The handshake. Once a natural clinch to a business deal, this simple gesture has become quite taboo, post-SARS-CoV-2 (more commonly known as Covid-19). With 182 million people infected with the virus worldwide at the time of this blog, we must ask, has the way we’ve conducted business in the past, like a simple handshake, been altered?
What Has Changed Since June 15, 2021?
According to safely reopening California, the California Governor terminated the executive orders that put the Stay Home Order and the Blueprint for a Safer Economy into place. He also phased out the vast majority of executive actions since March 2020 as part of the pandemic response.
The restrictions that have lifted are:
• Physical distancing
• Capacity limits on businesses
• County tier systems
Although the Los Angeles Times reported on June 30, 2021, that 58.2% of Californians had had a least one dose of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, there are still mask mandates set in place for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. These mandates are for public transportation, hospitals, long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, and indoors in K-12 schools, childcare, and other youth settings.
Bridging Back to Business
California’s newly lifted health mandates are a huge step forward, but the way back to business-as-usual isn’t so cut and dry. There is also a psychological factor that comes into play for customers to feel comfortable in crowded indoor spaces. It will take some time for customers to feel entirely comfortable going about their usual day-to-day business exchanges.
Let’s face it, this winter, every slight cough and sneeze out in public is going to be cause for concern. It’s going to take time, and maybe even years, for the psychological effects of Covid-19 to work their way through.
What Can Businesses Do to Help Customers FEEL SAFE?
Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more! Communication is essential not only between business owners to customers but also business owners to employees.
For in-person shopping experiences, many businesses supply masks to customers, free of charge. This small act communicates to customers that you care about their well-being and the safety of your employees.
Another great way to communicate is through email, website, social media, and mobile apps. Chatbots and automated emails are an excellent way to stay connected and provide valuable information to your loyal customers. So here’s our next question:
Have you Gone Digital?
“The best time to plant a tree is yesterday. The second best time is today.” Chinese Proverb
What does this mean?
Several businesses that relied heavily on digital marketing pre-covid 19 had an easier transition through the economic shutdown.
For example, Phil Jaber, owner of Philz Coffee, with several locations in California, was unscathed during the pandemic. How? Phil created a very sophisticated mobile application before the shutdown that had a chat feature to interact with customers and detailed pictures of products, recommended coffee items, and the option to create a mobile account for direct ordering of coffee bean products. He had provided an avenue to retain a heavy market share during 2020.
Now is the time to invest in digital marketing. Jurupa Valley Chamber of Commerce and Wow Your Brand Marketing have created a streamlined website with real-time social media experiences, automated invoicing, and valuable emails, offering a quick and convenient way for members to renew and stay engaged.
Give your customers the in-person experience while providing value to those who may not be able to attend the event. The Chambers, Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, turned out to be a great event in person, but we also had many people enjoy it from the comfort of their location by watching live on our website, YouTube, and Facebook.
Wahoo’s Fish Taco owner, Wing Lam, had to change their business model during Covid 19. His franchises used to do 80% of their business in-person and 20% takeout.
There is power in numbers. Lam knew he would have to streamline his menu for more sales, so he created a bulletproof menu that was easy to execute for takeout. No custom orders. With a select choice for food options, he reduced the number of times cooks were preparing food and limited the risk of a food plate being returned by customers due to cooking errors.
Lam also personally donated food to first responders during the pandemic. He created an opportunity for incredible advertising on social media and ultimately gathered a strong sense of community. Now more than ever, it’s vital for businesses to support the community and each other.
Can you sublet your space to offset rent? Can you keep your business open for 24 hours? What other types of assets do you have that you can think outside the box to capitalize on?
Creative Technology. Leverage your website. Do you have an e-commerce set in place on your website? A tailor-made e-commerce with professional photography can produce a user-friendly experience for direct orders.
Third-party businesses, like Door Dash, for example, were valuable for restaurants and customers during the pandemic. Still, these third-party businesses are not cheap for business owners, often cutting into profit margins.
What Have We Learned?
We are all ZOOM experts now! Let’s take advantage of that. Now businesses can continue to meet with customers and business peers in other locations! This is an opportunity to stay connected and expand your knowledge base.
Ask for feedback. Customer feedback is essential and a powerful marketing tool, so get those excellent reviews! Maintain a clean work environment, and people will respond on social media, recommending your business as a safe place to visit.
While the business handshake is globally widespread as a familiar business gesture, we need to remember that so is Covid-19. Now is the time to be patient with one another, make customers feel safe, work together as a community and safeguard businesses with robust technologies; because we’ve just been reminded that companies can change fast. Make sure you’re keeping up with those changes.
Guest blogger: Mary Webb