Communicating Your COVID Policy For Your Business
With COVID-19 comes a lesson in communication. Business owners have different points of views and different dynamics and restrictions in dealing with COVID. Some have vendors that are requiring them to meet certain policies. Some businesses have customers that are upset over policies. Others have over 100 employees and must meet the government policies. Some business owners believe in the vaccine. Others don’t. Most are simply tired of having to deal with COVID.
And we understand. Small businesses have been hit hard with shutdowns, employee shortages, supply-chain disruptions, increased prices, and more. It’s been a roller coaster and one thing that most will agree with is: we’re ready for it to end.
However, it’s not over. And it still has the power to impact your business. We’re not here to advocate any certain belief or way of running your business. What we do advocate is one important question that we ask our clients day-in and day-out. That question is simply, “What does your business need?”
And right now, what we see that a lot of small businesses are missing is communication about their COVID policies, whatever they are, to their employees, vendors, and their customers. Again, we’re not advocating any one policy, but we are advocating that your business needs to clearly communicate these policies.
If you’re working with one of our business coaches, we suggest discussing with your coach how your COVID policy should consider the dynamics of: what your business needs, your employees need, and your customers need. Once you’ve decided what the policy is for your business, given all of the dynamics you must consider, you need to communicate it to:
Customers: When it comes to COVID the best policy is to consider your commitment to customer service. Your business has set a level of customer service that you already wish to uphold. Your COVID policy and how you communicate that policy should uphold that same level of customer service. If your team interacts with customers in person there should be clear communication about what the policy is and allowing your customers to choose how they want to interact with your business. It’s important to note that not all customers will agree with your policy and that’s simply something that you can’t control. What you can do is provide a level of service to all clients and let them decide.
Employees: Your employees need to uphold your business policy, regardless of what policy you put in place. Which means that they need to know what it is. If you don’t communicate your policy clearly, you’re leaving employees to answer clients and vendors that ask or need to be informed, without direction. And when your employees need to ad-lib it’s likely their own views will come out, which may be in conflict with your business policy. By communicating your policy, you have the chance to control the narrative and to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This isn’t assuming that everyone will agree. When it comes to COVID, they won’t; But if you keep it focused on what the policy is there’s less chance for the conversation to turn personal. This also allows your employees to know what you expect if they are around someone that has COVID, if they have it, or even if they travel. The fewer questions, the less room for confusion and arguments.
Vendors: How much your vendors need to know about your policies, depends on how much your vendors are coming into your business. If your vendors don’t come into your business, then you won’t need to communicate your policies to them. However, if they are coming into your business then they need to know what policy they need to abide by during that time. This communication should be emailed, but also displayed on the entrance they would use to come into your business. It’s good to remember that your views on COVID may be different, so keep the email focused on the policy. While you don’t want to focus on personal opinions or invite a debate, you will want to ask that any vendor that isn’t able/willing to meet your policy let you know ahead of time so that you can make other arrangements.
Your COVID policy should be clearly communicated to clients, employees and vendors. This should include emails, newsletters, and finally on all entrances to your business. It helps to view this from the customer’s point of view. Imagine them sitting in your parking lot getting ready to enter your business. Do they need a mask? Do they not? Is the person they are going to work with masked? Vaccinated? Should they wear a mask, or leave it in the car? Did they even bring a mask with them? These are just some of the questions your customers may be having as they prepare to enter your business. The problem is that regardless of how you feel about COVID, these are barriers to others doing business with you. For some clients it will end up as an extra frustration and for others it will cause them not to bother. With clear communication you can clear up any frustrations, concerns, or worries. So just like “no shirts, no shoes, no service” your COVID policy should be clear to enable others to make their choices.
The problem with COVID is that the landscape is always changing. Even if your policy is the same as it was a few months ago, you should still be communicating it with everyone. Employees, vendors and clients will have changes in their own views and how they see COVID around them. It’s natural that they’ll have questions on your policies, even if they remain the same. It’s important to be proactive, because being reactive leads to debates, questions, and concerns that are unnecessary barriers.