July 15, 2020
Communication is essential at all times, but especially so during a global pandemic.
How you formulate an effective communication strategy with staff, customers, and your community will be critical to your success in navigating your driving school during COVID-19.
Hopefully, you’ll never have to look back and wish you communicated to your staff and customers more during this pandemic. With the right communication strategy, you can guide your driving school to new heights and strengthen team morale even amid a health crisis.
To get started, we recommend taking the following four steps to creating an effective COVID-19 communication strategy:
- Make a clear communication plan
- Personalize COVID-19 communication to customers
- Customize COVID-19 communication to staff
- Invest in COVID-19 signage for facility
It will only take 3-4 hours (max) to execute the four steps above and I promise you it will be worth it! Read on to learn about how to correctly tackle each step.
Before we get started please note that this guide offers general guidance and is not meant to replace or substitute legal advice. If in doubt, we recommend you reach out to a lawyer or HR specialist for questions on how your business can best respond to the current situation.
We’ll continue to update this blog and if anyone else has any amazing ideas to add, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s help each other and we’ll push through this as an industry and as a country. 🙂
Make a communication plan
It’s imperative that companies, big or small, make the effort to educate their employees about the facts and risks of the virus.
This also extends to preventing any unhelpful panic or misinformation that may be circulating among employees or students.
At this stage, it’s best to check in with your team to understand their questions and concerns and provide factual information to help them to both stay safe and feel safe while at work. It’s important as well to communicate consistently by providing regular updates as the situation evolves.
Remember to take appropriate action where needed to protect employees, customers, and your driving school as a whole.
Effective communication can only work if it goes both ways. So while you need to communicate with your employees, you should also make it easy and accessible for your employees to notify you, especially if they, or someone they know, contracts the virus or has been exposed to it.
You can set this communication channel up by providing a direct email or phone number where employees can reach you both at the office and outside of work.
Above all, the most important thing to do is to deliver every message calmly with positivity and empathy to help dispel any anxiety.
Forbes shares more advice on how to lead your team through the pandemic effectively if you’re keen on learning more.
Personalize COVID-19 communication to customers
The second step to communicating effectively in your driving school is to encourage e-communication! Let customers know that they can connect with your business via phone, email, or website rather than in-person during this time.
It’s important that you give customers the ability to support your business even as social distancing measures continue to take place to protect one another. That’s why enabling e-communication is the best step forward to ensure success with your driving school during this challenging time.
So how do you do this? Well for starters, just mentioning your COVID-19 action plan only once in your monthly newsletter is not enough. Remember, to communicate effectively is to communicate consistently!
We recommend adding COVID-19 guidelines and precautions in the following seven areas:
1) Transaction emails
Emails generated to the customer upon purchase through your website (or over the phone) have over a 90%+ open rate. Hence, it’s the perfect place to add information about your COVID-19 policies.
2) Reminder emails & texts
Do your students receive automated emails and texts to remind them about their upcoming session? If so, this is another area I strongly recommend adding COVID-19 policies.
For example, you might want to remind the student to bring a mask to their appointment, or a notice that cancelation fees are waived if the student is experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and to cancel the appointment if any of the following questions are true…
In the last 24 hours, have you had symptoms associated with COVID-19?
Within the last 14 days, have you or anyone in your family been tested for or diagnosed with COVID-19?
To the best of your knowledge, have you been in close proximity to any individual who tested positive for COVID-19 during the last two weeks?
3) Student login screens
When a customer logs in to their student portal to review payments, lesson information, etc., this is another opportunity to provide updates and remind customers of your driving school’s COVID-19 policies.
4) Company website
Pro tip: Google just released a free tool to create banners on your website!
5) Email to all active students/parents
Hopefully, you are able to export your “active students” email addresses (as well as parent’s emails) easily from your existing software provider.
If so, pull the report (so former students do not get an email) and craft a quick email via MailChimp or Constant Contact regarding your COVID-19 plan and policies.
