This is the time of year when you start to be inundated with ads for remedies for everything from the sniffles to stomach viruses. As the temperatures fall, cases of colds and flu inevitably rise. This year, as we simultaneously confront the most lethal global pandemic since the 1918 Spanish flu, customer safety is even more important than ever.
A mutual burden of responsibility.
Of course, the onus is not totally on the shoulders of retailers and restaurants to keep their customers safe. Customers also need to do their share. Consistently wearing facial coverings, practicing good hand hygiene, and staying physically distant from other patrons can go a long way toward stopping the spread of cold, flu, and even the coronavirus.
The role that business owners play.
All of the CDC guidelines in the world cannot be 100 percent effective against spread of germs and viruses. That being said, even the best efforts of your customers will be sabotaged if you have not set up your place of business to maximize client and staff safety. Here are just a few of the measures you can implement:
- Consult with city or state officials to find out the full capacity of your building. Then determine (based on their restrictions and your own judgment) what percentage of that figure would represent a safe number of occupants in your building. Finally and most importantly, implement a system to keep track of how many customers are shopping at any given time and, if necessary, assign one of your staff members the task of supervising the line at the door.
- If your layout warrants, make aisles one-way, and mark off six-foot blocks where customers can wait to cash out.
- Implement and enforce a facial covering policy. Studies have found that masks reduce the likelihood that an infected person can pass on a virus such as the coronavirus to others.
- Make it as safe as possible for customers to buy your products. More and more stores are embracing contactless payments, which can be transacted either with a customer’s smartphone, or via a credit card with a particular chip embedded in it. When a person chooses the smartphone option, they must first activate the digital wallet app on their device by inputting their credit card payment information. When the time comes to buy a product, the user simply places their phone near a contactless payments reader, verifies their identity with a fingerprint or via facial recognition, and waits two or three seconds for the transaction to be processed. Whether using a card or a device, these touchless payment transactions are secure because the data is encrypted and tokenized in order to make it impossible for hackers to replicate it.
- Consider offering alternate delivery options. Customers have become accustomed to ordering items online and having them shipped via the postal service, UPS, or other carriers within just a few days. In addition, you might also want to offer patrons the opportunity to order either over the internet or by phone, with a pickup scheduled for later the same day. In many respects, this provides the best of both worlds: The convenience of digital ordering, plus the fast gratification of getting purchases the same day. Contracting with third-party delivery services such as Instacart is another possibility for retailers who want to provide touchless and timely product deliveries.
There is no telling when the global pandemic will recede. Even when it does, seasonal illnesses such as colds and flu will continue to be with us. Implementing the aforementioned precautions will lead to both a more sanitary environment and more relaxed staff and customers.