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  • Writer's pictureJill Baran

Guest Service and the Coronavirus

This is a time like no other, we’ve dealt with hurricanes, crippling snowstorms and major flooding. However, the World Health Organization has officially declared a pandemic, this is effecting everyone, everywhere. In the United States, Universities are closing, businesses have grounded staff travel, some have created work at home opportunities. Sports leagues are suspending or delaying their season, concert tours are on hold, even Disney parks in Anaheim and Orlando have announced their closure.

Schools are closing and parents are scrambling trying to figure out what to do with their kiddos while they still have to work. The dilemma for so many Americans, expensive childcare and go to work, or no work no pay and stay home with my kids. Disney announced they will continue to pay park employees during this time, Mark Cuban owner of the Dallas Mavericks is paying hourly employees for the last four home games in March that will not be played. Walmart, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Darden Restaurants, REI Co-op, Uber, Lyft, and Instacart are all assisting workers who are sick and need to stay home.

Right now, governments and businesses are making decisions to help slow the spread of the virus. While it seems like the right thing to do, close down for a few weeks, until we can get things under control, there are more variables to consider. Small business owners need to think about the bottom line and how everything will affect them. For businesses large and small with hourly employees this can be a hard decision to make.

Business owners must consider additional impact and how to handle their operations

1 – If your city, town, state are shutting down, will people really be coming and buying what you’re selling? If you have an online business, can you make note that items will be filled and shipped on certain days and to expect delays?

2 – Taking care of your staff, what type of business are you, are you essential, if you aren’t open will it affect anything other than your bottom line? Can your employees successfully work from home? Have you given them the tools?

3 – Communication - to your staff, to your guests and customers. Pay attention to e-mail communications, social media posts. Today, one airline sent out an e-mail saying “now is the perfect time to fly” A downtown shopping district posted on their Instagram “get outside and enjoy this beautiful weather” It’s one thing to go for a walk, another to hit up the downtown shopping district. We’re trying to slow a virus, not spread it. Don’t be tone deaf to a situation. Guests remember.

The best bottom line, be transparent, be accommodating be compassionate. Now is not a time to enforce every rule in the manual. Now is a time to be flexible.

Guests and customers pay attention. Be transparent and upfront they’ll understand. Close up shop when things calm down, protect you, your staff, your guests and customers. Take this time to do inventory, deep clean, reset your shop. You may lose some revenue, but you’re also helping your community. In a weather event you’re keeping people off the roads, so essential personal can do what they need to do. In a health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic, you are keeping people from moving about, you are part of slowing the spread.

Help your employees during this time. Many hourly employees have to decide between a paycheck and their family's well being. Give your staff the time off, don't penalize them. Assist them with pay while your closed, maybe provide gift cards for groceries. You don’t have to broadcast that information, your employees will be so grateful, they’ll tell people about their amazing employer. People will support you, they’ll support your staff.

During a time of a health crisis or weather related crisis, whatever it may be, it’s important as a business owner to do what’s right. There should never be debate. Taking care of yourself, your employees and your guests first will always win out in the long run. You make take an immediate hit, but people remember, they remember kind, passionate business leaders and that is who they support.

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