From food delivery services on the ground to sky-high hot air balloon operators, small business owners are dedicated to providing customer experiences that emphasize safety and elevated service. Pre-COVID, safety was a given and excellent service was a plus. Today, they just may be the keys to sustaining business during and after the pandemic. Here, five business owners discuss how they are redefining customer service for the communities they serve.

 hot air balloons from world balloon in new mexico
Balloon flights are now upgraded with abundant safety measures at Albuquerque, New Mexico-based World Balloon. — World Balloon

Grace Fear, marketing and communications coordinator, World Balloon

Who we are: A provider of hot air balloon adventures over Albuquerque, New Mexico.

During the pandemic, we have had to adjust most of our safety guidelines. We’ve also had to make sure that each customer is understanding of our new procedures and is willing and prepared to participate in them in advance, through safety-related emails and discussions.

We have also increased sanitation to include everything customers could come into contact with and decreased capacity to allow more space in the basket for customers to spread out.

In our partitioned baskets, we have installed vinyl curtains between each passenger compartment to ensure that contact between separate parties is limited.

We've also been utilizing more crew for each flight so that customers can safely distance themselves during the after-flight procedures. With more crew, we are also able to have more communication with guests during the inflation and deflation periods, as customers are usually curious about the processes. Follow World Balloon on Facebook: @WorldBalloonAbq.

 interior of nashville, TN-based Vandyke Bed & Beverage
High-concept spaces for socializing and a good night’s rest abound at Nashville’s Vandyke Bed & Beverage. — Vandyke Bed & Beverage

Tinsley Anne Dempsey, general manager, Vandyke Bed & Beverage

Who we are: A unique and immersive beverage-themed boutique hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.

Customer service in the time of COVID hasn't changed much for us at Vandyke Bed & Beverage. We still offer elevated and intuitive service for our guests even though we may have masks on our faces.

Vandyke is a non-traditional boutique hotel and offers contactless check-in for the safety of our guests, but we infuse a "smile" into every communication starting before arrival and following checkout. We also direct staff to always be gracious and accommodating with every request.

I believe the simple act of being friendly goes a long way, especially during uncertain times. The lobby bar and courtyard spaces were made to be an immersive experience, so setting the tone for that welcoming environment is crucial for the vibe of the property. Follow Vandyke Bed & Beverage on Instagram: @VanDykeNashville & Facebook: @VandykeBedAndBeverage.

 the team of indiana-based Thyme in the Kitchen
The Thyme In The Kitchen team providing safe shopping and cooking experiences. — Thyme in the Kitchen

Marcia Jochem, owner, Thyme in the Kitchen

Who we are: A gourmet kitchen supply store based in Evansville, Indiana, that features cooking essentials, classes and more.

Throughout the pandemic, customers have been choosing our store for its cleanliness as well as knowledgeable, efficient and friendly service. Customers are eating at home more and need help finding cookware, knives and kitchen gadgets to make life easier for them and their family. Our staff encourages them to find ways to make cooking a fun family affair. We also give tips on how to cook for one or two people, as many in that group miss eating at restaurants.

To adhere to social distancing regulations, we placed a long table in front of our checkout counter. We also started placing price tags on front of our product to reduce the number of touches needed to make a purchase.

The number of cooking class participants has decreased from 18 to 10 mask-wearing customers and the chef. Sample Saturdays have been eliminated but we were able to hold our annual Fall Open House, which featured a separate, clearly marked sample area as well as individual take-home treat bags.

Customers are anxious to start Christmas shopping and we plan to start our displays earlier than other years. We continue to offer curbside pickup, private shopping appointments and any other ways to make shopping with us safe, convenient and fun! Follow Thyme in the Kitchen on Instagram: @Kitchen_Thyme; Facebook: @ThymeintheKitchen; & Twitter: @KitchenThyme.

 Arunima Dasgupta and Michael Meehan of Dosa Love
Arunima Dasgupta and Michael Meehan, owners of Vermont-based food cart and catering business, Dosa Love. — Dosa Love

Arunmina Dasgupta & Michael Meehan, partners, Dosa Love

Who we are: A food cart and catering company specializing in Indian eats & sweets, based out of Essex Junction, Vermont.

Dosa Love started as a food cart business where our mission was to bring unique South Indian street food to fairs, food trucks, farmer’s markets and outdoor events to give people a taste of India on the streets of New England.

When COVID hit, we had to shut down. Instead of waiting for the pandemic to be over, though, we came up with an alternate plan: We moved to an online delivery model where we started preparing hot meals that could be delivered right to our customers’ doors.

Our business strongly believes in the environment, so we worked with vendors to ensure we were plastic-free. And, to keep the model simple and effective, we have unique but limited items on the menu.

Our goal remains the same: to ensure home-cooked-style meals freshly prepared and delivered hot to our customers’ doorsteps. When the pandemic is over, we plan to continue the catering business along with our cart to serve our variety of hot dosas and chutneys that make customers want to come back for more. Follow Dosa Love on Facebook: @DosaLoveVT; Instagram: @DosaLoveVT; & Twitter: @DosaLoveVT.

 exterior of cropwell pharmacy in marlton, NJ
Marlton, New Jersey-based Cropwell Pharmacy began offering curbside pickup in addition to its free delivery services as a result of the pandemic. — Cropwell Pharmacy

Jarrod Kelly, pharmacist-in-charge, Cropwell Pharmacy

Who we are: A medical supply store based in Marlton, New Jersey.

Cropwell Pharmacy is a family owned business which was started in August of 1985. Our primary focus is and has always been personal customer service. When a customer walks through our doors, we treat them like family, knowing most of them by name. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, some of that personalization has had to change.

When the pandemic first hit, we had to limit in-person interactions and completely closed our front-end card and gift section. We reduced our store hours and customers were encouraged to get their prescriptions via delivery. While we have always offered free delivery, the pandemic has certainly increased that avenue for our patients.

To prepare for reopening the entire store, we installed a HEPA filter, glass partitions, and hand sanitizer stations throughout the store. We continue to offer curbside pickup and delivery, which many of our customers continue to utilize. While this pandemic has certainly altered our personal service, we continue to strive to make our customers happy. Follow Cropwell Pharmacy on Facebook: @CropwellPharmacy.

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