After six or seven weeks of self-isolation, business owners are getting ready to reopen. In the US, the first beaches and parks are ready for visitors, and states like Georgia, South Carolina, Alaska, and Oklahoma are starting to open non-essential businesses including gyms, salons, bowling alleys, and movie theaters. Similarly, the UK is preparing guidelines for non-food retailers as they get ready to welcome customers, starting with a number of DIY stores.
While many officials believe it’s too early to open, and we need to see more progress in testing and flattening of the curve, consumers are, understandably, anxious to get out of their homes and back into their favorite restaurants, retail shops, banks, and gyms. So what happens when a customer shows up and the business isn't operating as it once was?
One of the keys to keeping customers and prospects engaged is to offer clear communication, making customers aware of how to take advantage of your services. If you’re an essential business, you may want to provide your customer base with options leveraging some very clear signage.
Signage elements for open stores with modified hours.
Business hours: Let customers know that your business is open, and provide hours of operation since they’re probably reduced in this unusual time. If you have special hours for specific audiences, convey that clearly to alleviate any unnecessary worries.
Crowd control: Make it very clear if you are discouraging families or large groups of consumers at a single time. Outline any wait requirements to avoid frustrations. This includes posting information like “1 in for every 1 out” and the like. In addition to occupancy concerns, this is a great place to point out that a safe distance of six feet be maintained between customers - in some stores, it’s the length of two shopping carts; in a teller line, it will be marked on the floor.
Alternative modes of meeting: If you are currently offering remote appointments or phone consultations, post a URL that customers can reach once they’ve arrived. If there’s bad weather, or time is limited, it’s a great way to achieve your goals without the wait.
Phone number: Always be sure to post your phone number and have a call center representative available to answer. In this climate, customers want to feel trust in their service providers, and sometimes a calm voice on the other end of the line is all it takes.
Cashless payments: If you’re able to accept cashless payments, this is an easy way to remind people. Again, it alleviates unnecessary fears as someone takes care of their business.
Our final recommendation for any signage is to thank your customers for their continued support as we get through these trying times. A thank you always goes a long way.
Signage elements for closed storefronts.
If your physical location isn’t open, sometimes signage is your only option. Good signage doesn’t just require legibility - it needs to provide access to your services in the way that a good customer service representative would.
Business status: Let customers know that you are currently closed, but not permanently closed. If possible, provide a date or month that you’ll be open. If a nearby location is open, this would be a beneficial detail to point out. Or, leave a call to action so that the customer can sign up (for a phone call, email, or text message) to be notified when you’re opening.
Alternative modes of contact: In many cases, even if your business’ physical location is closed, you can set up other options for meeting - pre-arranged appointments via video or phone. If you’re offering remote appointments - whether you’re a tailor, a financial advisor, or a healthcare provider - include a URL or QR code that enables the booking of a consultation or meeting with the relevant staff member.
Phone number: As with signage about reduced hours, closed physical locations should also always be sure to post a phone number and have a call center representative available to answer.
And, again: Say thank you!
It may seem like a trivial thing to do - to hang a sign. But ultimately, it’s your calling card, assuring customers that you are there for them, even in trying times.