The COVID-19 ‘lockdown’ is having a massive impact on businesses across the globe. Retail is a sectors that has been worst hit, with with many retailers closing stores and furloughing staff. For those that survive the lockdown, helping to keep their people and customers safe and well on re-opening must be the number one priority.
Staff are likely to return with mixed emotions – elation at the opportunity to get back to work (or at least away from home!), to earn money and rejoin their teams; yet at the same time nervous about what engaging with the public will mean for their health and that of their families.
Now, more than ever, the key to business success will be engaging them in vital messaging to help keep them and customers safe.
To add to the challenge, with large numbers of people from head office support functions furloughed, many retailers also now have limited resources to prepare at this critical time.
There are some key points to consider:
- Prepare for ‘safe service’ – embed any new safety restrictions and standard operating practices required to ensure everyone remains safe and healthy.
- When stores re-open there will be a requirement for new ways of working – many could be temporary, but some could be permanent.
- Social distancing will certainly be with us short term and possibly for a 12-18 months, this will almost certainly affect the way teams work with each other and with customers as they continue to serve and sell.
- Customers will also need reassuring that staff know how to keep them safe, that premises are safe and that there are established safety protocols.
The key to this is to, rehearse and practice – embed new ways of working so that teams are clear and comfortable on what is required.
Adapt the customer experience to the new working conditions so that they provide a warm and welcoming environment in which they can still sell to customers.
Social distancing does not mean staff cannot be warm and friendly towards customers. Help people to understand how they can provide a welcoming environment despite the restrictions and help them to sell effectively. It’s about helping employees understand how they can still provide a customer experience that says, ‘we care’ and ‘you are safe while you shop with us’
Help store management teams to be well prepared.
It will be critical that store management teams are enthusiastic and well prepared so they can engage their teams in creating their new working environment and doing what they do best, creating positive customer experiences in these unusual circumstances.