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How to reopen and keep customer trust

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First impressions are key, and businesses should treat this time of reopening like a fresh introduction.

Reintroduce yourself to customers as a business that prioritizes health and safety. Whether that means expanding telecommunications, offering delivery, or enhancing our cleanliness standards, we have a responsibility to our customers to champion health and be transparent about any changes we make to operations.

Businesses that prove themselves trustworthy now will establish long-lasting customer relationships. Better Business Bureau® of Greater Maryland offers these tips for reopening with trust in mind.

Cleanliness and Social Distancing

When the coronavirus pandemic began, businesses of all kinds took to social media and email, pledging our dedication to health and safety.

Now that we’re getting back to business, it’s time to reaffirm the commitment we made three months ago. BBB has received numerous customer complaints about crowded stores.

To ensure customers are keeping a safe distance, limit the number of patrons to a fraction of your normal capacity. Keep hand sanitizer readily available, clean shared spaces frequently, and wear masks.

If you require customers to wear masks, consider setting some of your own stock aside for customers who don’t have one. If you have masks for customers, you’ll never have to turn someone away, and you’ll maintain those high standards of safety.

Businesses should also consider investing in branded face masks for employees. This simple act shows that you’re committed to keeping team members and customers healthy.

When you invest in safety, customers know they can trust your business.

Be Transparent about Changes

From restaurants to automotive mechanics, businesses of all kinds are facing unique challenges.

Prior to the coronavirus, most hair salons welcomed walk-ins. However, to adhere to social distancing, many salons and similar businesses must now require appointments.

In addition, customers can no longer bring unnecessary guests.

Whatever changes you make, advise customers as much as you are able in advance. Post on social media, send emails and, if possible, take the time to call customers and inform them of what they need to know in advance.

As you step up your cleaning protocols, invest in branded PPE, and limit the number of patrons permitted in your workplace at any given time, you may find cash flows into your business at a slower pace than before.

To afford these new expenses, you may need to increase prices or institute additional fees. Nobody enjoys increasing prices, and it’s necessary to consider how much you should charge to cover the costs of these new expenses.

Ensure any price changes you institute are a fair representation of your additional costs, and clearly communicate these price changes. Post signage, update all price listings, and talk with your customers about how and why you made these decisions.

Communicate Clearly and Often

Whether you’re limiting the number of people in your workspace or moving permanently to an appointment-only structure, communicating these operations changes clearly and quickly is a necessity.

Keep an open mind throughout the process and take time to assess how the changes are working.

Every business will respond differently to new regulations and expectations, so there is no one-size-fits-all plan.

Still, if you take time to evaluate your new protocols and commit yourself to learning and improving, your business will thrive.

Whatever your industry, we must continually reassess our procedures and make changes as needed.

Communicate, assess, and pivot–this is what businesses have been doing since the start of this turbulent time.

As long as we remain open to change and continue communicating with our customers, we will keep their trust and promote a healthy business community.

Angie Barnett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland.

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