Previously, I published a post about communicating with customers during stay-at-home orders. At that time, for the most part, only businesses designated as “essential” were operating at something resembling full capacity. Now, to varying degrees, businesses and organizations that were shuttered during the coronavirus lockdown are beginning to reopen. Given that we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, the process of doing so is unlikely to be “business as usual” by any stretch.

Make a Q&A List and Share it Far and Wide

Leverage your website, social media channels, email lists, and local search listings (Google and Bing profiles for example) to keep customers apprised of what they can expect when visiting your place of business, including measures designed to help keep them safe. Yes, this might seem like obvious advice, but in the flurry of getting a storefront back online, it can be possible to overlook.

The time is now to manage expectations. Some common questions that you can preemptively address include:

  • Have hours of operation changed? Don’t forget to update your Google and Bing listings if you changed hours or marked yourself as “temporarily closed”.
  • Are you limiting the number of people who can be inside the space, and are there other steps you’re taking to help keep visitors apart from each other?
  • Are you accepting customers by appointment — either exclusively or as an option?
  • Will there be a change in how employees interact with customers?
  • Will employees be wearing gloves or masks?
  • Are customers expected or encouraged to wear masks?
  • If low-contact or contact-free sales and services were offered while your storefront was closed, will those options remain available?
  • Is availability of certain products or services limited?

Depending on one’s location, policy makers may request that organizations publicly post formal plans describing how they will safely operate.

Resource: The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development offers resources for businesses here in the Gopher State as they plan to reopen. See “For Businesses: Safely Returning to Work”

Closely Monitor and Respond to Messages and Comments

Remain extra vigilant about monitoring email, social media direct messages and comments, and online reviews. If possible, assign someone to oversee this effort; they should do it frequently and for the foreseeable future. If the responsible individual is not already using device notifications for email messages, social media direct messages, comments and mentions, he or she may wish to consider doing so to help stay on top of customer communication and brand chatter as it’s happening. Stress levels are high for everyone, so it’s as important as ever to take a measured, calm approach when responding to any testy customer messages, comments, and reviews.

As always, give me a shout if I can offer a hand. Stay safe and be well!