You likely don't need to hear about how the times are unprecedented anymore. We're definitely past that and looking to get back to regular old precedented times. These past few months, we have been ready to burst through the nearest wall to freedom, like a desperate Koolaid Man.
However, despite our itching to get back to normal, consumer confidence is still on shaky ground right now. If there was ever a time for businesses to put their service standards front and centre, this is it. Anyone can promise low prices or superior product selection, but giving your guests peace of mind is currently your most valuable asset. Instead of looking at reopening as simply recommitting to your business model, think of it as a chance to reintroduce your business to the community.
Before you set things in motion, though, remember that WorkSafeBC requires businesses to create a plan for how they'll adapt to the situation and minimize risks. You can follow their safety checklist here. While you don’t have to submit the plan to WorkSafe, you definitely need to post the changes on your work site. Now, let's get your business up to speed.
It's always better to be clear. You want your guests to feel that your reopening was a considered choice, not merely throwing caution to the wind and jumping back into the pool. Whether with signage, social media messaging, or service verbiage, your brand should be outlining how you've adapted to the situation with the safety of staff and guests leading every step. It's an excellent chance to engage with your followers online, and message them directly with new hours or any changes they can expect. Be sure to snap some photos of how your processes have changed, and go out of your way to reply to individual comments. Setting times for channel monitoring will help to get into a routine of touching base with every customer reaching out.
Consider Your Space
If your business depends on customers coming to you, think about how they'll be interacting with each touchpoint while still maintaining social distancing. WorkSafeBC recommends putting temporary tape on the floor to encourage a one-way flow of foot traffic, or even posting small maps of your floor plan to indicate where specific things are (washrooms, product types, etc.) Laying out a plan that aligns with the official health standards is essential. Again, you can view all of WorkSafe’s recommendations for reopening here.
Further considerations are installing plexiglass barriers at the point of sale, or putting messaging outside your store about your products/services so customers can consider their purchase before entering. This last tactic also helps to increase awareness of your business value, especially for passing foot traffic. There's a reason why the ice cream man displays all his pictures on the truck's side!
Is everyone on the same page? As stresses are still a little high, your customers will be asking more questions and might be overwhelmed. Each staff member needs to understand the importance of all safety measures taken so that they can return to work with confidence. Having staff thoroughly briefed about all the changes will show customers that they're in good hands. Along with creating an easy-to-follow protocol, it's essential for staff to know why each change was made, so they can share this with anyone who might be confused. If your company could use some procedural steps in place regardless, then use this as a springboard to improving communication as a whole.
There's no sense opening back up if your staff isn't comfortable doing so. As employers are responsible for the health and safety of their workers, it’s important to take a proactive approach and check-in with your people. Obviously, this means making sure everyone is healthy physically, but also giving them a chance to voice any concerns they might have.
The previously mentioned safety plan (frequent hand washing, staying home when sick) needs to be clear for every member of your team. Including them in how to make a seamless transition with both staff and customers will go a long way to building efficiency and ensuring comfort on both sides.
Show your adaptability. If you're making masks mandatory in your work environment, and a visitor doesn't have one, be sure to have a supply of disposable ones on hand that you can give out. If your reduced hours don't allow for certain customers to reach you, then work with them to create a solution- pushing your hours a little on a particular day, offering private after-hours service, or even bringing your service to them. When a person is making an effort to support you, and you're not making it easy, it just acts as a speed bump in their long-term loyalty.
Make Sure It's Still You
Despite all the grand speeches about coming together and being a team, you should always ask yourself- are you speaking with your established brand voice? As the last few months have winded by, it seemed like quite a few companies have sued the drag and drop approach to their public messaging. Many consumers started getting wise to it, and noticing how some of the communications rang a bit stale. The best way to ensure authenticity in branding is to speak personally, not publicly. Ensure that you know your audience and customers, and they'll return the favour by showing that they know you too.
Whatever your plans for reopening are, we hope you're doing so safely and that you're keeping the long game in mind. The approach you choose in welcoming back staff and customers needs to be sustainable over time, as circumstances may evolve. Reopening in multiple phases is worth considering, as you'll be able to adapt to at your own pace. You can then dial back service or loosen restrictions depending on how smoothly things are going. Who knows what's going to happen next, so nobody will blame you for being cautious for the sake of your staff and clientele!
Here's to perseverance, and supporting small and local businesses. Share your business reopening stories using #VancouverComeBack and let’s support each other as we reopen!