None of us thought the world would be where it is today. Things are still changing so rapidly, it’s impossible to know how things will look three weeks from now. There’s no new normal—but people are still trying to live their lives as close to normal as they can, and local business can be a huge part of making that happen. Patients need to be taken care of; cars need repairs; people are still doing taxes and ordering takeout and fixing their houses.
Just as this COVID-19 crisis is threatening individuals and families worldwide, livelihoods are at stake too, making it crucial to figure out a way to keep local economies strong so we can all weather this storm together. “We made it through the depression, a world war, and we won’t let this virus stop us,” said Betsy Palladino-Blasland from Diana Jewelers of Liverpool in New York.
Podium users everywhere are finding new and innovative ways to serve their customers. We’ve done our best to compile some tips and tricks from every industry so you can adapt them to your needs. Keep reading for a general list, or click on your industry below for more specific tips and things you can do today to keep your doors open—even when you can’t open your doors.
1. Get a textable phone number.
It’s even more true today—people want and need a convenient way to contact your business. By embracing messaging as a business, you’ll provide your customers with a quick and safe way to find what they need without having to leave home. You’ll also spend less time on the phone and be able to process more requests simultaneously.
2. Update your business listing and information.
Make sure your new hours are reflected on your Google Business Profile and on your website. Google has compiled an easy help doc to guide you through those updates, as well as how to create a post and how to communicate other crucial information through your Google Business Profile.
3. Treat your website like your primary storefront.
You may have already cut many services or adapted how you do business. Your website is the perfect place to reflect those changes by surfacing commonly asked questions and providing clear ways of contact. Some businesses put a textable number in large type as the first thing you see. Implementing a chat or text tool like Webchat helps your customers know you’re listening. Fix Auto USA, a collision repair business with locations across the country, changed their custom Webchat greeting to say, “[Covid-19 Update] We’re still in business. Text us.”
4. Encourage social distancing.
Some industries have to remain open and interact with others through this time, such as healthcare workers and automotive services, among others. Podium users have found clever ways to keep their customers and patients safe, such as creating curbside pickup spots or parking lot waiting areas, encouraging them to remain in their car until they can be helped. WGM Orthodontics, with locations throughout Kentucky, has received many grateful messages from their patients for doing just that.
5. Offer new contactless ways to pay.
Customers are rightfully wary about passing cash or card. By offering contactless payment options, you can keep germs from spreading. Podium Payments is one option that allows you to process payments just by sending a text, making it easy to continue closing deals and getting paid even without ever meeting face-to-face.
6. Reassure your customers.
Let your customers know what you’re doing to keep them safe. People will be more comfortable doing business with you when they know you take their safety seriously. Send a message to let your customers know when you’ll be free, when a technician will be by, how often you sanitize surfaces or other ways you’ve changed your regular business operations to accommodate them.
7. Work with your team to cut costs.
Business owners have some tough decisions ahead. Making the call to lay off valuable employees or close doors can be a devastating moment for all involved. When revenues are down but expenses remain the same, there are some ways you can cut costs and hopefully retain employees. The Harvard Business Review has compiled a comprehensive list of ideas to avoid layoffs, including cutting hours and workdays, temporarily reducing salaries and bonuses especially for those at the top, and offering unpaid leave. The key to all of this is being transparent with the people who make up your workforce. You’ll find they’re much more willing to help out and make sacrifices when you’re honest and open about making decisions together.
8. Take advantage of government relief programs.
We’ve put together an in-depth guide on what resources are available to you now. In summary, Congress has passed a bill offering relief for businesses affected by this crisis. Among options are low-interest small business loans with favorable payback terms—even full loan forgiveness for some qualifying small businesses. These are open to businesses that retain at least 90% of their workforce from March 24 through September 30, giving you an extra incentive to keep things running and keep your employees happy. Taking on extra debt should be done carefully.
9. Be patient.
This is temporary. It might not feel like it yet. Be proactive, and try to avoid making major decisions too quickly.
We’ve been inspired by the ways Podium customers everywhere have met this challenge. It’s making everyone recognize what’s been true all along—local business is key to a strong, vibrant, and healthy society. Times are tough, and we don’t know all of what lies ahead, but the decisions we make now will hopefully strengthen us for the future.