As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, it’s causing more and more damage beyond just our health and wellbeing; schools have long since been closed, an increasing number of businesses are closing, the stock market is in chaos, and people are resorting to some extreme precautions to protect against the virus. During these times of uncertainty, it is vital that businesses are not only safeguarding the health of their employees but their customers as well. Needless to say, the health of your brand and company name needs to be watched as well. Below, you will find several tips that I can think of to protect your online reputation during the COVID-19 outbreak.
In order to protect your brand, you must start with your employees first. They are the ones that are coming in daily and risking their health to keep the company afloat. Without your employees, you will not be able to open your doors. These frontline workers are the backbone of any company. If we expect to continue living a somewhat healthy life, we have to make sure their health is the top priority. The last thing that a company wants is a news or social media article written about them not keeping their employees safe.
Since the start of the virus, there have been many companies that have been outed for not thinking of their employees. I will refrain from naming names here as I don’t care to rehash old news. Since the reports came to light, the offending companies have amended their practice and are now doing the right thing. For best practices, you might want to look at the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers. Keeping up to date on the daily changes on that website will be the best way to keep from doing something that may cost you your reputation.
Consult Your Vendors and Service Providers
Depending on if your brand works with local vendors, delivery services, or any other type of partner to conduct your day to day operations, make sure to check-in with them. You are going to want to confirm their plans should they have an outbreak at their facility. You need to know if they are planning on closing down their operations or only making changes to their policies. It is essential to understand these changes as far in advance, so you can continue to service your clients in a manner in which they are used to.
We have already started to see the effect the Coronavirus has on local businesses all across the country. The Coronavirus has triggered a drinking water, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer shortage for many retailers. Global shipping companies like FedEx, UPS, and Amazon have been limiting deliveries to any country affected by COVID-19. A few short weeks ago, food delivery services like Instacart, GrubHub, Postmates, and many other comparable services, introduced a no-contact drop-off option in order to protect their customers and drivers equally. Informing your employees and customers of drastic changes like this can and will help to avoid problems in the future.
Communicate with Your Customers
Get a jumpstart on the problem by assuring your customers that you have a plan in place to aid in the prevention of spreading Coronavirus. Let them know what precautions you have set in place for both your employees and them as customers. Share this information with them on any platform you can think of.
If you don’t have all the social media platforms set up, now would be the time to do it. Your customers are going to want assurance that when they patronize your store, they will be safe in doing so. If you browse through news articles, you can see some great examples of how stores are protecting their customers. Just some of the things you will see are hand washing stations, sanitizing practices, barriers to protect the cashiers and customers, and even tape lines on the floor to show the customers the proper distance to stand away from each other. Use your social media platforms to display the tactics you are using to keep your customers safe, and they will continue to visit your store.
Closing the Store
In the past month or so, you have undoubtedly heard of many stores closing due to an outbreak of Coronavirus. Stores such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, and even Apple have had to close their doors. While these may have been temporary issues, they did let their customers know. In the event that you have an outbreak and need to close, or the government no longer considers your business an “essential service,” you need to inform your customers. Likewise, if you are operating at a reduced capacity, your customers need to know.
At this point, you should have a local business listing. You will need to go to your business page and edit the store hours in the “Special Hours” section. The more that stores are closing or adjusting their hours, the more customers are taking to the web to find out these hours. You don’t want your customers thinking you are open only to find you are not. If they do discover you are not open when you say you are, they are likely to take to the internet and write a negative review. Those are hard to get rid of. While most people will understand you are closed to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, it is still a negative mark on your reputation.
This is a trying time for all of us. No one is certain what the next day will bring. In these times, it is best if you continue to keep in contact with your customers like you would on any other day. This virus cannot and will not last forever. We will come through this for the better. Keep your customers up to date, talk to your suppliers, and take care of your employees. After the virus is gone, your reputation will still be intact, and people will start using your store as they did in the past.