customer paying employee with credit card while wearing masks
From establishing a concrete plan (with contingencies!) to embracing new technologies, there are several ways business owners can encourage customers to return post-pandemic. — Getty Images/filadendron

With the majority of states allowing businesses to reopen while COVID-19 concerns remain, business owners have a long list of things to do to make sure they can open safely while also convincing customers to come back. In the age of coronavirus, business owners should be constantly thinking about new ideas to win customers both new and old in this environment.

Here are five ways to get customers to come back to businesses that are reopening around the country.

Establish plans and contingencies

One of the most important things businesses should be doing as they reopen is creating plans and contingencies for whatever situation might arise. If you don’t have plans in place, it may be hard to interact with customers consistently and confidently.

Your business should be able to answer important questions, such as:

  • How can you serve customers safely and maintain social distancing?
  • How will you comply with all new protocols and regulations set by federal, state and local governments?
  • Do you have a plan for closing and cleaning if a customer or employee tests positive for COVID-19?
  • Will you require all customers and employees to wear masks? What happens if someone refuses to comply with your directives?
  • How will you convey messaging clearly to customers?

Once you can answer questions like these, then you will likely be ready to talk with customers and answer any question they could possibly ask. Having set plans and policies will give cautious customers more confidence to return.

Communicate reopening across multiple channels

While it may seem obvious, another incredibly important part of bringing customers back in is actually letting them know you are back in business. Once you have reopening plans in place, you should know what your operating hours and policies are, and that information should be put out in the world.

There are several channels from which you can tell customers that you are open and what your policies are, including email, social media, online platforms and your website. Be sure to also change your official business listings on services such as Google Maps, Yelp and Foursquare that let people know you are operating and what your current hours are. Both Google and Yelp have also added COVID-19-specific features to help communicate your policies.

While online tools will of course be vital for communication, don’t forget about your in-person presence as well. Signage on your door or your building should convey that you are open, what your current hours are, and important policies for customers. You can also display signage around your shop to remind customers of your expectations. And don’t forget to have someone available who can answer the phone when people call to ask questions.

Want to learn more about how to re-connect with customers post-pandemic? Watch this episode of our CO— Blueprint series on re-engaging with your customers.

Flexibility will be key to designing your new customer experience and rebuilding your relationship with customers.

Be flexible

While you might have thought all of your reopening plans are set, it’s possible that as your customers come back in you may want to make changes. Flexibility will be key to designing your new customer experience and rebuilding your relationship with customers. For example, if you set up an outdoor curbside pickup option but no customers are interested in using it, then perhaps scrap that and try something else in its place.

Keep in mind that your customer’s expectations, needs and priorities may have changed since they last visited and there may be ways to better meet your customers where they are mentally and emotionally. If customers come in and ask for a hand sanitizer station, see if it’s possible to deliver it.

Embrace new technologies

Part of getting customers back will also include using new technologies to interact with them. For example, to limit the number of people in workspaces, some businesses (such as a popular salon in Wisconsin) are using new online tools so customers can make appointments. Other businesses have adopted video chat sessions so they can accommodate people that aren’t comfortable with in-person interactions yet.

Set the right tone

No matter how you are communicating with customers, setting a kind and understanding tone is vital during this time. While it’s impossible to predict your customers’ attitudes generally, 2020 has been a particularly tough year for many Americans and it’s important to keep that in mind as your customers come back. Being polite and helpful with your customers can help rebuild loyalty.

Part of setting a compassionate tone can also shine through with your policies. For example, if you can set aside an hour a day for seniors and immunocompromised persons, it shows that you care about your customers’ health and wellbeing. You can also make sure your kindness is conveyed through your advertising and social media, as well.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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