Also, if you need help drafting the email, I recommend using Constant Contact. In my opinion, they offer better support than Mailchimp but, unfortunately, they do not offer any free plans.
How often should you send a bulk email out? It’s best to do so at least once a month or as needed.
Pro tip: Mailchimp is free (up to 2000 emails)
6) Post to social media
Social media is extremely powerful for relaying crucial information to your customers, so make sure to use it to your advantage. Post on your social handles to update followers about your new COVID-19 policies. You could also link out to a PDF for more information (or your latest email) in your profile bio.
How often? At least once a month or as needed. It’s important to appear active on social media so customers know they can rely on you for your services.
7) Email signature
Are you using an email signature for all your email communication?
If not, now is a great time to add one. Email signatures can act as a simple call to action at the end of all your emails letting customers know about your COVID-19 policies.
Adding an email signature ensures that EVERY email a customer receives from your company is another opportunity for the client to read about your COVID-19 policies. Simple, yet effective.
Customize COVID-19 communication to staff
Don’t forget to sketch a plan to communicate to your driving school staff. Here are four ways to keep your staff in the loop about your business plans regarding COVID-19.
1) Daily instructor email
Do your instructors receive automated emails of their driving lesson schedule for the following day?
If so, go ahead and add your COVID-19 policies to remind instructors to protect themselves and students during lessons.
2) Instructor login screens
Another place to talk about your driving school’s COVID-19 action plan for instructors is on their login screens.
When staff checks their instructor portal via your software provider to review their schedule, student payment information, student report card history etc., they will be able to see COVID-19 updates too.
Pro tip: Remember to integrate PDF links regarding your operating procedures and links to your software for daily temperature checks and COVID-19 questionnaire.
3) Zoom training
Another great way to communicate with your staff is to have a Zoom meeting. You could even create a casual “Zoom Lunch & Learn” conference to discuss important topics such as the latest COVID-19 policies for your driving school.
Virtual face-to-face meetings are an excellent opportunity to show you care and check up on your staff. It’s also a great time to receive feedback and/or suggestions on how to keep staff and customers safe moving forward.
How often? Once or twice every quarter, or as needed.
4) Email to all staff
How do you communicate with your entire staff on a regular basis?
An easy way to keep your staff informed of the latest COVID-19 policies for your driving school is to send them an email via MailChimp.
Communicating via email is also an easy way to send an inspirational quote or message to lift everyone’s spirits. You could also consider integrating reviews of your awesome staff members to encourage their work ethic.
How often? At least once or twice a month, but weekly would be ideal!
Invest in COVID-19 signage for facility
Last but not least, step four to ensuring clear communication is to implement signage of new COVID-19 policies throughout your driving school facility.
Invest in signs outside your facility to remind staff and customers about social distancing and wearing a mask while at work.
If you’re screening all students and staff prior to entering the facility, we recommend adding signage similar to the example below.
We’ve also seen schools keep their doors locked at all times to ensure patrons are screened.
Another safety measure you could implement is installing a ring device for patrons to use so the office is easily notified when a student or parent is arriving.
The best places to put up signage is in the driving school classrooms, lobby, bathrooms, or areas that receive high amounts of foot traffic and visitors. By putting up signs, you’re reminding staff and students of the steps to take to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
Final Thoughts on COVID-19 Driving School Communication
Most of us are learning to adapt to the ever-evolving global situation. It is a challenge to say the least, but by clearly communicating with staff and customers in your driving schools you can overcome these bumps in the road and ensure a positive and safe working environment for all.
The above list of communication tips is not meant to be exhaustive, but we believe it includes the best practices for creating an effective communication strategy for your driving school amid COVID-19.
The coronavirus outbreak is an ongoing, evolving situation—new information becomes available almost daily. We’ll do our best to keep this section updated with the most helpful resources for driving school owners:
Please stay safe and we hope everyone has a successful reopening and wonderful summer!
P.S. This information is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance regarding your driving school.