Getting Your Customers Back
Restrictions are starting to loosen and non-essential businesses are re-opening. This is a critical time due to issues such as cash flow, promotion, and publicity, and rebuilding your customer base, hopefully to pre-pandemic levels. Early indicators are that people are tired of being restricted and many are ready to re-establish relationships with local vendors.
Many of your customers have been exposed to the effects of the virus, either personally or through friends and relatives. They will want to feel safe while visiting your business. If a loved one or close friend was a victim, they will be particularly insistent on safety measures. This is especially relevant when it comes to your employees. Being a leader in providing a safe environment for both customers and staff is a sure way to build your customer base to pre-Covid levels and establish the positive word-of-mouth promotion of your firm.
COMMUNICATE YOUR SAFETY AND CLEANLINESS PROCEDURES
Be upfront, and clear, and take credit for doing everything you can reasonably do to protect not just the customers but your valuable employees as well. (Most customers appreciate that employees are being well thought of and taken care of.)
Make sure that you market explicit examples of what you are doing to keep customers safe – this can be a competitive advantage. Be sure to include any safety precautions undertaken by your supply chain or sub-contractors.
Done well, a business can promote safety and sanitation without appearing to REQUIRE anything more of their guests than being considerate of each other.
- Ensure all employees are trained in proper hygiene and sanitation procedures
- Train employees to communicate exactly what the facility is doing to elevate guest and employee safety
- Listen to your employees for new ideas
- Post visible, easy-to-read signage explaining the steps being taken
- Help customers FEEL comfortable and they will BE comfortable
- In the event, there are issues with customers not adhering to guidelines, treat them with respect but ask them to leave
- REMEMBER – your other customers are watching. Posting rules only to have them ignored will damage your credibility in everything else you do.
Suggested Best Practices
The more you combine best practices, the safer your staff and customers will feel. Start by following government regulations for your location. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that the virus spreads mostly from person to person and less easily by contacting contaminated surfaces (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html). Many of the following ideas are adapted from a Weld County, Colorado, publication and are aimed at businesses that involve proximity of people.
ENSURE SOCIAL DISTANCING PRACTICES AT ALL TIMES.
COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact. All customers and staff should maintain six feet of separation. If your business requires physical contact, make sure you go to extraordinary efforts to ensure everyone’s safety.
- Limit the number of customers in your business at one time
- Encourage or require customers to call ahead and make an appointment
- Maintain your entrance to control your crowd.
- Use floor markings to indicate where customers should stand to maintain six feet of separation.
- Post social distancing reminders throughout your facility
- Install plexiglass barriers at cash registers
- Wherever physical contact is required to perform your business, exceptional sanitation and protection methods will be needed.
- Create a one-way flow through your facility to ensure the spacing and prevent congregation points.
- Consider offering online or phone ordering with curbside pick-up or delivery
- If bagging product(s) is required, offer bags but ask customers to bag their own. If customers bring their own bags, ask them to bag their own product without having employees touch the bags; provide space for this.
The distance that COVID-19 can spread through the air is controversial but studies show that an indoor environment is more hazardous than outside since respiratory droplets can float in the air and be recirculated by indoor ventilation systems.
- Where possible use an outdoor venue for some or all of your business.
- Increase ventilation rates in your building
- Ensure that your HVAC (heating and air conditioning) is serviced and set for full outside air rather than recirculation. This may require negotiation with your building landlord.
- Open windows when feasible.
- In small rooms, a local filtering or air disinfecting system may help.
- In open-plan environments, like restaurants, some sort of protective barriers can reduce the flow of air from one person to another.
MAINTAINING CLEAN AND DISINFECTED SURFACES
COVID-19 spreads through contact with infected surfaces. Although the CDC indicates that this is not the main way that the virus spreads, customers will still be wary of this possibility.
- Quarantine and sanitize any items or surfaces touched by customers after each visit and before the next customer arrives.
- Display merchandise in ways that let customers browse without touching it.
- Routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces of your facility including doorknobs, credit card machines, counters, handrails, etc. via a predetermined cleaning plan provided to all employees
- Pay special attention to restrooms including leaving disinfectant wipes for any to use; wipe faucets and doorknobs after use
- Promote touchless payment systems
- If you must have customers sign something, be sure to provide sanitized pens that go immediately into a “dirty” container for sanitization before reuse.
- Since cash gets handled by so many people, staff should wash their hands or apply hand sanitizer after handling cash
- Use an EPA-registered disinfectant and ensure proper contact times keeping the surface wet for a duration that ensures viral destruction
- Use disposable covers on chairs/tables used to serve your customers
- Remove unnecessary items that may become contaminated
- Stop permitting returns or quarantine/sanitize returns before restocking.
ENCOURAGING PERSONAL HYGIENE
- Check and log the health status of each employee each day. Obviously, anyone showing symptoms cannot be at your business establishment.
- Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
- Place hand sanitizer strategically at the entrance of the facility and in multiple locations throughout to encourage frequent use
- Provide tissues and no-touch waste receptacles for customers
- Require mask usage that covers both the mouth and nose for both staff and customers
- Face shields can provide an additional protection
- Provide posters both outside and inside the facility encouraging hand hygiene and mask use
- Ensure customers understand what is expected of them before they enter your business.