While the full extent of COVID-19's global impact is yet unknown, it's a good idea to take precautionary measures to protect yourself, your employees and your business.
In light of this pandemic, it's important to stay updated on health guidelines from trusted organizations like the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Public Health Emergency. Ensure you're getting information from reliable sources to avoid spreading misinformation.
While hospitals and governments work to keep people healthy and safe, many businesses like yours are continuing to provide customers with what they need during this period.
Here’s a list of best practices you can consider to keep your business running smoothly—online and offline.
01. Keep Your Business Safe
Update your employees with the latest news, developments and health regulations. Provide this information in multiple languages to make sure everyone understands. Look out for common symptoms of the coronavirus like a dry cough, shortness of breath and/or fever. Create hygiene stations in the workplace and make sure your team is following protocol to keep everyone healthy. Encourage employees to work from home if they're not feeling well, or if they traveled recently.
02. Postpone Events, Services or Appointments
Be flexible with your scheduling. When possible, postpone your business offerings to a later date. If you offer customers membership plans or packages for your services, consider extending or waiving the expiration date.
03. Respond Quickly to Refunds
Avoid chargebacks by handling refunds as quickly as possible. Keep in mind, the refund process differs according to your payment provider. If you have to refund customers, give them a good reason to return to your business. Offer a coupon or discount for their next purchase as compensation. Moreover, show them you value their business and their patience.
04. Be Transparent
Communicate proactively. Encourage your customers to put their trust in you. If you have a modern site, here are some ways you can reach out to your customers and employees:
Live chat with customers using Chat or on a mobile app. Keep customers updated on your events, product inventory or services.
Use email marketing to let customers know about changes to your business or special offerings.
Create a forum and actively respond to questions and concerns from your community.
Write a blog article detailing what your business is doing to keep your customers safe.
Update your followers on social media with any relevant information.
05. Update Your Site
Keep your customers in the loop. Update your website and social media pages with any changes to your work hours, shipping delays or event/service cancelations. Add an FAQ section to your site to address customer concerns.
06. Modify Your Payment Options
Try to limit your transactions to contactless “tap” payments, or encourage customers to pay online using their phones. If using a POS system, disable on-screen signatures. You may even want to opt for online invoicing to digitize the payment process as much as possible.
07. Get Creative
Be prepared to think on your feet and work around issues as they arise. Consider innovative solutions and be flexible so you can ensure customers will return. There is no one-size-fits-all plan. Find solutions that are right for you and your business.
Postpone your event. Unfortunately, postponing your event may be the best way to ensure you keep everyone safe. Change the date on your event page to a later date or set it to TBD.
Cancel the event. If you cancel an event using online Events, an email will automatically be sent to your guests. You can edit this email with your own personal message. Just go to your dashboard and make sure these emails are set to active.
Offer refunds. Make sure to handle ticket refunds quickly. This is important to avoid chargebacks as well as maintain valuable relationships with your guests. If you created your event with another platform, read about how your refund will be processed. When you refund tickets that included a service fee, the service fee is fully refunded (to you or your guest) by the payment processor.
Add a refund policy. Reduce the risk of chargebacks by adding a refund policy to your "About Event" section. This will make event-goers feel more secure about how you're handling the situation.
Keep attendees updated. Things can change very quickly. Make sure event details on your website are current. Share precautionary measures you’re taking to keep everyone safe. Add travel updates based on where people are coming from. Let your guests know in advance about changes using the following tools:
Send them an email with links to relevant information.
Contact guests from the Members Area of your site.
Broadcast a message or create a post on your mobile app.
Add an FAQ section to respond to confusion.
Move your event online. Determine if your event can take place virtually. If so, add links to your event page. Consider the following options:
Create a live stream with Video.
Use Facebook Live, Instagram TV or Periscope to broadcast your event on social media.
Transform your event into a webinar.
Post guidelines and safety tips. Create clear safety guidelines for your event and share them with every attendee. Make sure these guidelines are consistent with your local health organization’s recommendations. Include reminders to wash hands, avoid unnecessary contact and touching of the face. Place these directives prominently on your event page and on signs at the event.
Provide hygiene stations. Set up stations where attendees can wash their hands. Include sanitation gel with your giveaway bags. You can even brand these items with your event logo.
