Opening In the Face of a Pandemic
By Eric Johnson
There are increasing indications that the pressure of the current state of lockdown parameters is creating anxieties and a push by affected citizens to re-open businesses and organizations, at least to a certain degree. Organizations are approaching this with the idea that demand to a certain extent may increase due to the pent-up nature of the economy looking to restart. While this may depend on the particular goods and services offered, all organizations can benefit from specific approaches during this period of potential customer return.
Employees are the first component of the business that management should be concerned with. Efforts should be taken to overprotect employees with appropriate PPE, to ensure that work environments are safe to conduct prolonged business activities, and to also ensure that the environment has the appropriate working distances factored into its processes along with handling and disinfecting procedures. This accomplishes two things: first, it demonstrates to employees that management is convincingly concerned about their health and well-being. Employees will be much more likely to assist in solving other areas of the business and taking a certain level of ownership in the work that they do. Secondly, it shows customers that management is willing to take care of its employees and as such will be concerned about the wellbeing of its customers as well.
Manage customer expectations and look to increase marketshare
Customers returning to the business will most likely be either those in dire need of goods and services or those that are steadfast and loyal customers. However, this is not the time to become complacent, but the opposite. By going above and beyond in service during this time period, it gives the impression to loyal customers that the business is pushing forward which will return generate referrals to new customers both during the pandemic and after. The ability to service customers in difficult times can be a great factor in increasing market share when times get better. This is especially true in an environment where some competitors are going out of business. While resources are obviously scarce, service and increasing the customer experience may not need any investments outside of attitude, preparation, and relationship building.
Plan for future closings
While the potential for reopening the economy leaves many with a certain level of cautious optimism, the conditions under which the virus is transmissible are still readily apparent in the environment. There is a significant possibility that a resurgence of cases and an increase in hospitalizations may prompt state and local governments to close businesses once again. Organizations should be much more involved in planning for this compared to the initial set of closings which caught many off-guard.
While some states and locales are pushing to reopen, there are varying sets of reopening plans and advisories to the public from an official perspective. While businesses will need to open at some point, precautions and planning are crucial in preventing further transmissions within the business environment which could lead to mandated future closings with longer durations.