Every week we comb through the news to find employment trends affecting the hospitality industry so you don’t have to. This week’s topic: tips for engaging customers during temporary closures caused by the pandemic.

Almost 12 months into the pandemic, it’s difficult to fully quantify how many businesses have been affected by COVID-19. With rolling shutdowns and fluctuations in new cases, some businesses have been forced to close permanently while others hope their closures are only temporary as we wait for restrictions to lessen or a vaccine to be distributedAccording to a September report by Yelp163,735 businesses have closed, with 60% of them (97,966) closing permanently.  

For the thousands of other businesses that are temporarily closed, this period of waiting is likely stressful and uncertain; fortunatelythere are ways you can utilize your time to not only put you back in control but help create a better situation once you’re able to reopen. One of these ways is engaging customers 

There are several benefits to engaging customers while your business is temporarily closed. Overall, it will help them stay up to date on when you plan to open again but will also show that as an owner/manager, you care about keeping them informed. Additionally, you can get customers excited for reopening, share upcoming deals or discounts, or use this as an opportunity to gather intel on what measures you can take to make them more comfortableIn this article, we’ll be sharing a few ways businesses in any industry can be engaging customers so they’re ready to return once your business opens back up. 

4 Tips for Engaging Customers During Temporary Closures

Stay in contact
Although temporarily closed right now, at some point your business will be welcoming people again. Until then, it’s important to stay connected and keep customers up to date with information so they’re ready for your reopening. Consider creating a plan that sets up consistent communication so consumers aren’t left asking, “I wonder when [business name] will open back up?” Think about your business type and what platforms work best for you, whether it’s through social mediaemail or textHere are some suggestions for getting started on your plan:  

  • Schedule “office hours” on one of your social media accounts where you go live and answer people’s questions, share fun updates or information, etc.  
  • Create a monthly newsletter. 
  • Regularly update your “story” on your most popular social media account.  
  • Invite followers (or employees) to share their favorite photos or memories related to your business. 

Host virtual events
This year, people are more motivated than ever to stay connected because of quarantine and a general lack of human connection – thus the popularity of holding virtual events. This new-age type of meeting, which is conducted completely electronically, is a great way for people to have fun and stay connected without jeopardizing health and safety standards. Feel free to get creative and have fun when thinking of ideas for virtual events that are engaging customers, which might include: 

  • Happy hours: people can make their favorite drinks (alcoholic or non) and food and sit down ‘together.’ 
  • Trivia night: bonus if it’s trivia about your business, but doesn’t have to be! 
  • A “show” or other entertainment: think of industry-relevant topics or tasks that are fun to watch. For example, if you’re a restaurant, create a live event of fan-favorite cocktails or dishes being made by industry professionals.  

Conduct polls or Q+A’s
Open the line of communication between your team and customers by sending out surveys, conducting polls, or holding question and answer sessions. You should take any opportunity you have to clear up confusion or address concerns, because it’s likely there will be some.  

Hold contests
Holding a contest can be a fun and inexpensive way to be engaging customers while offering a prize or reward – which is particularly fitting around the holidays. When thinking about contests, find something that would reward the customer and benefit you as well. Some ideas may include: 

  • Making the prize a gift card for future purchases 
  • Creating a scavenger hunt on your website  
  • Have people share social media posts 

When considering ways to be engaging customers during a temporary closure, be creative, have fun, and think of what you would want if the roles were reversed. Remember, this is a great opportunity to create a plan that benefits both parties where customers feel like they’re being included, while you draw them back in once you’ve reopened.