Last Updated: April 7, 2021
Has your business been closed since March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, unable to serve your customers?
Have you been working remotely and providing customer support via phone, email, and video chat in an effort to protect your employees and your customers?
Has Zoom become a verb?
Are you now providing your goods and services online?
Needless to say, because of the novel coronavirus, businesses and how we interact with customers is changing. And it is changing from day to day.
New guidance from state, county, and local governments on how to operate your business during the pandemic comes out on what seems like a daily basis.
This creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Are you opening your doors? Are you providing contact-less service? Outdoor dining? Masking? Social Distancing?
Not only do you feel it, your customer feels it too.
As a business owner, not only do you need to adapt to the operating environment and let your customers know how to connect with you and your business.
You need to remove the uncertainty from the business equation. There should be no confusion about the goods and services that you offer and your business availability. Make sure that it easy and enjoyable for your customers to find you and to work with you.
Whether you are a restaurant, law office, shoe store, or even a website design business like mine, you need to get your business ready for “re-opening.”
Getting ready to “re-open” your business
Be sure that you comply with the rules and regulations regarding business re-opening requirements for your specific business. Re-opening requirements vary widely from business to business. So be sure you are following the correct guidelines.
It is important to note that re-opening requirements vary by state, county, and city. The rules that apply to a neighboring city or community may not apply to your community or your business.
There are also rules which are specific to various industries. A good example here are dentists. Not only do they need to understand the guidance from local governments, the also need to understand the rules as specified by various governing/accreditation bodies. So be sure to double-check all sources and understand everything.
For Yolo county information, you can visit the COVID-19 Dashboard. https://www.yolocounty.org/health-human-services/adults/communicable-disease-investigation-and-control/novel-coronavirus-2019/dashboard-and-documents
For the City of Davis, you can visit their website at https://www.cityofdavis.org/city-hall/emergency-information/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-information
The Davis Chamber of Commerce has a Facebook group you can join where you can access additional information. https://www.facebook.com/groups/DCOC.LocalBusiness.CommunitySupport.COVID19/
Healthy Davis Together
Another great resource is Healthy Davis Together.
Healthy Davis Together is a joint project between the City of Davis and UC Davis. Their goal is to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 through testing and outreach. The overarching goal is the gradual return to business within our community.
Here are some of their areas of focus.
- Frequent sharing of important information
- Increased COVID-19 screening
- Access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Community-supported quarantine and isolation services
- Local business incentives
- and more…
Healthy Davis Together brings together epidemiology and health promotion both in the city and on campus. We are optimistic that the combined efforts of the City of Davis, UC Davis, and each one of us will make a difference in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our town. Together, we can keep the Davis community healthy.
Prepare your business
Once you understand the rules related to COVID-19 prevention and safety, you can start preparing your business to re-open. This may be a lot of work for you. In fact, it is difficult and expensive for businesses of most any size. Requirements may range from signage, personal protection equipment, and social distancing, to plexiglass barriers, floor markers, and new outdoor patios. Some prevention techniques are easy to implement, others are not so.
Direct link to COVID-19 business sign.
Work with your local and industry related health officials so can create a safe operational environment for your staff and your customers.
Update your website
This is tremendously important!
Make sure you update the messages on your website. With the COVID-19 safety levels moving from tier to tier, it is imperative that your business information is updated on an almost daily basis. Everything is in flux. Your customers are searching for information about your business. There are hundreds of questions that will be asked.
- Are you open?
- Can they come to your place of business?
- What is on the menu?
- Do I need an appointment or reservation?
The list goes on and you need to have the answers.
The information about your business operations needs to be up-to-date and readily available.
Open for business
If your website says you are “closed,” your customer may wait to visit your business or, the more likely option, find another business to patronize. Remember, these people have been sheltering in place for months and dealing with changing information, changing rules, and changing businesses. They are eager to get out and experience your community. If you they think that you are not open, you may have lost a customer…FOREVER.
Confirm your hours of operation. This is probably one of the most common, or at least the first, question to be asked. Are you open and what are your hours? If you are not open, your potential customer may feel that there is no reason to continue.
Goods and services
Operating under re-opening rules may directly affect the goods and/or services that you offer. Some places of business may only take emergencies. A good example of this scenario are dentists. Regular appointments may be hard to come by, but emergencies for broken teeth or root canals may be scheduled. Restaurants may only provide curb-side pickup.
