Lockdown has had a huge impact on the UK economy, and many businesses have struggled to adapt and survive during this unpredictable time. For those that have made it this far, there is light at the end of the tunnel, as restrictions are being lifted and there are more options for businesses to open up again – in a new way.
But after the unpredictability of recent months, how can you bring your customers back in a way that is safe and welcoming? How can you protect both your business and the people who use it? If you’re a business owner struggling with these questions, we have some advice to get you started.
1. Check if your business can open
The first thing to establish is whether your business is eligible to open. The government has provided a full list, which is continuously updated with new guidance, but as a rule the following types of business are allowed to open:
- Retail stores
- Cafes, bars, restaurants and pubs
- Hotels, hostels, B&Bs and campsites
- Hairdressers, spas, salons and tattooists
- Cinemas, theatres and attractions
- Gyms, pools, dance studios and sports facilities
You should also ask yourself if it’s practical for your business to open given the restrictions you will have to put in place. Is it economical for you to open with, say, a limited number of customers allowed inside at one time? Will it be harder for you to remain closed if you can’t get financial support? Every business owner is facing plenty of tough decisions right now, and only you will know what’s best for you, your business and your staff.
2. Put safety measures in place
Of course, a major condition of reopening is that you put measures in place to make it as safe as possible for your staff and customers. Exactly what you do will depend on your business, but these are some of the most common precautions you can take:
- Limit the number of customers allowed inside your premises at once
- Require customers to wear face coverings indoors
- Have a separate entrance and exit
- Provide hand sanitiser at the entrance and exit
- Clearly label a ‘one-way’ system through your premises (e.g. arrows on the floor, 2 metre markers for queues)
- Give your staff protective equipment (e.g. masks, gloves, face shields, barriers at the tills)
- Ask your staff to socially distance as much as possible
- Train staff in handwashing techniques and make sure they wash their hands regularly
- Regularly clean surfaces, especially those that people touch frequently (e.g. door handles, shopping baskets, card machines)
3. Publicise your safety measures
Once you’ve put all your measures in place, you have to make sure that people understand them –and this ties in with welcoming your customers back and making them feel safe. Of course, you should put up signs in the windows of your premises, so people can see how your business is running and what they need to do when they come inside, but you should also publicise what you’re doing on your other platforms, e.g. your website and social media. This will allow people to check the rules before they arrive, and will also show that you’re taking the crisis seriously and that your concern for their safety is at the front of your mind. This is essential for building trust and for keeping your customers and staff as safe as possible.
4. Keep your lockdown alternatives going
You’ve likely come up with some ways to keep your business running during lockdown, when you couldn’t physically open your doors. Perhaps you offered online alternatives to an in-person service, extended delivery options or ran other lockdown-friendly campaigns. Now that you are able open up again, don’t simply close these other systems down, if you can help it. Remember, not everybody can come back, or wants to yet, and they may want to keep using whatever alternatives you’ve been offering.
5. Listen and be responsive
Reopening is a tricky business, so you need to be open to feedback from your customers and your staff. Make sure there are clear channels for them to contact you if they have a recommendation or a complaint, and listen to what they have to say. It’s unlikely that you’ll get everything right straight away – the crucial thing is to be open to feedback and to make things better if you do learn about a problem.
Do you need extra support running your business, now that things are opening up again? Get Ahead VA offers business and marketing services to help you find your feet after the recent disruption, including telephone answering, accounting and administration. To find out how we can help, get in touch today on 01483 332 230, or email [email protected]