Around the globe, governments are rolling out detailed plans for the “new normal” of life during COVID-19. In British Columbia, our government has released a multi-phased plan for restarting our economy, with the onus on individual businesses to plot their path forward.
As businesses begin to consider their plan for safe operation, a key question must be answered: How can you demonstrate to customers it is safe to do business with you? According to the Retail Council of Canada, 85 per cent of consumers are going to need to see evidence of enhanced safety measures prior to resuming their normal shopping habits. Businesses must satisfy the dual goals of creating a safe environment for customers and staff, while detailing these plans publicly for consumers to see.
Since mid-March, consumers have become accustomed to social distancing while shopping, and enhanced safety features like plexiglass and personal protective equipment. Lean on these established methods when creating your own plan, considering the following key areas:
- Customer Screening & Requirements
- Social Distancing
- Checkout & Payment
- Enhanced Cleanliness
Let’s look at the individual ways businesses can create a safer environment for customers under each of these categories.
Customer Screening & Requirements
Managing access to your business for people who may be exposed to COVID-19 will dramatically decrease the risk of transmission on your premises. This goal can be achieved in several ways:
- Conduct temperature checks on customers
- Verbally triage customers on entry for risk factors (symptoms, exposure to COVID-19 patients etc.)
- Display signage asking customers to stay away if feeling unwell
- Provide hand sanitizer at entrances/exits
- Require customers to wear PPE (masks/gloves), as necessary
- Ensure vulnerable/elderly customers are given access to priority delivery slots, dedicated shopping hours, or other specific measures
Social Distancing Measures
Under the direction of Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, stores across British Columbia have already introduced broad social distancing measures (at least two metres between individuals). This allows for adequate space for customers to navigate and shop while avoiding close proximity to others. Consider the following points:
- Limit the capacity of your location to a number of customers that still allows for social distancing
- Use of drive-through or click & collect order pick-up to serve customers outside the store
- Implement de-centralized ordering systems (vs. one central hub)
- Change layout to limit customer & employee interactions (consider a one-way traffic flow)
- Signage in key areas to remind customers of social distancing
- Use of technology to enforce social distancing (cameras, public announcements on social media)
- Additional security staff dedicated to enforcing social distancing protocols
Checkout & Payment
The checkout and payment process is considered a high risk activity for the transmission of COVID-19. Businesses must put a plan in place to limit interaction during this process to a minimum. Here are some best practices to consider:
- Encourage payment methods that reduce risk of transmission (many businesses have gone cashless)
- Temporarily discourage re-usable bags and ask customers to pack their own products
- Close every second check-out/cash register
- Install plexiglass at point of sale
- Regularly sanitize keypads on point of sale devices
COVID-19 struggles to gain a foothold in areas that are regularly cleaned and disinfected. Consider over-investing in cleaning measures to ensure any potential virus exposure from surfaces is quickly eradicated. These measures should include:
- Frequent, scheduled cleaning and sanitization of high-touch areas and communal surfaces (doors, shopping carts, baskets etc.)
- Restrict opening hours to allow for deep cleaning at the end of each day
- Facility for customers to sanitize items like shopping carts themselves
- Communicate changes to customers to highlight changes
Communicating with Customers
During the COVID-19 pandemic, customers understand and expect business will take place differently than before. They will appreciate transparency from your business on the measures you are taking, as well as timely updates as you plot the best path forward. Consider the following best practices for communicating the enhanced safety measures, and other changes, you have put in place:
- Communicate your messages across multiple channels. This will ensure it’s widely received and reinforced with your customers
- Tweak your messaging – a pandemic in not necessarily the time to deliver the hard marketing sell
- Demonstrate clearly that customer health and safety is your number one priority. If customers respond with concerns, address them directly.
- Create and share an FAQ document outlining specific questions customers may have about your health and safety practices.
- Offer additional assistance to customers where appropriate
Find Out More
Small Business BC’s COVID Support Service is designed to act as a one-stop resource for businesses and individuals with questions regarding COVID-19 supports. Need help formulating your reopening plan? Find the latest updates and connect with an advisor over the phone.