On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a national emergency. Over the next couple of weeks, businesses and schools closed. States issues stay-at-home orders. Non-essential companies everywhere scrambled to figure out how to survive in a world where they couldn’t run their stores as normal. Restaurants and entertainment venues were perhaps the hardest hit.
Some states are phasing in reopening, starting with a limited number of patrons and putting safeguards in place. On June 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their guidelines for post-pandemic reopening. The 60-page book outlines everything from proper cleaning procedures to social distancing measures. It’s a good starting point for helping your customers feel comfortable returning to your establishment.
The key to getting clients back inside your doors is showing them you take the threat seriously and put both their and your employees’ health first. You also need to gear up your marketing but be sensitive to people’s fears. Here are some steps to take as you prepare to open your doors.
1. Figure Out What Phase You’re In
Your first step is deciding where you are in the three-phase plan to reopen the country post-pandemic. Your state and local leaders are the best measure of where you should be. Different areas of the country are in different phases. Some governors are more cautious than others about resuming business. Each state has specific figures about how many new COVID-19 cases there are, and how fast the virus spreads in a given area. Pay attention to their guidelines to make sure you comply with rules and take the proper steps for the current phase.
2. Get the Word Out
Some businesses stayed open during the pandemic, such as grocery and liquor stores. Others closed for weeks at a time. It’s still difficult to keep up with the shifting operating hours and who is open and who is closed. Let your customers know you’re back up and running, so they’ll return. Place a large banner announcing your reopening in front of your building. Send out a note to your email list. Put an ad in the local newspaper stating you’re open again.
3. Install Guards and Protective Measures
Follow CDC guidelines about installing guards and partitions to promote social distancing. For offices, this means changing workspace layouts to keep people six feet apart and allowing some remote work options. Place markers on the floor at checkout areas to show people where to stand to avoid getting too close to one another. For restaurants, some tables may need closing off, so patrons sit farther apart. You should even limit the number of employees in a workspace at any given time to avoid overcrowding.
4. Communicate with Your Customer Base
People are still a bit reluctant to resume activities. The CDC also released some guidelines detailing how to maintain social distance and where the highest risk of contracting coronavirus is. They specifically mention avoiding closed spaces and staying at least six feet apart from other people. People may be a bit more reluctant to return to settings such as a gym or restaurant than a zoo or local park.
Start by reassuring them you take appropriate precautions. Turn to unique marketing methods, such as influencer or scarcity marketing, to bring people back into your establishment. Limiting the number of people allowed in helps you reach out and spread the word about your business. A ticket to come inside and shop suddenly becomes more desirable because there is a limit to how many people can enter.
5. Clean Like a Fiend
If you want people to feel comfortable visiting your store, you need to ramp up your cleaning efforts and inform customers and employees of what you’re doing. The CDC recommends wiping down high touch surfaces frequently. Choose a cleaner approved by the CDC to kill coronavirus. After each customer goes through checkout, you should wipe down surfaces and anything they touched, such as your credit card reader.
Look for ways to reduce touchpoints even more. Offer a digital instead of a paper receipt, use a credit card without requiring the customer to punch any buttons and offer hand sanitizer for their convenience. The more comfortable customers feel, the more likely they’ll shop with you again.
Plan Your Approach
Reopening in a post-pandemic world requires attention to detail. You must understand your local and state regulations as well as follow CDC guidelines. All the extra cleaning and preparation takes time and cuts into the productivity of your employees. Be patient during this transitional phase. There will come a time when things return to normal. While more cleaning and caution is a good change, it won’t always be at the extreme level it is right now. Reopening is about your brand’s survival. Later, you can focus on thriving as a business and growing once again.