Most of the country has been under stay-at-home orders for months now, and there are many differing opinions on whether or not it’s safe to reopen the economy. While some business owners are eager to get back to work and open up shop, others are hesitant to reopen too soon – and many consumers find themselves in the same boat. Some are ready to get out, while others will remain self-quarantined for a bit longer.
What should your business do? As the gradual reopening of the American economy moves forward, the success of a businesses’ reopening strategy will be dependent upon how well it adapts to the world around it and considers the essential needs of others.
“The best thing a business can do right now is to listen. Listen to the government, to their staff, and to their consumers,” says Meredith Conte, Vice President, Consumer & Ad Sales Marketing for TEGNA. Once you listen to your stakeholders, you’ll have a better time answering the following questions.
1. Can We Reopen for Business?
The answer to this question varies on a state-by-state basis. States like Georgia have already allowed certain businesses to reopen, while other states are still on stay-at-home orders for the near term.
However, the CDC has issued specific guidelines for reopening, which a business must adhere to. Here is the checklist of things that will need to be done before you can reopen, directly from the CDC:
Should you consider opening?
- Is the workplace in a community no longer requiring significant mitigation?
- Will reopening be in compliance with state and local orders?
- Will you be ready to protect employees at higher risk for severe illness?
If a business answers no to any of these questions, they are not ready to reopen. However, If all of these questions are answered yes to, you can proceed to the next phase.
Are recommended safety actions in place?
- Promote healthy hygiene such as hand washing, wearing a cloth face covering
- Intensify cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation
- Ensure social distancing such as installing physical barriers, changing the layout of workspaces, encouraging telework, closing communal spaces, staggering shifts and breaks, and no large events
- Limit travel and modify commuting practices
- Train all staff on safety actions
Similar to the previous set of requirements, If you answered no to any of these questions, you’ll need to install these safeguards in order to proceed. Likewise, If all of these questions can be answered affirmatively, you are clear to proceed to the next phase.
Is ongoing monitoring in place?
- Check for signs and symptoms of employees
- Encourage employees who are sick to stay home
- Plan for when an employee gets sick
- Regularly communicate with local authorities and employees
- Monitor staff absences and have flexible leave policies and practices
- Be ready to close if there are increased cases
If you answered no to any of these questions, you’ll need to install these safeguards in order to proceed. If you answered yes to all of these questions, you can open, as long as you keep monitoring the situation.
2. Should We Open For Business?
While the government says you can reopen for business, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should open your doors back up as soon as you can. In fact, many businesses in Georgia refused to open after their stay-at-home orders were lifted, citing that it’s just too soon – and some consumers feel the same way.
“Even though areas around them are opening up, there are consumers that will stay at home for their own personal safety, fearful that going out may expose them and anyone they reside with to the virus. For others, they will feel that reopening represents freedom they haven’t had in months,” says Conte.
Again, the most important thing a business can do in this situation is to listen to its employees, its customers, and government guidelines, and act appropriately. Once COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror, your customers will remember you for your actions, as well as your inactions, whether they be good or bad.
3. What Should our New Marketing & Communication Strategy Look Like?
No matter what your business decides to do – stay open or remain closed – it’s essential that you communicate what you intend to do. If reopening your business means you now have to set appointments, deliver your products, change your operating hours, or if you have to require patrons to wear PPE such as masks, how will you communicate this to your customers? No matter what the changes are, you’ll need to put some serious thought into your new messaging and how to deliver it.
“Consumers want transparency, they want to know what you’re planning to do, when you’re going to do it and how you’re going to achieve it,” says Conte. “Similarly, if other businesses in the area have decided to reopen and your business has not decided to open, that is an important message as well.”
If you’re remaining closed, or opening for business, be sure to communicate often, and with assurance and clarity, ahead of and during the reopening.
4. How Do We Accommodate Returning Customers?
If you are opening, the number one priority is to make sure that your customers (and your employees too) feel heard, and feel safe. Ask your stakeholders questions like:
- How are you and your family doing?
- What has your quarantine experience been like?
- How can I best help you?
- What’s most important to you as I think about reopening?
Asking these questions and listening to their answers will unveil how your business can best fit in their lives moving forward.
“If they tell you safety is their #1 concern, then really make sure you deploy enough cleaning, disinfecting, and safety practices in your operation such that the consumer will feel confident to give you their business,” says Conte. “And make sure your safety practices are prominent when you market your reopening to your customer base.”
5. What Else Should We Be Prepared For?
“Reopening seems like it will be a very fluid experience, full of trial and error,” says Conte. “On the one hand, we could see a situation where reopening goes smoothly, residents adhere to local restrictions and life eventually resumes a level of normalcy. On the other hand, we might see places that reopen aggressively, see a second wave, and then resume intense restrictions again,” says Conte.
Therefore, It’s best to plan for anything and everything that could happen. Have a plan for if your employees get sick, have a plan for how to communicate that sickness appropriately. You’ll need a plan for closing if a second wave of the virus hits, and you’ll need a plan on how to handle patrons who refuse to adhere to new guidelines, such as refusing to wear masks. The more you plan for, the better off your business will be able to adapt to whatever the new normal may be.