Change in offerings
Your restaurant may have a limited menu or a frequently changing menu. The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic has disrupted global supply chains making some goods difficult to obtain and prices to fluctuate. You may want to let your customers know what is available, how much it will cost, and that the menu may change without notice.
Are you operating by appointments or reservations only? Since businesses need to manage the number of people entering their place of business to ensure proper social distancing, you may need to schedule customer visits. Your restaurant may be using OpenTable to manage onsite customers. Law offices may see clients by appointment only. Limiting the number of people and enabling social distancing is part of the process.
There will be special requirements for the customers who want to visit your business. They will need to know. Will they be required to wear masks? Are they required to stay on specific sides of barriers? Do they text you when they pull up to your business and you will bring their order to their car? Do you have specific entry and exit points to reduce cross traffic? Will you be taking their temperature? Having these operational protocols available for review will help reduce the apprehension that your customers may be feeling as they visit your business and come in contact with other people.
Check your social media channels
Be sure that all of your social media channels have current information. The information on your website should match what is found on social media. Discrepancies in information can cause customer confusion and reduce the chances that they may visit your business.
Social media can be used to post business updates. If you do start posting, find a schedule that works for you; daily, twice-a-day, every hour. Posting needs will vary from business to business.
Your customers may want to know what is happening. If appropriate, share your “return to normal” success stories. Perhaps you can share how you are taking steps in protecting them during their visit. It is important to share the right information, so do your homework.
Post frequently on your channels. If there have not been any posts for the past year, people may assume you are out of business. Tell your story. Let your greatest fans that you are open and ready to help.
Here are some of the more prominent social media platforms to consider and update:
Update online ordering services to update
This is by no means a comprehensive list of social media resources and restaurant online ordering systems. Double-check the platforms you use and make sure the information is current.
Update your Google My Business listing
Your business listing on Google My Business (GMB) listing is an extremely important and prominent component of the search engine results page.
If you search for your business by name on Google and you have a GMB listing, your GMB listing should be displayed. If the information is incorrect, much like incorrect information on your website, you have the potential to lose a customer.
During this epidemic, many businesses were marked “temporarily closed” in the Google directory. This could be the case for your business. You may be open for take-out only or even dine-in service. You may be scheduling appointments with clients. But if your GMB listing is not updated, your customers won’t know that and just might go elsewhere. Many businesses are struggling right now; especially those in the service industries. Can you afford to lose a sale?
Not all businesses manage their GMB listings or even know what a GMB listing is. If you need more information or assistance claiming and updating your GMB listing, Abaton Consulting can help.
Spread the word
Let your customers know you are open for business. How you ask? Tell them. Share your message across all of your communication channels. Make sure your customers have every opportunity to hear your message and that you are open for business.
With the way things are today, unlocking your front door and turning out the “open” sign just won’t do the trick. You are not going to get many “walk-ins.” Be sure your message is correct, online, and available.
Hopefully, over the years, you have been building your email list. Now is the time to put that email marketing platform to action. Send your customers occasional reminders about when and how you are open for business and that you would love to see them. Let them know about changes to business operations, changes to offerings, and availability. Let them know you are weathering the storm and it would be great if they could come by and patronize your business.
It has not been easy for you or for them. So be sure to thank them for their continued support.
Social media posts
Hopefully during the lock-down, you have been using social media to connect with your online community. While everyone was at home, they were online; looking for things to do. Your activities during this time could help maintain those relationships.
If you weren’t the best at maintaining your social connections, now is the time to get started. Start posting information about your business
Adding posts and COVID-19 updates to your Google My Business management consoleis an important part of online outreach. Posts and updates to your GMB listing is prominently displayed on search engine result pages. Customers can use that information to learn more about your business .
Your business will evolve
Business agility is essential as the re-opening situation continues to evolve. You and your business need to be able to quickly change and adapt to new rules and regulations. More importantly, you need to be able to communicate your business changes to your customer so they have the confidence they need to support your business.
Your business will evolve over time. Understand that. Be flexible and be prepared for change.
Know the rules, prepare your business, and communicate with your customers.
Most importantly, stay safe and keep you and your customers healthy.
Featured Image by Richard Balog on Unsplash
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