How to talk to customers, members, and employees in the dawn of COVID-19 openings.
As part of your business’s re-opening plans, be sure to consider what and how you communicate to those you rely on. Your customers, members, and employees will generally fall into two camps. Either they will want to know what changes you’ve made to operations to keep them safe--or they will naively be expecting an experience similar to one they had pre-COVID. You need to manage those expectations, sharing how your business is now functioning so your customers and employees don't experience a disconnect with your brand, and instead feel protected and valued.
Give your customers, members, and employees what they need to confidently come back to your business --information and assurance.
Here are some examples:
Smaller populations, outdoor dining, and social distancing in restaurants: tell customers how you will control and manage the number--reservations, waiting for tables, and seating. Let them know online, through postings, when they call, and when they arrive what to expect, so their dining experience is easy and a pleasure.
Attendance at gyms: explain how you will limit attendance and manage class sign-up and social distancing. What disinfecting will be taking place to ensure member and employee safety? Install directional signage, post on social and the website. Be sure staff members are up to speed.
Hair salons, gyms, and restaurants: What’s happening behind the scenes? Take it social and let employees and customers know about your new disinfecting and cleaning procedures—even before you re-open. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Personal Protection Equipment and other social changes: Explain what equipment—masks and gloves for instance—will be used to protect employees and customers. What precautions should be followed in elevators? Will the company be suspending its weekly communal bagel tray?
Overall disinfecting and cleaning: Talk to your staff about the changes, preferably face to face or virtually. Because after your staff members ask you questions, they’re going to be asked questions by your customers. Be sure to educate them in your new disinfecting and cleaning procedures, even if they are not performing them. You may want to develop a list of FAQs and even do some role playing. This isn’t the time for fumbling.
When food stores first reacted to the virus, Trader Joe’s quickly utilized its normal in-store communications practices so customers understood its new safety practices. Starting at the entrance, its infamous cheery hand-illustrated signs announced new operating hours, social distancing in line, and a no bring-your-own-bag policy. A masked and gloved store greeter spritzed my hands with disinfectant, and told me when I could enter the store as they were limiting shoppers, as well as imparted other in-store shopping tips. Another employee disinfected returned carts out front. Once in the store, floor stickers controlled lines as did staff members. Fewer check out lanes meant less density. And eventually plexiglass added more precaution. The experience was pure Trader Joe’s. My impression: they were in control of the situation and limiting my exposure.
Customers expect to see changes. Lead the way and they will follow!
Clear communications, sensitivity, and timing in reaching your audiences is key. In some cases, marketing communications messaging on your website and social media is appropriate, such as announcing openings and new hours. More formal communications to members or customers may be an emailed letter or one added to your website. In other cases, it’s all about training your staff to the new normal and to respond appropriately. Remember, you have choices from one-on-one conversations to website to signage around the facility. Choose what's best for the message (sometimes using several for the same message). Pay attention to tone.
Procedures and reminders on disinfecting and cleaning for personal services businesses can be physically posted around your venue on walls and counters. See the document below that we helped Summit Fitness Club create in the wake of COVID-19. A hard copy can be made available in a binder for interested parties and/or governing bodies. OSHA’s pdf on Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 provides advisory information to assist employers. For additional support planning and developing content solutions around COVID-19 safety, disinfecting and cleaning, please contact Mayhorne Marketing or another communications organization.