As your businesses re-opens and stays open during COVID-19 you will be adapting to new service models, delivery, and customer experiences in a changed economy.
Health, safety, and trust will be at the forefront for any type of business. You will also need to understand how your customers feel about your new ways of doing business in case you need to make changes and improvements.
Grocery stores and big box retail have remained open and many have implemented a number of changes such as using Xpress-pay. They provide guidelines and messaging that any businesses looking to re-open can implement and fast track. As a recent survey shows, grocery stores lead in consumer safety confidence with 54% of consumers feeling safe to shop. Small businesses should be looking to achieve the same high level of safety and trust as the leaders in consumer confidence.
Internally you are already working extremely hard to put together the best process and plan to execute on. But don’t forget that you need to market and message these changes to your customers and prospects and that you really need your customers to market these changes for you, as well.
Many consumers will be apprehensive during re-opening, so you need do all you can to build their confidence and trust in your business, staff and these new processes.
The bottom line is if you aren’t getting these new operating details right, your competitor might be and they will be aggressively fighting to win that business from you.
Health & Safety
Depending on your business type you might have small adjustments regarding your health and safety from COVID-19 or you might have massive changes. You have created new processes for cleaning, disinfecting, spacing, capacity, employee health checks, and possibly the requirement of a mask.
You need to be communicating them to your customers in as many ways as you can to build their confidence and set their expectations. The last and most important step is to make sure they actually feel safe thanks to your changes.
Asking your customer post-experience if they felt safe, if your staff followed guidelines you communicated and allowing them to share details about their experience are a must. You can market and message all you want, but you need your customer to validate it, feel it and tell others so as to gain the confidence of others.
Sample health and safety questions you might want to ask with a 0 to 10 rating scale are:
Q: Rate how well did our team follow our COVID-19 guidelines?
Q: Rate how you feel about our process for your health and safety?
Q: Rate your feeling on our social distancing guidelines and signage:
Getting this feedback internally will allow you to track how well your changes are being implemented, executed and received by your customers. Did you meet their expectations? Having the ability to make decisions and change quickly is needed to ensure your customers feel safe daily.
Making And Evaluating Changes
Whether you have stayed open during the pandemic or are now just re-opening, the way you conduct business has changed. It’s very likely that this event has fast-forwarded technology decisions you thought you’d make in the next decade into a matter of weeks. Online ordering, e-commerce, virtual customer experiences, and delivery/pick-up all were on your long-term radar but now have been deployed or soon to be.
Embarking on these new processes, tools and methods for the first time requires a quick feedback loop to ensure you are getting it right or can make changes on the fly to keep customers happy. You need to be asking your customers how you are performing and clearly messaging that you want to hear from them.
Some sample questions you might want to ask your customers with a 0-10 rating scale are:
Q: How would you rate the ease of our process?
Q: How would you rate the speed of our service?
Q: How would you rate your overall satisfaction?
Q: How likely are you to purchase again from us in the coming weeks?
These simple questions and the ability to capture 1st-party reviews will allow you to quickly assess your process and needed changes.
Here is a quick example survey using GatherUp and one of each of the above to help you capture Net Promoter Score, COVID-19 Guideline satisfaction, process evaluation and feedback (1st-party review) and then ask for a Google or Facebook review on the next step.
Messaging Your COVID-19 Guidelines
Our inboxes were filled with COVID-19 emails from CEO’s of brands we previously purchased from in the first month of the pandemic. Airlines, hotels, fast-casual restaurants, and retailers were quick to address changes in their business processes, cleaning and safety and wanted their customers to hear from them.
While this messaging has declined, the re-opening of the economy and especially small businesses requires a new push of messaging from your business.
As businesses re-open, consumers will be seeking out knowledge and confidence in your guidelines and processes before they visit or purchase from you. Making this information highly visible on your website, Google Posts, social media channels and Google search results are your best messaging opportunities.
Centralizing Your Coronavirus Guidelines On Your Website
Putting up a Covid-19 page seems like a must right now. Any type of business will benefit from centralizing this information to answer consumer questions, preparing them before they shop with you, and reinforcing your dedication to health and safety.
Again, bigger brands have led the way here. Publix and Target have dedicated sections of their website and use pop-up messaging on their site to drive users to this page.
