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SEVEN CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE CONSIDERATIONS WHEN REOPENING BUSINESS AFTER THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Details Make a Difference
By David Pfeiffer

Introduction: In the aftermath of the COVID-19 shutdown, reopening a retail business must involve safety precautions for employees and customers . Despite the health risks, visiting retail stores will remain important for many people. This article outlines 7 customer experience considerations when reopening retail businesses.

Reopening Tip #1: Become an informed resource on best customer experience retail practices

Developing a level of expertise with the Reopening Up America Again guidelines and the variations of the state and local guidelines is valuable. This article describes some of the most fundamental customer experience ideas that should be considered in the reopening process. These experience fundamentals are important as the human mind often skips past fundamentals when in crisis mode. It’s important to become informed and formulate a plan to bring back, not only loyal customers, but gain new business as well.

Best practices from the Whitehouse Task Force:

  • Social distancing and protective equipment
  • Sanitation
  • Use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas

Here are some basic reopening business resources:

Reopening Tip #2: Announce the reopening of the business

Get the word out about the business reopening:

  • Announce the business reopening on the business website, Google My Business, and Yelp.  
  • Create branded Reopen signage to attract retail passerby customers. Lawn signs and Feather flags placed in the vicinity of their retail shops are great ways to signal the reopening.
  • Go after SEO and SERP features using a mix of your standard keywords with safety keywords. This also might be a good time to increase efforts on SEO and gaining other Search Engine Results Page (SERP) features like top stories, comparisons and lists.
  • Consider buying Google and Facebook Ads to attract customers back into the place of business.

Here are some resources that you might find useful:

Reopening Tip #3: Add new signage to the retail experience to show the business’ concern for customer health and safety.

Customers want to know any new rules and your approach to safety.

  • Branded entry signage letting customers know that there are changes to the shopping experience based on keeping customers safe and secure.
  • Summary of business policies, social distancing approach, number of customer limits and hygiene measures (masks, gloves, etc.) with an appeal to consider other’s health and safety as well.
  • Way-finding changes to business layout to facilitate the above mentioned approach including updated store map, social distancing floor markers in checkout lines, and fulfillment waiting areas.
  • The availability of hygiene supplies such as wipes, soaps, and UV light sanitizers throughout the retail area in strategic locations where germs can be exchanged.

Here are some resources that you might find useful:

Reopening Tip #4: Set transparent policies on the cleanliness of the store and merchandise

One way to demonstrate your commitment to customer health and safety is the rigor you apply to keeping things clean. Carefully consider possible airborne and fluid exchange scenario and call out your precautions to build trust

  • If appropriate, provide customers and employees gloves so that handle merchandise. Include signage on how and why they should use them.
  • Have employees clean merchandise – wiping down command areas / seating, steam cleaning or UV sanitization of clothing after try-ons.

Reopening Tip #5: Checkout and payment

Adding social distancing floor markers is the simple and expected thing nowadays. One “caring” difference is the handling of money and payment methods. Customers are not used to thinking about how germs might be transferred in the payment process.

  • It is a good practice to use anti-viral cleaning wipes or hand sanitizer at the checkout register to allow customers to clean their hands after the payment process (after touching PIN code keypad and receiving change).
  • Checkout personnel should be wearing a mask and disposable gloves. It is common to have spray shields at the checkout counter as well.
  • Consider using ultraviolet cleaning equipment to sanitize money used in any transactions.

Some germ killing products:

Reopening Tip #6: Fulfillment and waiting areas

Some businesses require waiting areas for fulfillment of the customer’s purchase (coffee shop, car repair, etc.). Many retail operators are asking customers to wait outside or in their cars for product or service fulfillment. It’s important to have a system in-place to notify the customer when the product is available or the service completed. Text messaging is a good practice in this area using queue manager software.

Here are some Queue Management solutions:

Reopening Tip #7: Inoculating the business from future outbreaks with Online Sales, Delivery, and Pickup services

If the business did not have online sales, delivery, or pick up methods in place, this would be the time to add these services to mitigate further revenue loss in the case of another breakout. In most situations, this will require an inventory or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. I recently implemented a Square.com based website for my sister using their Weebly website solution.

It was pretty easy to set up since they were already using Square.com in their retail shop.

Some Software systems that support online sales, delivery and pick-up capabilities:

Conclusion

As businesses reopen, there will be opportunities to satisfy a pent up demand for retail goods and services – IF the customers feel safe! Ensuring customer safety will require some changes in the retail experience and may cause some inconvenience for customers and employees. The sensitivity to safety guidelines will vary by region and store type.

I hope the ideas and resources outlined above are useful and thought provoking. Please comment below or email me about this topic.

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