COVID-19 and business hours: keeping Canadian customers informed
Since the onset of COVID-19 in early 2020, business owners have been doing their best to navigate new challenges. Many are faced with a harsh reality: being unable to afford a long-term closure while at the same time sincerely wanting to protect the health and well-being of employees, customers and suppliers. As a result, business hours seem to be in a constant state of flux.
And furthermore, how can you minimize health risks during an ongoing pandemic? What are the best practices to follow?
We’ll be answering these questions in just a moment.
But first, it’s important for business owners to be aware of a few precautionary measures they should take before making any decisions related to coronavirus and returning to work.
Related: Dining out – the new rules for Canadian restaurants
1. Establish a team
Making the decision to open your business during COVID-19 is a significant decision. You’ll need to have a team in place to take responsibility for:
- Analyzing your current situation
- Understanding applicable medical guidelines
- Keeping an eye on operational safety
Determine how this leadership team will communicate with one another. Consider hiring a health/safety consultant if you do not have employees who can fill the roles.
2. Identify information resources
It is important to ensure you are gathering information from credible sources. It’s also critical to communicate your approved sources to your team members so everyone can be on the same page and act based on the most up-to-date details.
Provincial government and federal sites , the World Health Organization and public health agencies are all excellent sources of reliable information.
3. Prioritize training
When you return to work and resume part or full-time business hours, you’ll need a unified team to uphold safe operating practices. Before opening your business to the public, take the time to adequately train your team members about:
- Social distancing
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Self-isolation guidelines
After you’ve completed the precautionary steps above, you’ll want to begin updating your customers about your business hours, any changes to your service delivery, and the safety measures you’ll be implementing to protect their health.
A few tips for communicating with customers:
Be consistent when posting COVID-19 business hours
Update all of your online profiles and accounts. This includes:
- Google My Business
- The Yellow Pages
- The Better Business Bureau
- Your company website
It’s also advisable to post your new business hours near the entrance of your office/store/location and to add them to your email signature.
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Promote your reopening in advance
Below are a few ideas that can help you generate buzz and increase revenue as you reopen:
- Post your reopening date on an outdoor sign or banner.
- Send out an email to your customers with your reopening date and any specials/promotions they should be aware of.
- Add a banner to the top of your website home page where visitors can’t miss it.
- Create an eye-catching “Opening Soon!” graphic for your social media accounts.
Reach out to a few local social media influencers and invite them to your opening celebration. Offer them a free item, a discount or flat fee to post an “I can’t wait to attend” picture to their accounts and tag your business.
Use your best judgement
Every business is unique. What works for one venture may not work for another— which is why it can be difficult to come up with one-size-fits-all business guidelines for COVID-19.
You’ll need to exercise your own discretion as a business owner at times and follow your instincts.
For example, even though placing a plastic divider between cashiers and customers may not be mandatory as per government guidelines, you may want to invest in these protection methods to minimize risk.
You may also want to limit the number of people in your business at any given time.
These decisions are yours to make. But it’s well worth remembering that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Ultimately, there is no “perfect plan” when it comes to coronavirus and returning to work. We must continually adapt and assess our strategies over time.
If you are uncertain about specific business guidelines for COVID-19 or if you have questions related to reopening, it’s best to contact your municipal government or local health authority.
As a general rule of thumb, transparency is always best. Update your customers as soon as you have new business hours. Be honest if you do not know the answer to a customer inquiry. And be upfront about the measures you are taking to ensure everyone’s best interests.