As lockdown eases, community businesses have an opportunity to tell their story and create a memorable customer experience. Charlotte Cassedanne, Head of Communications at Power to Change, shares some tips.
There is a lot to consider to reopen community businesses safely and welcome the public in post-lockdown. But it’s also an amazing opportunity to tell your community business story and entice the public. Whether local people are enjoying coffee and cake at your community cafe, buying produce at your community-owned farm or bringing a book back to your community-managed library, by the time they get to the till they should know you’re not an average small business, and be aware of the brilliant things you do for your community.
The government is requiring businesses to have adequate measures in place to guide customers safely round businesses. But your signage doesn’t have to be neon yellow and garish to make an impact. Instead, think about your story and your values. Here’s a few ways how you can create a valuable customer experience:
- At home: Although lockdown is easing, many people will be too anxious to come out of their homes over the next few months. One way to reassure them is to explain the measures you are taking to make your community business safe. You could do this in your newsletter or take people on a tour of your business via Facebook Live or Instagram Live. You could even set up a buddy system, asking local people to accompany anxious neighbours to your community business, like Volunteer Cornwall are doing. And make sure your opening hours are up to date on your website and social media. People will be checking these before coming so use these to tell your story and make it clear if you are open and how people can visit.
- The queue: Depending on the nature of your business, people may need to queue to get in. Make it a positive experience by having welcoming and reassuring signage. Maybe a plastic chair (that can be wiped down easily) here and there for the less able to sit down while they wait, or a system where they get priority. If you can, create a display which tells the story of your community business with photos, bunting, illustrations. Create shelter from rain or shine so people can visit any time. If you’re looking for volunteers, trustees or raising donations, a queue is a good place to do it and follow it up with a call to action at the entrance.
- The entrance: The front door or reception area is a key place to assert you’re a community business. You could have a chalkboard saying ‘We’re community owned’, or a sticker on the window. You can then elaborate on what your community business does with more signage and storytelling throughout the space. Stats about the amount of people you’ve helped this year, or quotes from local people thanking you show new customers that you are already a valued business.
You may also need to get people to sign into your community business to help with track and trace. The free Twine Visitor app allows you to sign people in on a tablet as they walk in. Have a volunteer at the entrance welcoming and helping people to sign in can be really reassuring. It’s also an opportunity to get people signed up to your newsletter or get them to register an interest in volunteering or community shares. Don’t be shy to ask for help upfront.
- Getting around: Whether you are setting up a one-way system or encouraging people to keep their distance, think about creative ways to do this. You could use chalk or footsteps rather than masking tape floor arrows, and interesting signage that fits with your brand. People are more likely to pay attention if a sign – such as ‘wear a face covering’ – is a bit original and relevant to the local area or your business. Ask your community to get creative and help you make the signage so its culturally and ability appropriate. And ask volunteers to walk around your business to test it makes sense.
- Customer interaction: Deaf people aren’t able to read lips if people wear masks, and those who are hard of hearing find it difficult when voices are muffled by face coverings. If possible, provide see-through visors or masks with see-through panels to staff and volunteers who interact with the public. It will make the interactions friendlier and probably quicker too.
However you reopen, it’s important to listen to your community’s needs and remain agile.
Get more help with responding to the coronavirus crisis by visiting MyCommunity.org.