Coronavirus

Customer experience in the ‘new normal’

2020 is undoubtedly the year nobody will forget. Everything we knew and took for granted – being able to fly to foreign countries, pop to the pub, go out for a meal – changed irrevocably.

Coming out of lockdown is something that everyone is delighted about, although with a cautious optimism because the spectre of COVID-19 is still lurking in the background.

At Where The Trade Buys we recognised quite early on that even when the situation eased, life – at least in the short term – was going to be very different.

We used our processes to create much-needed PPE in the early days to support the NHS and the care home industry and then turned our attention to what would be needed when all of the customer-facing businesses were allowed to reopen.

It’s only then you realise how many organisations would need to completely amend their processes – hairdressers, offices, schools, supermarkets, shops – and of course the hospitality industry.

The challenge which everyone has faced is being able to open and operate safely but without making the surroundings and processes so intimidating that going for a drink or eating in a restaurant became an ordeal rather than a pleasure.

We recognised the need for that fine balance – visible measures to bring home the importance of social distancing but in a way that wasn’t so intimidating that people felt anxious throughout the experience.

At Where The Trade Buys the key was creating practical measures which at the same time were stylish so blended in with the venue, but still did their job.

The considerations that venues need to take on board were many – hand sanitiser stations, one way systems, signage reminding people to wash their hands and maintain a distance – areas that we identified quite early on and that we were able to create bespoke solutions for.

Other items which may not seem quite so obvious – but are extremely important to protect both staff and customers – are sneeze guards, stationed at points where people may be ordering or collecting.

Using the venue’s existing branding, these can be made to fit in with the surroundings, providing protection while blending in seamlessly with the pub or bar.

We also realised that the Government guidelines are ever changing and with that in mind we offered our hospitality clients a range of solutions which could easily be adapted – for example when the social distance rules reduce from one two metres to one.

The relaxation of the two metre rule can only take place if all the other measures are in place, so when planning a re-opening its vital to take this into account and ensure that staff are wearing masks and that the proper dividers/screens are in place.

We’ve found that branded aprons for staff to wear has also been very well received and to the customer appears as if this is a smart uniform, while in reality it is also a move to protect staff.

The Government has made it very clear that the industry will only continue to stay open if the public at large abide by the rules – and that means that businesses need to make it as simple as possible for customers to achieve this.

What nobody wants – or needs – is so much confusion or mixed messages that we find ourselves back in lockdown again.

Getting the hospitality industry moving to protect jobs and boost this massive part of the economy is essential – which is why we need to ensure that operators have every weapon in their arsenal to achieve that.

By Gary Peeling, CEO of Where the Trade Buys

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