We were recently invited to attend a professional event as guest speakers. At first we thought we would attend via video conferencing. We then discovered that the event organizers expected us to physically visit their office to participate in the event. This raised serious concerns for us, especially since Trevor was ill with COVID-19 over the Summer. We sent an email to the event organizers expressing concerns and asking a series of questions about their safety protocols.
As soon as we hit the “SEND” button, we realized they could have been more proactive in providing information to us FIRST about the safety protocols. Thus was inspired the following advice to our business owners. We hope you will find this useful. We welcome comments about this advice.
DO MORE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS WITH YOUR COVID-19 SAFETY PROTOCOLS AND MESSAGING
The time is right for you to help your customers with concerns about visiting your business. Step up your safety protocols and your message about those protocols. Many more Americans are aligned with recommended safety guidelines including mask-wearing and social distancing. As a business trying to survive through this pandemic, get the word out to more people that you understand their concerns.
With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis your customers have concerns about meetings outside of their home or office. Be proactive in your understanding of their concerns. Apart from any local, State or Federally mandated safety protocols, determine how you can add to those fundamentals. If you’re not required to provide free masks, do it anyway. If you’re required to have a certain size of plexiglass divider, install larger dividers. If you’re required to have a specified number of hand sanitizer stations, add more.
You can’t really go “over the top” during this pandemic; the more you do to acknowledge the concerns of your customers about their own safety and that of your employees, the better the likelihood of increasing your customer attendance.
Once you’ve done that, then you need to “go tell it on the mountain” and broadcast the level of protections you’ve implemented.
Get the word out through every channel possible. Your messaging could include a phrase like this: “We want to provide you with assurances of safety protocols before you visit our store/restaurant/office. We want you to feel safe during these uncertain times.”
With messaging like this, you are both acknowledging the “pain points” that many people are feeling and you are increasing the numbers of customers likely to visit. It’s not enough to attract customers who already feel more comfortable going out and about during the pandemic with less anxiety; you need to pry the other, more anxious customers out of their protective environments. Your message and your protocols will accomplish that goal.
Take a proactive stance that can only raise your customer’s confidence in your attempts to keep them safe. We have some suggestions for advance messaging before a customer visits your office/store/restaurant:
- Consider providing a list of the safety protocols you’ve implemented. On the list, note which ones are government recommended and which ones you’ve added for the extra level of caution.
- The next suggestion is a really difficult concept because you are acknowledging the customers’ concerns in a way that many businesses fail to do. Essentially, you’re going to remove some of the burden of safety precautions from the customer.
While it may seem that the following questionnaire might frighten away people, we believe the opposite to be true: you will actually attract more customers.
Understand that the vast majority of Americans are already worried about being infected with the COVID-19 virus. Ignoring that concern, assuming that everyone is taking precautions into their own hands or trusting a business with only minimal safety protocols is a fatal mistake for a business trying to survive the pandemic.
Become a “partner” with your customers by acknowledging their worries. Create a dialogue to demonstrate your intense interest in their safety and that of your employees.
We recommend that you include in your messaging these additional information points about your focus on the safety of your customers and employees:
- Describe how many other people will be in attendance on the day of the event/meeting/reservation, including before and during your customer’s visit.
- Provide detailed descriptions of the protocols in place currently at your business.
- Provide a diagram of the business space demonstrating the measurements in relation to your customer’s ability to maintain social distancing. Note the plexiglass and hand sanitizer locations on the diagram.
- We recommend you send a questionnaire to customers either before they attend a meeting at your office or visit your store/restaurant. Make this questionnaire part of your safety protocols in advance of the customer’s visit.
We know that many businesses are providing a short form of this questionnaire only at the moment of entry. In our opinion, while this is compliant with recommended guidelines, it doesn’t do enough to soothe the worries of many more people. And you want to attract as many customers as possible to survive this pandemic.
We’ve set up a minimal questionnaire. You’re welcome to copy this and use it along with your local, State or Federally-mandated questionnaires:
Please REPLY to this email with your answers to the following questions so that we can assure your safety of you and the safety of our other customers:
- What is your personal opinion on mask-wearing requirements?
- Do you wear masks constantly, occasionally, rarely, or never?
- Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19 or been in proximity recently with someone diagnosed with the virus?
- Have you attended a social or professional event with more than six people in the last 30 days?
We recommend you provide this questionnaire, along with the list of safety protocols at the moment a customer confirms attendance at a meeting or even when they make a reservation at your restaurant. We know that many business owners may be fearful that such communications may actually scare customers away. Frankly, we cannot imagine how your interest in clear communications and a dedication to customer/employee safety can be more frightening than the actual COVID-19 virus!
Remember that you want to attract the customers who are taking extreme precautions. They may even be the customers reluctant to venture out of their homes.
Wishing you the best during these difficult times! Stay safe, stay well.