This is the third post of a 4-part blog series focused on what it takes to navigate out of this pandemic, and what it will take for retailers and restaurants to Emerge Stronger in a post-COVID-19 world. Click here to read up on the Agility needed to Emerge Stronger.
Much of the unease around COVID-19 comes from the unknown. We don’t know who has it. We don’t know how bad catching it could be. Unless they just took a test, no one can even be certain they’re not carrying it today. We do know that it’s transmitted through respiratory droplets, and we know there are safety measures that can be taken to limit the spread.
To make employees and customers comfortable walking into your shop or restaurant, it’s important to be very transparent about the measures you’re taking to ensure everyone’s safety. If you’ve done your agility planning, thought through how to ensure the health and well-being of your workforce, and instituted policies and procedures to ensure the safety of your customers, then this should be easy.
Set Employee Expectations
Before employees return to work, they should have a clear understanding of what the organization is doing to ensure their safety and what is expected of them when they walk in the door. Are they required to wear masks? Is the company supplying PPE, or is it a BYO policy? Have new hand sanitizer stations been installed? Are there new hand washing requirements or procedures?
Consider documenting and communicating these expectations through various channels to ensure all employees have been made aware prior to their first day back. This could include emails from corporate, posts on social media channels, or messages via communications platforms that are part of your existing workforce management solution.
Display Policies and Procedures
In addition to digital communications out to your workforce, consider printing signage or using monitors displayed in highly trafficked areas of the store or restaurant. This will reinforce the expectations and establish a culture of safety. This may include social distancing guidelines in break rooms, hand washing instructions, and direction on how to handle customer questions or concerns.
Policies and procedures should be clearly displayed to the public as well. Not only is it important that they know what your organization is doing to keep them safe, but they need to know what expectations you have on them. In this day and age, it’s perfectly appropriate to require employees and customers to wear masks into your business if you feel that would keep everyone safe.
The Texas Restaurant Association has developed The Texas Restaurant Promise, outlining the commitment their member restaurants make to the public, and the expectations on steps customers should take to keep restaurant employees safe. Consider taking inspiration from the measures they’ve taken, and display signage throughout your restaurant or store clearly displaying these expectations.
Develop a public communications strategy designed to inform customers of how you’re putting their safety first. This should include a mix of social media posts, email marketing communications and updates to your website. These messages should also set customer expectations regarding what is expected of them. If you’re requiring customers to wear masks, simply telling them in advance could mitigate some awkward conversations as they walk in the door. If you’re limiting the number of people in your store or restaurant, tell them in advance what that limit is, and that they may have to wait in a line to get in, particularly during high traffic times of the day. If you are offering curbside pickup or contactless delivery as an alternative, be sure to share details on how they can use these alternatives.
Employees are likely responsible for executing on tasks or procedures that are new to the organization. Be sure that they have the tools they need to help roll out the required changes consistently and accurately.
Once customers arrive at your business, it should be very clear that you intend to enforce policies among both customers and employees. This may include placing staff outside to manage lines, extra sanitation, and helping customers adhere to social distancing. Arm those responsible for executing on policies with clear messages and instructions to provide to customers. This may include hand-outs with local regulations printed out, or association policies, such as the Texas Restaurant Promise. Official-looking documentation will go a long way in minimizing push back from customers who may not be fully on-board with PPE or social distancing requirements.
Most importantly, ensure management is onboard and visible to customers, so that if a customer pushes back on requirements, management is willing and able to support the employee in their conversations with the customer if necessary.
Ensuring Safety for All
Clearly laying out expectations of both employees and customers from the start will go a long way in reassuring everyone that you’re placing the safety of people above all else. This will build confidence in your organization over the long-haul, and customers will have confidence in your ability to keep them safe, regardless of what is required by your city or state.
In the final post in this series, we’ll talk about how to manage your workforce and the flexibility needed to respond to the changing needs and desires of your workforce and your business.