laptops and tablets all showing lines of communication
From keeping employees paid to ramping up hygiene practices, these 15 companies provide examples of how to handle communication with customers during the coronavirus pandemic. — Getty Images/eternalcreative

With the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changing how companies operate across the United States, many businesses have taken to email, social media and in-store signage to communicate clearly with customers about what they are doing to respond.

Businesses from nearly every vertical are staying connected with customers with updates on business operations, with communications including notes about improving sanitation, closing stores temporarily, updating sick leave policies, reducing hours and much more.

If your small business needs ideas for customer messages and graphics, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has developed a Coronavirus Response Toolkit with important information for customers and employees. Additionally, a customizable flyer has been developed so you can personalize key messaging about what you’re doing to keep people safe.

For more ideas on how to communicate with customers, read on for 15 examples of companies responding to customers’ coronavirus concerns.

AMC Theatres

AMC Theatres, the largest movie theater chain in the U.S., faces challenges with consumers concerned about getting sick at theaters. Adam Aron, CEO and president of AMC Theatres, wrote to customers directly about the chain’s plan to “ensure a clean and healthy movie-watching environment” with enhanced sanitation and to “encourage social distancing” by only allowing 50% of seats to be filled in each theater, among other changes. Aron said the new policies will be in effect from March 14 through April 30, 2020.

Amtrak

Coronavirus has put pressure on all large transportation companies because people are traveling much less than before the crisis. Amtrak, which serves more than 500 destinations in 46 states, recently announced swift changes to keep customers safe and satisfied. First, the company said it would enhance cleaning protocols with more frequent train cleanings, as well as increase how much sanitizer is available on trains and in stations. Secondly, the company said it will waive change fees on all existing or new reservations made before April 30, 2020, to make it easier for customers to postpone travel.

Apple

Tim Cook, CEO of electronics giant Apple, recently made a sweeping announcement to its customers that the company would close all of its retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27 in order to protect employees and customers from coronavirus spread. Cook said hourly employees would receive pay while stores are closed and that expanded sick leave policies would be implemented to help those affected by COVID-19. The company also said it would donate at least $15 million “to help treat those who are sick and to help lessen the economic and community impacts of the pandemic.”

Capital One

Major financial institutions have been communicating with customers about the impact coronavirus has had on their operations and how customers can still access accounts and services during this period of uncertainty. For example, Capital One said it is “closing all Capital One Cafés nationwide” starting March 16, encouraging more customer usage of online tools, and doing more to be “responsive to the needs of our customers and associates as the situation evolves.” It also has created a detailed coronavirus FAQ to discuss common questions customers have had about how they can interact with Capital One.

CityMD

CityMD, which operates more than 120 urgent care centers in New York, New Jersey and Washington state, plays a unique role in the coronavirus crisis as one of the first places sick people will turn for guidance and testing. The company has continued to share important and honest updates regarding its procedures and who can receive coronavirus tests, with the company plainly stating, “Patients experiencing mild cold/flu symptoms who are seeking to rule out coronavirus for peace of mind cannot be tested at this time.” It has also compiled an FAQ for all things coronavirus-related to provide educational guidance for the general public.

Coronavirus has put pressure on all large transportation companies because people are traveling much less than before the crisis.

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Delta

U.S. airlines have been affected greatly by the coronavirus crisis, with many travelers worried about flying generally and new travel restrictions being added daily by governments. Delta, one of the world’s largest airlines, has sent multiple updates to customers via email about its dedication to cleaning aircraft and check-in kiosks, how it is reducing service on some routes, how customers can cancel or reschedule flights and more. The company also created a dedicated online news hub about coronavirus to answer common questions and go into more detail on its new policies.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

One of the best-known barbecue chains in the Northeastern U.S., Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, has approached the coronavirus crisis by telling customers about its “aggressive plan” to add more sanitation procedures at restaurants and for off-site events, plus the addition of new sanitizer stations for employees and customers. It also added a new sick leave benefit that mandates sick employees to stay home and ensures they will be paid while on leave.

DoorDash

Food delivery services including DoorDash have seen increased demand with fewer people wanting to venture out. With the company handling food, however, DoorDash CEO Tony Xu made sure to assure customers that delivery workers (“Dashers”) have hand sanitizer and gloves to improve cleanliness. He also said DoorDash would roll out a “no-contact delivery” option so Dashers can drop food off without customers needing to interact with them.

Lyft

Another transportation category impacted heavily by coronavirus concerns is ride-sharing. Lyft, one of the top ride-sharing companies in the U.S., emailed all customers to inform them of new policies designed to keep riders safe. First, the company said it will distribute 200,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies to drivers so cars can be kept germ-free. Secondly, they implemented the cleaning of high-contact surfaces on bikes and scooters in its fleet. Thirdly, if a rider or driver tests positive for COVID-19, the company said they will be suspended from Lyft until they are medically cleared.

Marriott

With many people forgoing travel because of coronavirus fears, hotels have been greatly impacted. Marriott, the world’s largest hotel chain, has heard customers’ concerns and announced new policies to address visit flexibility and cleaning standards. First, the company made it easier to cancel or change reservations through April 30, 2020. Secondly, Marriott outlined in greater detail how it sanitizes guest rooms, public spaces and “back of house” locations.

Starbucks

Starbucks, the largest coffee chain in the world, was greatly affected when COVID-19 impacted China in early 2020, with more than 2,000 Chinese stores being closed temporarily in January. The chain also had a location close in the U.S. for deep cleaning after an employee tested positive for the virus. To communicate the company’s challenges and how it is keeping customers safe, CEO Kevin Johnson wrote that Starbucks has “increased cleaning and sanitizing procedures” its stores and prepared stores “to respond quickly to any emerging situation, leveraging the considerable insights we’ve gained from our experience in China.”

Taco Bell

Mark King, CEO of fast-food giant Taco Bell, wrote to customers recently to address coronavirus concerns and announced several new policies. These include that the chain is preparing stores to only offer drive-through and delivery only and will close dining rooms when needed; staffers will be revisiting all standards related to “safe food preparation, restaurant cleanliness and illness policies”; and the company will be changing its sick leave policies to ensure sick workers stay at home and are still paid.

UPS

Global shipping leader UPS has responded to coronavirus concerns by providing customers with important updates on its service availability and sanitation. The company said it has “worked in partnership with governments around the world” in order to maintain its ability to make deliveries, given the importance of global commerce and the uptick of deliveries when people are scared to leave their homes. UPS also noted that any team member showing signs of sickness are “required to seek medical treatment immediately.”

Walgreens

As one of the largest pharmacy chains in the U.S., Walgreens has an important role to play in keeping people healthy during the coronavirus crisis. As such, it has made several policy changes to help customers, including “waiving delivery fees for all eligible prescriptions,” starting free delivery on products from Walgreens.com, and creating “purchase limits on certain products” to make sure more people can buy essentials. The company also said it would work with the U.S. government to provide COVID-19 testing in some store parking lots.

Walmart

Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer and largest retailer, has communicated frequently with customers about what it is doing to combat coronavirus, including more cleaning on all surfaces in stores, including shopping carts and registers. The company also said it is working to keep high-demand items such as paper products stocked with fair prices, and it would need to changes some stores’ hours temporarily to adapt to new foot traffic patterns. On a separate note, the company also announced plans to work with the federal government to create drive-through coronavirus testing sites in some store parking lots.

For more resources from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published March 16, 2020