Target has gone a step further and has also made the COVID-19 resources they created available to other businesses to establish their own safety tool kit.
Use your website and a dedicated page to keep customers informed, set the tone for your dedication to safety, and it as the best resource for your business. This page can help consumers coming from signage, social media, Google Posts, search results, and I will touch on these next.
Big box retail has stayed open this entire time and has led the way with many signage and way-winding elements for their customers.
Signage for occupancy, distancing, lines, aisle flow and checkout rules have all been put in place by leading retailers in order to guide safety for customers and employees.
Small businesses can take cues from this and utilize signage outside their business and inside their business. If you have a business with a line outside to limit capacity, messaging that you have a web page dedicated to all of your health and safety guidelines or the latest updates are on your social media channels will allow consumers to read up before their experience.
Social Media Has Many Benefits
During COVID-19 many have flocked to social media to stay connected with friends, family, co-workers, and local businesses. Facebook especially has reported large rises in their traffic. Using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep your customers informed, updated, and to stay top of mind is needed right now.
Using social media to spread your message on your new policies and how you are re-opening is crucial. Just like your signage, directing them to a page or blog post on your new guidelines, processes and other information during the Coronavirus is a great move.
Below is an example of Walgreens using their Twitter account to message their customers on health and safety measures for their stores.
On top of that, getting your customers to talk about how you are servicing them during this is even better. Here is a recent Google review for my local wine bar that a customer left clearly outlining that it’s been her best ordering and pick-up process to date. Being able to share content like this is fantastic as it’s your customer sharing how you exceeded their expectations.
Consistent posts and varied content on your social channels is a good idea right now. A combination of topics is a great approach and creating posts around these topics would be smart:
- COVID updates, visuals of your store, staff and guidelines being followed
- Marketing, sales, offers
- Quick how-tos on new processes, ordering online, by text, etc.
- Daily “look-ins” on the business, what’s happening, what’s new or different
- Supporting other local businesses in mentions or shares
Increasing your social posting and management at this time might have you seeking a tool to handle the increase of posting. Traject Social is a great option to consider for social media management to help you plan, post and report with efficiency and a broad tool set.
Leverage Google My Business Features
Google has been responding to the needs of small businesses by creating many different features in their Google My Business (GMB) offering. We covered these in our Local Search AMA webinar last month and you should be leveraging a number of GMB features right now.
The first is GMB adding a special COVID-19 Post type that appears higher in the GMB panel in your search results. While you can only use text and link out to a web page with this addition, it’s great visibility to get prospects and customers to your dedicated COVID page.
If you are a food, drink or restaurant business GMB added new attributes to easily showcase if you offer take-out, delivery, and dine-in. If you are re-opening your dine-in options, you will want to ensure this attribute is correctly checked.
The GMB Product feature can be utilized to showcase your online ordering capabilities as well.
Google also just announced this week the addition of another COVID-19 feature called “Support links” to allow customers to support a business (not a customer support link). With this feature, merchants will be able to add a donation link, gift card link or both to their profile. They can also share a personal message in their post to inform customers how funds will be put to use. These support links will be visible to consumers later this month.
Reviews Bolster Trust Like No Other
With most of the marketing and messaging mentioned above it’s you, as the business, controlling it. That leaves room for a consumer to doubt or expect a gap in what you will say you are doing and what is actually happening.
Enter reviews, the biggest way consumers can gain trust and confidence in your execution of everything you are saying.
Earning reviews from your customers as you re-open during COVID-19 that cite your adherence to policies, praise, consideration, and safety will be huge.
On the flip side of this, reviews that convey the opposite could be extremely damaging. The Google review below shows how a change in safety and how your staff executes on your guidelines can become a poor review.
Consumers are seeking information in every aspect related to the pandemic, so you better think about how they will research your business. Relying on updates and accounts from your current customers engaging with you will be a very trusted real-time source.
Change, Listen, Adjust In Re-opening
Tieing all of this together in successful and short cycles could be the key to making to the other side of this all. Making changes, listening, adjusting, messaging and ensuring safety will be on repeat in the coming weeks and months.
If you have all of the right elements in an agile process that can adapt, you are giving your business the best chance you can. Keep going and good luck.