Manage your inventory. Many localities in China and across the world are currently on lockdown. With this in mind, consider alternative ways to fulfill your orders. If your regular product supply is impacted by the current situation, let your customers know. You can source products with dropshipping suppliers, like Modalyst, to supplement your stock. Alternatively, you can use print on demand services like Printful or Printify to quickly create custom products. When sourcing or creating your own products, pivot toward items that can be useful to customers right now.
Update your timeframes. Because of how unprecedented this pandemic is, there are a lot of dynamic elements. To keep providing the best customer experience, make sure your policies are up to date. Let customers know from the outset that delivery may take longer than usual. Edit your store's shipping and delivery policies to reflect these changes.
Encourage online shopping. If you have a brick and mortar store, get your customers to shop online. Offer coupons and discounts to make that option more appealing.
SERVICES & APPOINTMENTS
It's becoming increasingly important to remain at home to avoid spreading the virus. In light of this, here are some recommendations for those in the service industry.
Go virtual. While there is nothing like in-person human interaction, consider offering virtual courses and consultations through video or live stream. Many meetings and classes can be moved online using tools like Google Hangouts, Skype and more.
Be flexible. Postpone your appointments or services and allow customers to do the same–especially if they don’t feel well or have traveled recently. Offer customers coupons and encourage them to reschedule to avoid unnecessary risks. Have your clients’ contact information up to date in case you need to reach out to them.
Double down on hygiene. Let clients know the steps you're taking to keep your business environment clean and safe. This is especially relevant to gyms, beauty and health/wellness businesses. Consider these safeguards:
Keep hand sanitizer, disposable wipes, soap and tissues on hand. Remind clients and staff to use them regularly.
Ensure everyone washes their hands (for at least 20 seconds).
Post reminders to avoid handshaking and touching your face.
If relevant, wear protective gear and change them between each client.
Add extra buffer time between appointments to thoroughly clean stations and disinfect all equipment used.
Modify your payment plans. Create payment options to accommodate clients during this time period. Update your pricing plans to promote online interactions, such as flexible appointment scheduling or video appointments. Offer special discounts to loyal customers.
Protect your staff. Keep staff up to date with the latest regulations from local health authorities. Make sure they wear gloves while handling check-ins, baggage and cleaning rooms. Teach your team to identify common symptoms of the virus and what to do next.
Be proactive about sanitation. The virus can live on some surfaces for up to 3 days. Consider these tips for keeping your guests and work environment safe:
Wipe down your front desk throughout the day using a cleaning solution with at least 70% alcohol.
Encourage guests to wash their hands. Visibly place hand sanitizer, soap and tissues in common areas.
Add a sanitation kit as part of your guest room amenities.
Routinely disinfect surfaces people touch, including elevator buttons, door knobs, room keys/cards, TV remotes, bed-side phones, light switches and more.
Use disinfectant when washing linens.
Avoid close contact between guests. Consider temporarily closing your hotel gym, pool and/or spa. Encourage customers to eat their meals in their room instead of gathering in your restaurant. Provide pre-made, ready-to-go breakfasts instead of a buffet selection.
Use disposable wear. Remove glassware from guest rooms and swap them out for disposable ones. Serve food on disposable plates—even better, make them recyclable.
Be quick to assist ill guests. Tell guests to notify the front desk if they're not feeling well, or experience any common symptoms of the virus. Assist them with staying in their room. Contact local health authorities and follow the protocol they provide. Ensure guests have emergency contact numbers for your country.
Encourage guests to self-quarantine. If needed, follow local health regulations and assist your guests with staying put. Offer room service and leave meals outside their room. Make sure your staff avoids contact with quarantined individuals. Once they check out, it's recommended to wait three days before cleaning.
Discount mindfully. Don’t be quick to discount your rooms and services. This can negatively impact your revenue. Instead, offer coupons and special packages. Be strategic, creative and thoughtful so guests feel safe and welcome.
Encourage online ordering. Provide customers with an easy option to order food online—pickup or delivery. Use special offers to make this option appealing. Reduce your delivery rate and offer deals for repeat customers.
Stock up on foreign ingredients. Delivery times may be delayed as the virus continues to spread. Make sure your store is well stocked with hard-to-get ingredients that can remain fresh long-term.
Create a new hygiene protocol. Train your employees to take extra precautions that keep your restaurant clean. Make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly and frequently. Scrub all food surfaces, tabletops and tableware between customers. Follow guidelines from your local health department. Avoid unnecessary physical contact.
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Original Publicher Mendy Shlomo @ E commerce blogger WIX