In the last several weeks, many US states and other countries around the world have started re-opening parts of their economies.
In some cases, like New Zealand and South Korea, the coronavirus has been virtually vanquished. In others, like Spain and Italy, the curve has flattened enough that officials believe it’s safe enough to resume many activities. In the United States, both the status of the pandemic and the dates for re-opening of various sectors differ from state-to-state or region-to-region.
After months of lockdown, many people are going stir-crazy. They want to get out and resume their normal lives. Some are taking the advice of public health officials to wear masks and continue social distancing. Others are throwing caution to the wind.
As a result, there are two parallel situations developing. First, there are people who are ready and anxious to jump into their old activities–regardless of whether or not they’re safe. On the other hand, there are people who will be reticent to resume even those activities that are now considered appropriate, because they are concerned about continued spread of the virus.
The virus has not magically disappeared, and it’s likely we will see significant upticks in infection over the next several months as more and more “normal” activities resume. The more businesses can take appropriate safety and hygiene measures, the smaller that rise may be.
But just as important as new cleaning and service protocols is making customers feel comfortable. All the processes and procedures in the world won’t make a difference if a customer perceives they are at risk and becomes afraid to proceed.
It’s important to communicate frequently and share plans as they develop. It’s also important to accept the fact that a segment of your customers may not be ready for business as usual for a long time. Keep developing and improving alternative means to support your customers: remote meetings and events, no-cost home delivery, take out and curbside pickup for all manner of retail products–not just restaurants.
The door to a more normal environment is opening just a crack. We need to be careful with how we handle this opportunity, or we may quickly see it slam in our face.
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