and direct than you may be in face-to-face meetings. Be empathetic and sincere, but limit hollow pleasantries and platitudes. It's important to be timely and helpful right now rather than overly promotional.

"When reviewing a message for tone, think about our current environment," Regulatory Focus advises. "Is there a chance the communication may seem 'out-of-touch' given current social and economic conditions?"

4. Leverage Various Types of Virtual Communication

Virtual communication tools are especially valuable right now, as they allow you to touch base with customers while remaining physically distant. Mix and match different methods so you can determine which approaches work best for different clients. These communication tools can include:

  • Phone: This classic communication method still works well in 2020. Don't hesitate to pick up the phone when you need to have a sensitive conversation or clear up a misunderstanding.
  • Email: Show that you respect your customers' time by sending messages that get straight to the point. Emails should be short, have an informative subject line, and list the most important information up top.
  • Newsletters: If your lab usually sends a newsletter to clients, this is the perfect place to share COVID-19-related updates. Remain helpful and sensitive when promoting your virtual services and explaining how your lab is continuing with business.
  • Video calls: There are many excellent videoconference platforms available that can help you replace face-to-face conversations. Now that many people are stuck at home, video meetings have become a widely accepted and adopted form of communication. Host a video call when you want to add a bit of warmth to your conversations or need to meet with several people who are in various locations.
  • Social media: Share relevant information that's helpful to your customers on social media. This can include business operation updates and timely news, such as reports on how water professionals are adapting their practices in light of COVID-19. Be sure to only share content from impartial and trusted news sources.
  • Website: Make your COVID-19 announcements easy to find by placing them at the top of your website. If you have several announcements related to the coronavirus, share this essential information on a dedicated webpage or blog post — or series.

5. Don't Miss Opportunities to Connect

Although this year is deeply challenging for many businesses, it also presents a prime opportunity to connect with customers through this shared experience and prove that your lab will be there for them no matter what. As business closure restrictions ease up, update customers on your lab's operations. And as social distancing measures remain in place, continue making the effort to keep in touch with your clients, even if that means relying solely on virtual methods of communication.

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Kelly McSweeney
Science and Technology Writer
Armed with a master's degree in writing and a decade of professional work in scientific publishing, Kelly McSweeney writes about science and technology innovations. She translates complicated topics into stories that capture the curiosity of everyone from casual readers to technical experts. Kelly has degrees from Emerson College and the University of Vermont, and has worked on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics publications at Wiley, In Compliance magazine, and Pearson. Her articles about the latest research are published by ZDNet, Northrop Grumman, and Wiley.