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Low-hanging fruit? Grab it!

by Hannah Stiff | Jun 26, 2020 11:49:30 AM

Check out these little moves that will pay big dividends for your business.

Innovate. Pivot. Tweak. As an owner, manager, or employee, you’ve likely heard those words a lot recently. For businesses preparing to reopen or already navigating the new abnormal, making those buzz words come to life is vital. And turning those small innovations into health-promoting measures matters for both staff and customers’ psyche.

According to Hong Luo and Alberto Galasso of the Harvard Business School, when a health crisis unfolds, customers need assurances that the businesses they interact with are behaving safely. Customers are even willing to pony up a little extra cash for a little extra safety.  

“An increase in risk perception makes consumers more willing to pay for safety features, which, in turn, provides producers greater incentives to develop and commercialize technologies that address consumers' demands for safety,” the researchers say.

Luo and Galasso advise reaching for the “low-hanging fruit” when looking to increase safety measures. These are the measures you’ve likely already had to make – allowing staff to work remotely, moving meetings online, having customers pre-book appointment times to control customer traffic, and so on.

Recently BBB Northwest + Pacific hosted a webinar with author, speaker, and entrepreneur Josh Linkner. Linkner calls the Harvard authors’ low-hanging fruit “big little breakthroughs” during this pandemic.

“We can no longer simply rely on the models of the past and expect the same result,” Linkner says. “Too often we overestimate the risk of trying something new, but we underestimate the risk of standing still.”

So, what do these big little breakthroughs look like? What are actual businesses are doing to entice customers to come back, safely.

At a Bigfork, Mont., eatery, there are signs adorning outdoor tables. A blue sign indicates the table is sanitized and available to sit at. When a diner is finished at the table, they flip the sign over, revealing a red card that signifies to staff and patrons that the table must be cleaned before anyone new can sit. The blue side reads, “Please flip this card to RED when you leave so we know to properly sanitize the table, chairs and card.” The red side reads, “Please wait to be seated until we can properly sanitize.” The laminated signs signal both safety and order for staff and customers.

A Montana coffee roasting company, open only for takeout, offers the standard signs about staying six feet apart and not entering the premise if you feel sick. The roasters went a step further and added a sign that says, “We have a COVID-19 Business Plan in place.” The one-page, large-font document has a checklist of all the safety measures the business is implementing. Disinfection and sanitation plan in place, check. Physical distancing measures, check. Protective gear, check. Employee training on the business’s COVID plan, check. Employee health screenings, check. Under the safety precautions is a checklist of the services currently being offered by the businesses. Curbside, check. Takeout, check. Delivery, no. Dining in, no. In bold, the business added its telephone number for customers to call with questions. The document is simple and features bold letters and easy checklists. Yet, it offers customers everything they need to know before ever stepping foot in the business.

In Washington, among other states, businesses have created lanes (usually tape placed on the floor) to establish a flow traffic from area to area. These lanes help prevent folks from crossing paths and coming into close contact with one another.

QR codes have also been implemented at restaurants to prevent sharing germs through handheld, reused menus. Customers simply scan the code on the table with a phone and the restaurant’s menu is populated. The same idea is being implemented by dining establishments using RFID technology: select your food using the restaurant’s app, hold your phone over the RFID tag and magically your food is delivered to your table when it’s ready. This allows patrons to order and pay while dining in the sunshine and safety outdoors.

Restaurants in Boise, Idaho, have taken to scheduling in reservation blocks. So, if the restaurant is running a dozen tables, they’ll open up reservations for 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. These restaurants seat everyone, have them out of the restaurant after 90 minutes and then shut down for 30 minutes for a full sanitization regimen. Then the restaurant “reopens” for the next block of diners and does the whole dance over again.  

Many retail stores have added sanitization stations at the store’s entrance. These stations typically offer hand sanitizer and masks free to customers. At some stores, a dedicated staff member will man the sanitization station to help customers and control traffic flow through the building. Some major chains like REI and Costco require customers to wear masks.

At salons, customers are discouraged from lingering in the waiting area. Instead, guests wait in their car until called or texted that it is time to enter the building for their appointment.

Everywhere you look, there are big little safety measures being used to keep customers safe. While these measures may be “low-hanging fruit” on the innovation scale, they are helping lure customers back at a time when the economy is fragile, and businesses need a win.

Whether your safety pivot is going cashless, using QR codes, or signaling customers how to safely navigate your store, these pivots matter. They are one more signal that you care for your customers and look forward to working with them again.

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