By Lisbeth Calandrino
Businesses around the country are beginning to gradually reopen. The question now is, what’s the best way to welcome customers back in your store?
If you’re nervous and feel stressed, you’re not alone. Your customers will be watching your every move and looking at all your surfaces. Your customers are likely to be skeptical and even apprehensive, in some cases. However, you can score lots of points by doing it right. For many retailers, this is the perfect time to provide extraordinary customer service. There are a few things you can do to show your customer that you’re paying attention and that you care.
In this day and age, customer service is all about safety and cleanliness. It’s time to tear down the sign that reads, “Closed because the state said we have to” and replace it with a cheerful welcome message. If you are still closed, I would wash the windows and post a message saying, “We will see you soon!” It would be even better if you could stop by your store daily, clean up the outside, plant some flowers and put up a motivational quote on your sign. You want the customers to think you’ve been wait- ing for them.
Case in point: There is a nursery by my house that does a countdown until they open rather than a sign that says, ‘Closed until further notice.’ The closer it gets to the opening date, the more flowers or bright colors on the sign. It looks like they can’t wait for their customers.
While you’re waiting for the go-ahead from your local officials, think about ways to spruce up your business. How about giving your store a cleaning that your mother would be proud of. Perhaps a fresh coat of paint, at least in the bathroom. And when you do officially open, make sure you have plenty of paper towels, soap and hand sanitizer. However, I would go easy on the disinfectant; you don’t want the place to smell like bleach when customers walk in the front door. But you should disinfect your samples, get rid of the ripped ones and get some new racks if you need them. Clean up your desks and bring home your old boots left from the winter.
If business is good, continue what you’re doing—although, it could be more difficult with the new rules. If you have fewer customers and are afraid you can’t make it, consider closing. It might be a good time to try to get out of your lease, close for a few months or move altogether. For example, my friend who owns a restaurant decided she can’t turn a profit serving fewer customers, so she decided to close and focus on two other locations she runs.
Some dealers are learning to survive by becoming more creative. Some business owners I know are focusing on ways to be more “essential” to their customers in the event another shut- down is necessary. For instance, a friend of mine added some groceries, cleaning supplies and even toilet paper to become essential. Another friend added a cookie business, Cookie Therapy. Everyone is crazy about her cookies and they’ve gotten tremendous publicity.
Lastly, think of ways to connect with more of your customers virtually. Try using video technology to record your showroom, and try to get as much done over the phone as possible. Just look at what’s happening in other industries; auto dealerships are videoing the cars in their lots and not allowing customers to test drive or go in the showroom. My friend says it’s not hurting his sales because customers under- stand everything is being done for their safety—and yours, too.