As of Monday, 11 October, NSW will start to slowly emerge out of lockdown, having reached 70% of double vaccinations. And while this is such welcome news to many as more freedoms will be granted to the 70% of double vaxxed individuals, small businesses are now faced with the challenge of refusing entry to the 30% of people who are not yet fully vaccinated.
The COVID Roadmap to Recovery rules are confusing for everyone to get their head around. Issues around privacy – ‘can’t we just keep our customer’s vaccinations certificates on file, so they don’t have to produce them every time?’ Confusion about fairness – ‘your staff aren’t fully vaxxed yet I have to be?’
All this confusion off the back of dealing with the past four months of lockdown is bound to lead to a lot of emotion. The negative kind.
I have had so many conversations with many small business owners over the past couple of weeks, who are trying to get their heads around how they enforce the ever-changing COVID Roadmap to Recovery regulations. They are genuinely worried about the potential backlash that enforcing these regulations will mean for their business, their brand and their staff over the next couple of months as we all work together to achieve the 90% fully vaccinated rate that will grant us all more freedom and normality.
When emotions are running high about a topic, it is so important that you approach your communications with clarity and confidence. This will help to reduce confusion and hopefully help to cajole the customers that may be feeling angry or fearful about being excluded.
Below are some recommendations that I hope you will find helpful when compiling your COVID Roadmap to Recovery communications.
Regardless of your opinions on vaccinations, this is a good time to practice empathy. This is a time of change and disruption, and this unsettles people. There will be a lot of confusion, frustration, fear, and anger that will be felt by people who have chosen not to get vaccinated at all as well as by people who want to get vaccinated but are unable to secure their double doses by the key dates.
This is a time to publish respectful messaging, that sets firm boundaries and clearly communicates the government compliance required for your business to operate within the law. This messaging will be far more effective if it is without bias, sarcasm or judgement.
It is likely that there will be some heated conversations ahead of us as small businesses police their venues to ensure that they are complying with the COVID requirements put in place by the Government. To help your team navigate these difficult conversations, we recommend developing some scripts that allow them to find the right words in what could perhaps be awkward and confronting scenarios.
In regional Australia, where our customers are often also our fellow parents that we see on the sidelines at the footy and our friends, it’s going to be really hard to have these conversations respectfully. The scripts that you develop will obviously be specific to your business and the rules for your industry, however, here are some suggested points that you may be able to incorporate to help provide clarity and reduce frustration levels.
3. Ensure your messaging is visible and accessible
We are recommending that our clients include clear messaging about the COVID roadmap to recovery requirements in the following locations:
If your customers are searching Google on their mobile phone to find information about how they can access your business during this recovery period, it is likely that they will land on your Google My Business profile before they get to your website. For this reason, we recommend that you include any relevant COVID updates in the COVID Update section on your Google My Business Profile.
We recommend adding any specific messaging about your COVID compliance to the home page of your website as this is where most people will land on your site.
As most homepages are a place to introduce people to your business and your brand, it may not make sense to add this into the existing copy and inclusions. We are trying to add this as a pop-up message or as an addition to a header image wherever possible. Talk to your website developer about what functionality they can include to make this messaging clear and visible, without the messaging diluting your overall user experience for your website.
Another page that you can include this messaging on is your ‘Contact’ page. This is another highly frequented page on most small business websites and where people will navigate to, to look for a way to contact you to ask questions about your policies. You may save yourself having to field an endless number of repetitive phone calls by including clear messaging on this page.
Include a post that outlines your COVID Roadmap to Recovery policies and pin it to the top of your page. This will ensure that anyone who visits your Facebook page will see this as the very first post on the page, regardless of if you are posting other content regularly.
You are not able to pin a post to the top of your Instagram newsfeed, so as well as posting to the news feed about your COVID policies, you can then include a small call to action in your bio with a link to your website for more information.
You could also add a Story feature that includes stories communicating your policy.
We are recommending that clients send out an email to their email subscribers that provides a clear explanation of their COVID Recovery Roadmap policies for the relevant key dates.
If your business has a bricks and mortar location that you will be welcoming your vaccinated customers to, but excluding unvaccinated customers, then we recommend that you have a poster on your front door that explains your policy around this. This is not only necessary to help explain the boundaries that are in place for COVID Roadmap to Recovery compliance, but it’s also a touchpoint that will be reviewed by police or authorities to ensure that your business is doing everything that it can to adhere to the law.
During this time, while people are feeling frustrated and fearful, we may experience more online rage than normal. People want to vent their frustrations and if your business happens to be the business that refuses them entry first or does it in a way that they find inflammatory, guess where they are headed next!
The nature of online reviews means that they are very hard to be removed. Otherwise, we’d all remove the negative ones, right? This kind of defeats the purpose. So, keep an eye out on review sites such as your Facebook Page and your Google My Business page. Don’t feed the trolls by overly justifying or replying to reviews with inflammatory responses. Simply reply to each reviewer with an empathetic and professional response that includes your key messaging. For example:
Thank you for providing us with your feedback. We understand your frustration. The Government’s Health Order permits us to only allow entry to people who can prove they have been fully vaccinated (i.e. had two doses of a government approved covid-19 vaccination). Our COVID Roadmap to Recovery policies can be found on our website, our Google My Business Page, on posters at our office / shop.
As a small business that has also had to manage the disruptions of COVID, we are doing whatever it takes to ensure that we can bring about some normality as soon as possible by complying with the Government regulations. If we all work together to get to the 90% vaccination rate, the sooner we get to all experience more freedoms.
If people are being abusive, then report the review on whichever platform it sits.
Then, moving forward encourage as many positive reviews as possible from the customers that love you to drown out the negative ones.
This vigilance will also apply to comments on any social media posts that you post about this topic. At least with social media comments you can hide or delete the unreasonable comments.
We haven’t come this far to only come this far. In the scheme of things, we’ve faced so much disruption to business over the past two years. We are now on track to regaining some freedoms and hopefully regaining some normality back into our lives. Let’s work together to achieve the goal of 90% vaccination so that our small businesses can get back to ‘business as usual’ as soon as possible.