As America slowly breaks out of her cocoon, we do so hesitantly. Many of us are still afraid to socialize. Others are optimistic and ready to move on.
How should your organization prepare to reopen? There are two populations to address: your staff and your customers.
THE STAFF PREP
First, how will you prepare your staff for reopening? Will employees be ready and willing to return to work? How can your organization help employees with the logistics of returning to work?
Involve your staff by asking them questions, and begin the conversations now about projected reopening dates. Quickly send updates as there are changes; however, try not to leave the return date open-ended. It’s difficult living with that kind of uncertainty. Ask employees how they feel about going back to work.
What can you say to ease their fears about the cleanliness of the organization’s facility and areas in which they work? Has it been sanitized? Can you explain why it is safe to return to the environment? Is it cleaner than the big box stores everyone roams?
WHO AND WHAT THEY’RE LEAVING BEHIND
Next, ask about their families and the realities of returning to work. What about childcare? Most of the recreational programs we’re used to sending our kids to during the summer may not be open.
Some may not want to leave their children with people they don’t know. They may decide they are the best caregivers for their children until they go back to school in the fall of 2020. What about their homeschooling regimen?
And, just a heads-up, some parents have decided they will be homeschooling their children from now on because the next school year remains uncertain.
What else may be a factor? Communication and preparation will be the key to a smoother transition back to work for everyone.
Will you bring employees back all at once or a few at a time? Would you be willing to have a flexible return date for each employee while they figure out how to leave their household?
How will your staff conduct business differently to let customers know they’re safe? Is there a sign to tell customers which door to go in and where to exit?
Eye contact and conversation can help customers feel safe. Think through and prepare your staff to go the extra mile with customer service. Specifically, what will that look like when you reopen? How will it look different from before? Who will you station at the door to greet and welcome customers? Involving your staff in these discussions will make a world of difference in your organization’s transition and the attitude of the staff.
The Pandemic has pushed some of the most patient people past their limits. With this realization, how will you create a positive customer experience in your establishment?
The physical changes may still include guests wearing masks, extra surface cleaning, and limitations on how many people are allowed to enter at the same time. Will a staff member be highly visible at the door or spraying down bathroom sinks and credit card keypads after use?
Signs are useful to inform customers of the flow of traffic in and out of the building, whether masks are still mandatory inside, and what your policy is for social distancing. Keep customers updated on the latest local mandates and how they affect their shopping experience.
Leaders need to think through the emotional experience they want their customers to have. At a gym, people may overreact and become irate if a treadmill doesn’t get wiped down. Is your staff ready to handle blow-ups? How can you be proactive and limit being caught off-guard?
You can begin now to train employees to anticipate problems before they arise. Show them how to approach customers before an escalation occurs. Establish procedures so staff members can know what to do and expect from you. The work you put into preparation weeks before reopening will pay off for you, your staff, and – most importantly – your customers.