A while back, we began to explore how customer service is shifting as businesses reopen after an eight- to 10-week shutdown. In that piece, we talked a lot about the importance of preparation. This is a measure twice, cut once moment in time. With everyone’s emotions as raw as they are, you want to get this right. A mistake can cost you a loyal customer or a devoted employee.
Today, I’m going to assume you’ve prepped and are ready to go. Now we’re going to turn our attention to what we need to be thinking about once we are open. One of the most heartening trends coming out of COVID, according to a May 2020 study by Accenture, is that, as consumers, we’ve never been more motivated and excited about buying local.
That bodes well for us, whether we sell direct to consumers or to other businesses. At this stage, you’ve decided as the business owner or leader which rules you’re going to choose to enforce when it comes to masks, the number of people in your establishment at once, client face-to-face meetings, etc. You’ve met with your team and briefed them on the rules.
Hopefully, you’ve done some brainstorming and role-playing, so they are feeling prepared as well.
Now it’s time to open the doors. The work you’ve done with your team isn’t done yet. In this phase, they need you to:
- Help them enforce the rules with lots of visual cues and specific language to use with your clients.
- Model well. They’re nervous, so they will be watching how you respond to your customers. Let them know when they handle a situation well. Thank them for helping you enforce the “new normal.”
- Show grace. No one will get this 100% right, so come to work with an abundance of grace and give it out generously.
Your employees aren’t the only ones who are going to be a little anxious. Your customers are too. They may have been out and about for some time, but for others, your business location may be one of the first they’ve entered since March. For many of us, it was the grocery store, pharmacy, home, and repeat for quite a while!
Here’s how you can make it easier for your clients to walk through your door for the first time since the quarantine.
- Paint a clear picture of what to expect before they show up. Whether it’s how the chairs in the conference room will be arranged or what inventory you have in stock, eliminate as many surprises as possible. Take advantage of all of their senses. Have prominent, bold signage that points them in the right direction, floor markings if that makes sense, PA announcements, and more live help than you usually might have.
- Stationing someone at the door to greet your customer and help them navigate through your space will ease their worries significantly.
- Show your excitement and be genuinely happy to see them. Remember, if you’re wearing a mask, facial cues are lost, so speak up and welcome them with warmth.
In this phase, you’re going to need to be very attentive and observant. Watch for signs of anxiety, discomfort, or confusion and be quick to jump to that employee or customer’s needs. Don’t worry if they’re not ready to buy yet. Just getting them back into your location and engaged is a win.
Slow and steady is going to win this race. Our job as business owners and leaders right now is to reconnect with our team and our customers.
This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record as one of Drew’s weekly columns.