Communicating During COVID-19: How to Talk About Refunds, Layoffs, Return to Play, and More
During these uncertain times, the most important thing you can do to maintain business continuity is develop strong lines of communication with your players, parents, coaches, and donors. This is especially important when it comes to handling requests for refunds, managing your payment plans, and making tough decisions around personnel.
We put together this toolkit to help you share the right messages in the most effective manner possible—and build relationships along the way. Read on for tips, templates, and best practices from our team.
The guidelines for effective communication are pretty simple. Be as open and honest as possible, try and share updates as frequently as you can, and be upfront about what you know and what you don’t know.
Tip #1: Be proactive
It’s always better to bring things up proactively—before your customers have the chance to bring them up with you. At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, we spoke to many youth and local sports leaders who waited to broach the subject of refunds in the hopes that their customers wouldn’t raise the issue. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened, and these organizers were forced to pay back funds that they needed to hold onto.
Instead, they could have sent an email once it was clear that the spring season wouldn’t be played, and explained that the money was necessary to keep their clubs afloat. Had they made a compelling argument, they may not have had to refund as many customers as they did.
Don’t forget: it’s important to be proactive with your internal communications, too. This is especially true if you have to lay off members of your team. Julie Fanelli, Director of People and Culture at LeagueApps, put together a few tips for this here.)
Tip #2: Be transparent
Let’s continue with the above refunds scenario. How could these organizers have made a compelling argument? By letting their players and parents know that the money they paid in advance for this season’s programming was helping them support their staff and coaches who rely on their paycheck, pay rental fees for their facilities, cover sunk uniform and equipment costs, and ensure that their programs would still be there when this was all over. It’s okay to communicate with some emotion—and in situations like these, it’s critical.
Tip #3: Build goodwill
Imagine that you had been successful in convincing your customers that you needed to hold onto their payments. From there, it would be important to communicate that you appreciated their generosity by providing them with something in return—in other words, by building goodwill.
Credits and gift cards that can be used towards future programs are a great way to show your customers that you appreciate them. If you had offered a credit when asked for a refund, you might have been surprised to find that people were willing to be flexible.
Did you know: gift cards and credits are easy to manage in LeagueApps and can keep all of your payment records in one place. Learn more here.
Tip #4: Know your audience
Whether you’re communicating about refunds or something else, it’s important to think about the most effective way to talk to your community. How would players and parents react to a one-on-one video call via FaceTime or Zoom? Video conferencing is incredibly popular right now, but it might not be right for your specific audience. Are they used to hearing from you via email? What about text? If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to experiment.
And remember, message matters. While a simple check-in might make sense via text, a conversation about payments probably feels more appropriate in an email or on a call.
Tip #5: Get them involved
The more you involve your customers, the more likely they are to be invested in the ongoing success of your club, league, camp, or tournament. Are you still trying to launch a virtual training program? Invite them to a brainstorm session and include them in the curriculum development. Did you have to cancel an in-person fundraising gala? Ask them to help you figure out a “Plan B.” You can also get their feedback by creating a quick survey using a tool like Typeform, Survey Monkey, or Google Forms.
Help them understand that all of these initiatives will help you stay in business and continue providing the sports programs they love.
Here is an email template that you can edit and send to your parents or players as a way to provide them with updates.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when communicating via email, text, and social media.
Your customers have a lot of COVID-19 emails in their inbox right now. It’s important that you stand out amidst all the noise.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to establish a social media presence and build your brand. This is an easy way to connect with your customers and community—the more you humanize your organization, the more likely they will be to support you.
Plus, check out LevelUp Long Island—one of our partners here at LeagueApps. They have done a great job of spotlighting their community on Facebook during this time. What makes the below post effective?
#PlayerSpotlight is on Dylan Shapiro who is on the 6th Grade Girls – White Team. Dyl is a focused, hard-working player…
Our hope is that these communication strategies can help you navigate this uncertain time with the support of your customers. Remember, now is the time to be proactive (reach out first!), to share your brand’s mission and purpose, tell heartfelt stories about your community, and to remind your customers that you’re depending on their support to keep your program afloat. When COVID-19 is in our rearview mirror, you’ll be able to continue delivering amazing sports experiences to your players—but only with their help.