Ready to re-open your business? Looking for ways to return your profits back to pre-COVID levels?
Businesses all across the world are making changes – big and small – to ensure they continue to thrive. It’s important to understand new and emerging trends so you are not left behind.
Here are our five top tips for getting back to business as we adjust to the ‘new-normal’.
Tip 1 – A cleaner workplace
Customers have a new appreciation for hygiene and expect that all public premises – including your business – are cleaned regularly. When it’s time to physically re-open your doors to customers, you will need to invest in additional cleaning. Depending on the type of business you operate, this should include provision of hand sanitizer for customers and regular disinfecting of high-touch surfaces such as counters, door handles, chairs etc.
Mandatory cleaning protocols differ between countries, so always ensure you are following the advice of your local or state government. Most governments have cleaning checklists and management plans that are freely available for download online to make this easier for you and your employees to implement.
Tip 2 – Get online!
There has never been a better time to embrace new and emerging digital technologies. You will be surprised by how simple it can be to incorporate online business tools to reduce your operating costs and help your business grow – all without undermining good old-fashioned service and face-to-face interaction with customers.
Easy examples include introducing online applications for the scheduling of customer appointments. Appointment scheduling software can be used to schedule face-to-face appointments and virtual appointments, eliminating the need for a dedicated receptionist and freeing up your employees to do what they do best. Some appointment scheduling softwares, such as Scheduly, even offer virtual receptionist in combination with online scheduling. You just pay for the minutes you use resulting in massive savings in your overheads! This allows customers to book appointments over the phone if they prefer.
These types of online applications are very cost-effective and will help you reach a wider customer-base. They will also help to future–proof your business so that you can continue to operate in the event of future ‘lock-downs’ where you may be able to continue to provide online consultations.
Tip 3 – Review expenses
Many businesses have suffered huge losses during 2020 and some may never recover. As you get back to business in the post-COVID-19 era, it’s imperative to review all your business operating costs and identify areas where you can implement immediate cost savings to help offset losses and offset new costs like extra cleaning. Where possible, redefine the tasks of your existing staff to share responsibility of cleaning, rather than hiring dedicated cleaners.
This may include having a hard look at your biggest overheads (usually labour) and seeing if there are ways you can achieve the same or better results with fewer staff. What proportion of your team work to provide the core service your business offers, what proportion are in supporting roles? Can you use a virtual secretary instead of employing a receptionist full-time? Look to online administrative services, like Scheduly, to reduce your overheads and increase profits.
Tip 4 – Educate customers and employees
As the COVID-19 situation changes around the world, it’s important to educate employees and customers alike. While social distancing practices and other behaviours evolve, many people fear a ‘second wave’. Employees and customers will not stay loyal to your business if they consider that their personal health is compromised. This may be the case if your business does not have appropriate health and safety management plans in place or if your business relaxes their approach.
Ensure you are staying up to date with the latest government advice and keeping employees and customers informed. Maintain adequate signage for employees and customers and ensure that protocols are updated and consistent with the latest government advice. Keep written information as simple and clear as possible and change up your signage from time-to-time for greater impact. If you can, move the position of the signs on a regular basis to ensure they don’t fade into the background. Remind everyone that we all have an important role to play in stopping the spread.
Tip 5 – Slowly does it!
As demonstrated by countries like Australia where various states have successfully suppressed the virus and re-opened for business, it’s critical to take small steps when returning to business-as-usual. Your approach to re-opening your business should be the same. Rather than expecting everything to go straight back to how it was pre-COVID, look at ways to gradually ramp up. This will help you strike the right balance between supply of goods and services and customer demand.
This might mean offering only selected services for a period of time, avoiding certain services where there is a higher risk of community transmission or where social distancing cannot be practiced easily. Focus on what your business CAN still offer, rather than what you can’t. You may offer some services that are in higher demand due to COVID-19 – capitalize on this and make sure you have everything in place to cope with increased demand. Stop providing services that are less profitable.
Whatever you decide, make sure you keep customers informed of which services are off-limits for now, to save time and minimize queries. In most cases, people will be very understanding and keen to support your business.
Emma Sanchez is a freelance writer and small business owner based in Perth, Western Australia.