During this pandemic, service and small businesses are fighting to keep going against regulation, employee and customer safety, and inaccurate information from all sides. Whether or not to wear face coverings at your business or for customer calls is the starting point, but once again we take lessons from those who have done this before the pandemic started. Regardless of your view on masks, vaccines or COVID in general, let us offer you a way to thrive with your customers and more during these crazy times.
Right now there is a lot of information available to small businesses and service companies about the current COVID-19 pandemic, its variants, its treatments, the use of vaccines, and whether or not any of it even works. What’s a business owner to do? The sad reality is not all of the information coming at you is even accurate so you can make your best decisions for customers and staff. Which information that is seems to depend also on your political affiliations or rather those of the community you serve. Though I have opinions and have attempted to make the best judgments on courses of action for my family and my business, my opinions to that end don’t matter as much as helping your business to survive and thrive wherever possible so do yourself a favor and please take this article at face value. Service and small businesses are getting pummeled during this time, but they can stil win big doing what they were created to do…serve their customers so I hope these suggestions and points help.
An increasing body of research is showing that masks and face coverings do not work as intended to stop the spread of viral or communicable diseases. The research continues to reveal that it’s not a design problem it’s a “launch problem”. That is, the equipment in ideal settings works just fine as intended. The problem is generally us. We pull and tug and scratch and in many cases reuse the masks which defeats their purpose significantly. Moreover, if you aren’t used to wearing them you tend to find ways to bring in oxygen more robust than the mask will allow by breathing through the side or top pulling in air or breathing out the same way. It’s understandable then to assume that masks don’t work and don’t do much to help, but keep reading.
Now, for more people than you might realize, the mask is a real and necessary protection to ensure they don’t get sick. Those with compromised or weakened immune systems fear many communicable diseases and now have extra reason to be very cautious. Unlike the scenario above, these people do wear masks properly and understand their use. Failing to do so could mean severe illness or even death. The number of illnesses now which can compromise your immune system, either in the short term or long-term, might surprise you. I have the good fortune to know people on both sides of this spectrum and for their own reasons both are correct.
So how do you handle situations with such a broad spectrum of outcomes? Take a cue from the hardware stores that still remain in your neighborhood despite the “big box stores” like Lowes and Home Depot. The Ace and Best hardware stores in communities all over win with service much as smaller banks have also. So what does this have to do with masks? If you serve a city or state where masks are the law, your role and options in this are limited. If you serve an area who does not require masks or is indifferent this is a service opportunity in the making. Whether your customer requests that you wear a mask or rails against the thought of government controlling what they can do, you have an opportunity to raise your customer’s comfort level with you from the start. Find out their preference as quickly as possible and comply with that customer without issue or question. Be cheerfully accommodating no matter their preference and beyond that, don’t make s scene about it.
Your role is to solve a customer issue (if you are a service business) or offer your customer the best of what they came for if they walk in your business. The whole mask awkwardness can get in the way at best, or be completely off-putting at worst. Right now companies like ours need all of the good PR we can get and the fact that you or your employee put on, or took off, a mask without raising any issue at all will lower a customer’s guard quickly who doesn’t know you already. If you feel strongly one way or another on this issue you may have to ask yourself in the short-term which is more important…your customer’s satisfaction or your principles to do what you want. You may not understand why people don’t wear masks as you do, but you don’t have to make it a point of contention from the start. The same is true if you choose not to wear them.
So if you don’t already know your customers’ mask preference, take a couple of minutes and think of some ways to ask them that fit your situation and personality. Consider something like saying prior to a service call: “I have just one more quick question because I want you to be my top priority as we solve your issue, would you prefer that I wear a mask when I’m there? I’m okay either way but don’t want it to be a distraction or big deal”. Something like this which works into your normal way of doing things sets the tone right off that you care, as you should, about your customers. If you have a physical location where customers come to you, consider putting up no sign at all unless required by law and there is no way around it. That said, have new masks handy when customers walk in the door if you don’t have one on already and cheerfully address the situation up front as you willingly and cheerfully comply with your customer’s request when you ask. Again, this doesn’t have to be a scene just a quick question. Don’t be that business with the “masks are required” virtue signal sign out front with no one inside wearing a mask. That looks, and is, hypocritical and customers wo’t give you the chance to explain.
Finally, if you live in a community where masks are required and signs are required, and there is nothing you can do, then follow the law and work on changes through any business organizations you belong to such as the Chamber of Commerce. If signs are required but masks are not, spend a few dollars to have a window sign created endorsing your compliance with your customer’s safety mask requests without drama. You can get creative with these and it will go over well. If you need writing advice, ask a Pastor since we all seem to remember what they put in signs outside their church.
In the end, I hope you see this doesn’t have to be a point of contention to further divide people such as you and your customers. Complying with your customers for a short time is a far cry from closing yoru business temporarily or permantely. if you disagree with your community’s stance on masks or locking down, work through channels you have to make a change. Don’t do this at yoru customers’ expense. The people who buy from you will help you get through this If you need help finding more of those customers then let’s talk.