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Easing Consumer Tensions

  • September 1, 2020
  • Written by Community Futures Meridian

How much has your business changed in light of the pandemic? For some business owners, their business has improved, for others it has all but been destroyed. Still others have experienced a downturn that may or may not prove lethal. Without doubt, there are very few businesses that can report that nothing much has changed.

When the world changes we have to change. We have to adapt. Many people are choosing not to eat out at restaurants. Why is that? For some it will be a fear of contracting the virus. For others it maybe the current restrictions are making the experience, the atmosphere, less pleasant.

Most stores are quieter, especially those selling less essential products. Why is this? For many people wandering around a mall was a pleasant experience, an outing. They would meet friends and family, stop for a coffee, window shop. Now, most people only visit stores out of necessity. More often than not, it is not a pleasant experience.

Even grocery shopping is a trial. There are one way aisles, with people often going the wrong way. Some shoppers are wearing masks, others not – if you don’t wear one you feel as if people are looking at you. If you do wear one, you feel people are looking at you, you can’t win. There are line ups, sometimes outside, sometimes snaking around the store making you feel isolated, no one is talking, you feel like a part on a conveyor belt.

In all cases, there are people that understand social distancing and there are people that think COVID is a hoax, or just bad flu. It’s probably this minority that abuse servers in restaurants for not allowing them to sit ten to a table, or occupy a roped off area.

Do you know what would ease your customers’ fears? What would make them more comfortable visiting your store, your facility, you warehouse or whatever? Have you asked them?

One restaurant, handled social distancing by putting giant teddy bears in all the seats they couldn’t allow people to occupy. This helped people understand where they could sit, and also provided an ambiance far better than an unoccupied barren wasteland of tables and stacked chairs. Another waterside restaurant erected greenhouses big enough to seat two people along the dockside. It made the experience fun.

What can you do to make things more pleasant for your customers? If you know your regulars and have some way of contacting them, consider organizing private shopping events with small numbers of customers. Yes, you might be limiting your customer base during these times, but they are more likely to actually buy something rather than just browse.

This can also work in a B2B environment. Just consider the situation from your customers’ point of view. What is important to your customers right now? What would make them feel more comfortable buying from you?

Survival is going to be all about creativity. Finding a way to ease the tension and making visiting your business pleasant, and maybe even fun, might be the difference between survival and closure.

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