COVID-19 has sent the entire world economy reeling.
The echoes of this crisis will continue in the weeks and months to come, but for some industries, hospitality, in particular, the pain is immediate—and acute.
As consumers heed the expert advisories to #stayhome, canceling planned travel and putting off future plans due to uncertainty, travel and hospitality organizations have an opportunity to keep their customers engaged and relationships strong.
An effective, mindful customer engagement strategy is even more important in the unusual times we find ourselves in, as consumers are being inundated nonstop with updates and the often-overwhelming 24-hour news cycle. Companies must focus on shipping wanted, valuable communications to customers and prospects—not a bunch of inbox bloat.
While the flood of “Our Response to COVID-19” emails was certainly necessary for many companies, some come across as opportunistic. Take, for example, a decor company that sent me a COVID-19 update simply to remind me that I should buy art now that my home has become a bunker. No thanks.
While companies shouldn’t necessarily jump on the COVID-19 response bandwagon, now isn’t the time to go radio-silent. Instead, send your customers content that’s authentically engaging—perhaps even a momentary break from the doom-and-gloom that surrounds us.
For example, take a travel booking website. While many segments of your customer base are unable to travel, here are some ideas for how you could still foster engagement and even build your relationship with them while they can’t book with you:
- Bring the intrigue of the world to their inbox
You likely have tons of content about gorgeous, eye-opening destinations around the world. Create mini-getaways for your contacts to enjoy while they’re grounded. Consider going beyond the predictable beachscapes, and clue them into unexpected destinations with fun trivia-worthy insights. This type of content is great as an email to invite them to take a momentary break from the steady flow of heavy news alerts hitting their inboxes, and you’ll be sticking to best practices, given 83 percent of consumers prefer to receive communications from businesses over email.
- Build community with a trip down memory lane
Invite your past travelers to share a favorite travel memory or photo to reminisce about where they have been. Ideally, this is an opportunity to practice gratitude for all the places they’ve been fortunate to explore, and the time they’ve enjoyed with loved ones. Make it even more personal by sending as an SMS and encouraging them to forward the text (and their memory) to their travel mates. A nudge to stay connected in the time of social distancing can’t hurt.
- Encourage a little daydreaming—and positivity for the future
While uncertainty abounds, it’s easy to get bogged down in the challenges facing us. Offer your contacts an invitation to take a break with a simple exercise: imagine we’ve weathered the COVID-19 storm, and you’ve won your fantasy trip, along with two weeks paid vacation to enjoy it. Where will your dream vacation take you? Who are you bringing along? What’s the theme of your trip? Bonus if there’s a way to make it into an actual contest!
- Encourage support for those most impacted—it’s a win-win
One of the best strategies for lifting yourself up is to focus on helping others. Travel companies, in particular, are certainly attuned to all of the hospitality workers who have suddenly lost their incomes and are struggling and scared. Offer your travelers ideas for how they might help those faced with job loss, and, if possible, lead by example and help in any creative way you can. An email compiling ways to help, with mention of how your company is doing your part, is both a powerful resource and a way to foster goodwill.
- Send truly need-to-know travel-related COVID-19 updates (especially good ones)
Hospitality industry experts are in a unique position to reach out with relevant updates and notifications about who can and cannot travel, especially as the good news starts to roll in. Be there to inform and celebrate with accurate, of-the-moment details… And maybe even a promo code when the time is right.
Unsure about what channel is best for different types of communications? Here’s a guide on choosing the right channel for different notifications.
After you build out your content and targeting strategies, pay careful attention to who among your recipients is telling you they’re hungry for the momentary escape, and who isn’t—the opens, clicks, and replies will be your guide. Segmenting by engagement is always a winning strategy.
Uncertain times like this call for compassion, perspective, and connection. Businesses that communicate using the right frequency and channels enjoy higher consumer goodwill, including 34 percent making a purchase. Authentic communications can be a bright spot in your customers’ days that fosters customer loyalty.