Businesses and industries across the world are forming strategies on how best to reopen safely as lockdown looks set to ease a little over coming weeks, and we all move tentatively towards a phrase many in the media are terming our ‘new normal’.

The reality is, the ‘new normal’ is exactly the same as the old normal. It’s simply that Covid-19 poses some very real, and daunting immediate threats to businesses worldwide, which we must adapt and re-shape around to accommodate the world we now live in.

From considering new customer experiences and journeys to adapting marketing communications. Maintaining brand presence whilst altering capacity for orders / visitors. Increasing employee safety alongside a plethora of additional elements too long to cover in just one blog, businesses will have to re-write plans and strategies to cope with the current challenges the market brings.

Whilst the conditions pose a range of demanding challenges and very real threats, there are a number of things businesses can be proactively implementing that will help them overcome hurdles. Here also poses the opportunity to create a more positive environment on how to successfully adapt for and overcome this situation.

 

Put customer experience at the heart of what you do

Businesses across the world who value their reputation have invested untold effort and money in creating the ideal customer and brand experience. Whether that’s walking into a retail or leisure environment or being welcomed in an office reception, experience matters, and we mustn’t lose sight of that.

The kneejerk reaction is often to put measures in place that meet the immediate safety need, which can be unsightly and preventative of a truly positive experience. With a little extended thought and considered communications, customer experience can often be maintained, if not enhanced.

Reopening after lockdown will mean a true customer experience strategy will be required for each business, with many organisations already in the process of finalising theirs. This will need to consider communication to end-customers, outlining new guidelines and alleviating any safety concerns they may have.

Some simple suggestions here include email communications to all customers not only telling them that you’re open but including the range of measures in place to keep them safe whilst visiting. Support this with suitable signage, directional communications and sanitisation facilities when visiting, and you’ll be well on your way to maintaining a positive customer experience.

 

Build on your brand, and break down barriers

It’s absolutely paramount not to ignore the power and importance of brand in the current climate. The lockdown has seen drastic measures put in place to quite rightly protect staff and customers alike, but one of the major downfalls to doing this is losing sight of your brand and its core message, values and ethos.

With Perspex screens and similar measures being installed across the world, there now lies a very distinct barrier between customers, staff and ultimately your brand. With many other measures like hand sanitisation stations, barriers, social distancing floor stickers and the like being put in place, it would be easy to overlook the importance of the message these are projecting.

Ensuring your social distancing measures reflect your brand, tone of voice and culture is key, as done right, these will resonate and connect with your customers, meaning you will be remembered for doing social distancing well, rather than simply following the crowd.

 

Address fears and concerns head on, and reassure your customers

Consumers will understandably be worried about returning to many places outside of their home, whether that’s the office, the local shops, leisure centre, cinema or garden centre.

The reality is however, that their fears can be easily addressed by simply communicating effectively and reassuring customers that you’re a safe place to visit.

Consider your social distancing measures, and how you can make these seem less scary and more accessible. Once you’ve done that, communicate to all customers when you’ll be open, how your operation will change, and the measures you have in place to ensure their safety, and the safety of your team.

Also outline other ways of doing business with you, whether that be online, using delivery services, click and collect, appointment only or a more personalised service for B2B industries.

 

Control your flow, but make it a positive experience

Ikea have controlled the way users navigate their stores ensuring quality exposure to products, displays and departments for many years. Now, consumer facing businesses across the globe will need to do the same thing, with careful consideration again for customer experience.

Access will be paramount, with customers now likely to be entering or exiting a building in a different way to what they’re used to. Whilst there are critical functional aspects to consider, it’s also key to consider your messaging, potential upselling opportunities and locations where you’re likely to have a captive audience.

Say you’re a small retail store limiting customers coming in and out. You’re likely to have a captive audience outside, so consider the opportunities there to cross sell, entertain, and as mentioned above, start a positive customer experience a few steps earlier.

Many customers will feel lost, and a little wary when entering a space such as retail store, leisure centre or office space. Showcase your commitment to social distancing measures, whether that’s through signage, messaging and basic induction and guidance from staff will be key.

 

Take safety seriously

Communications doesn’t just play its part with customers; it plays a critical part with your employees too. Covid-19 has showcased some of the best, and worst-case scenarios of customer service delivered safely or unsafely.

Correct staff briefing and comms can ensure that customers experience the best, and most positive journey when visiting a store, office or facility.

A personal visit to a local Screwfix store was a great example of customer service done well.

There was clear guidance on where to queue, what information you were required to have with you and extremely clear guidance on directions to walk in. You could even get text updates on your click and collect orders knowing the best times to pick up.

Each team member practised social distancing whilst at work, with hand sanitisation taking place after dealing with each customer. And in this case, ensuring those customers waited more than 3 metres away from the counter, before distancing themselves thereafter to allow for collection in a safe, zoned environment.

Taking safety this seriously is a great part of any customer journey and should be followed by organisations who want their customers to have a safe, anxiety free experience.

It helps customers to feel safe shopping in that location by knowing that all the necessary precautions have been considered and implemented. Using this in your marketing is a valuable way of showcasing your responsible approach to operating in the current climate and will encourage customers to come more quickly, and revisit thereafter.

Done well, this can pose a great competitive advantage and help drive further sales both during and after Covid-19.

 

Adapt your offering

It’s interesting to see how businesses across the world have adapted during Covid-19. Many have either taken the decision to, or simply been forced to shut, but for those that haven’t, they’ve found unique and innovative ways to better reach their customer base thanks to the use of tech, and a quick and responsive strategy.

We’re seeing more businesses now taking their offering online, building out solid e-commerce offerings, dedicated groups through social media channels and webinars and knowledge shares for clients over video conferencing. These are as well as socially distanced delivery methods that only six months ago would have been unheard of.

The key to adapting your offering is understanding your customer base. By simply speaking to them and using some good old-fashioned market research, you can start to learn how they want to buy, and if they’re still willing to buy your product and service at this time.

With that information to hand and a decent digital marketing agency to develop your online presence, you’ll be well on your way to not only adapting your offering but adapting it in a way that is driven by your customer base, rather than your operational constraints, meaning it will be highly relevant and successful.

 

Things won’t be like this forever

A comment I hear regularly from many people within the business community is ‘things will never be the same again’. Whilst it might feel that way at present, the reality is that at some point, maybe 12 months from now, maybe a little longer, things will start to return to normal.

Businesses and consumers alike have a pent-up demand to go out there and trade or buy, experience everything they loved before Covid struck, and we’ll simply adapt and get back to it when the time is right.

There’s no doubt that there are short term challenges, and those challenges will sadly mark the end of many excellent businesses. Butt consumers will still want to buy. Businesses will still want to trade. And markets will lift again as they have done after other recessions and key moments in history.

By keeping in touch and engaged with customers now, will undoubtedly ensure brands not only survive the pandemic and the recession that’s likely to follow, but also thrive when normality resumes.

 

Check out our range of Covid-19 products designed to make re-opening your business a positive and safe experience for all.

 

Get in touch to see how we can help your business or organisation.

 

 

 

 

By David Wadsworth, Managing Director.

Cornerstone DM