5 things businesses can do to make employees & customers more comfortable during COVID-19

Many businesses around Nova Scotia opened Friday, June 5. This is great news for the economy, but the reality is the new normal can be uncomfortable for employees and customers, creating a stressful, uneasy atmosphere. And with good reason.

Research shows customers are likely to feel a mix of emotions:

  • Fear they would unknowingly get the virus.
  • Uncertainty about how to enter a business and interact safely with staff inside.
  • Anger that their favourite businesses have changed, and they have to wait in line to get their favourite product or service.
  • Sadness that their everyday rituals are gone and going out is no longer fun.
  • Vulnerability that the new COVID-19 normal is out of their control and they may be losing their familiar way of life.

Employees might be relieved to be working again, but many could also be worried about catching the virus, as well as how they will address potentially unsafe situations or deal with customers who won’t follow the public safety rules.

These concerns combine to create ambivalence as employees and customers try to engage with the next normal. They hesitate and, in many cases, decide it’s easier to do nothing at all.

There are five things small business owners can do to make their employees and customers feel more comfortable.

  1. Address the loss of tradition and predictability. For employees and customers, COVID-19 took away the sense of normalcy that comes with everyday rituals. Focus communication and customer experience on what is controllable and positive.
  2. Invite input from employees and customers about their concerns. Ask these key questions: What are your concerns about being here? What can I do to make things safer?
    What do I need to know about you that could help me work with and serve you better?Brainstorm specific steps to improve and implement the suggestions that make sense. If employees and customers are involved in the changes, they will feel more comfortable.
  3. Customize the new experience. Do what you can to recreate the look and feel customers expect from your business. Do whatever it takes to make people feel like they’re in a familiar, trusted environment.
  4. Communicate clearly and often about new safety expectations at all levels. Signage is a start, but it will only work if employees know what is expected and their role in making it work. Consider the flow of your environment and find way to prompt employees and customers in the right way to help them successfully follow safety requirements.
  5. Make it visible. Signage is one visual cue, but there are other things businesses can do to make employees and customers more comfortable. Regular and visible sanitizing of surfaces and tools, wearing PPE consistently, offering masks, gloves and hand sanitizer for customer use.

We can help make the COVID-19 safety transition easier for staff and customers, to make sure processes run more smoothly and encourage a better customer experience.