Transparency and clear communication can ease anxiety, aid productivity amid uncertainty.
In times of crisis, people look for comfort—whether it’s through a favorite food, a familiar routine or a helping hand. Now more than ever, as the number of coronavirus cases across the United States continues to rise and Americans adjust to the ongoing disruption of their daily lives, convenience services have a unique opportunity to help their customers’ employees tackle new challenges without becoming demoralized by the crisis.
Micro market operators can best support their customers by offering a diverse product selection and by following customer service communication practices. Operators can also help customers’ employees remain fueled and engaged in a few concrete ways: keeping micro markets’ operations consistent as much as possible, stocking healthy and easy-to-eat foods, and helping customers recognize their employees’ work.
1. Be consistent and communicate changes.
Clear and consistent communication during crises is critical, as stakeholders are likely dealing with stress and conflicting priorities.
In a recent webinar, the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association addressed the impact of the pandemic on retail and feeding operations in healthcare. Dave Reeves, director at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and Martha Rardin, director of nutrition and dietetics at Hendricks Regional Health, led the conversation on the importance of suppliers’ transparency about potential disruptions in the supply chain and suggesting alternatives to fill their foodservice operators’ needs.
The priority right now is consistent access to food rather than a need for specialty items, Reeves said.
“Let us know if there’s going to be any supply interruptions, or if there are things we’ve been purchasing a lot of that we need to change,” he said. “I think every operator is open to whatever we need to do to make sure that we can get the product in that we need. Just please be open and transparent with us.”
Simply put: Stay consistent—especially because customers’ employees will crave stability in these uncertain times.
2. Make smart selections for people on the go.
As the coronavirus’ impact on the economy increases, so too does the workload at many companies. And that leaves employees struggling to find time for breaks. But there’s a solution: Provide food and beverages that are portable and easy to pay for.
“Grab-and-go items are crazy hot right now,” Rardin said. “People just want to get in and get out.”
Micro market operators can stock up on nutritional options in easy-to-open packages including sandwiches, hardboiled eggs and healthy snacks, such as belVita Breakfast Biscuits. The National Automatic Merchandising Association also offers a list of healthy options from a variety of manufacturers.
When customers’ employees are in a hurry, stressed or have low morale, they are less likely to choose healthy options, Harvard Health Publishing reports. Labeling the food and beverage options that are the most healthy within micro markets can help: The majority (77 percent) of workers would choose foods that benefit them mentally and physically, and, ultimately, increase their work productivity, a GrubHub Seamless survey found.
3. Help customers find creative ways to acknowledge their employees.
Rewarding employees can be a major morale booster and motivator. According to the 2020 Engagement & Retention Report from Achievers, 90 percent of employees say receiving recognition drives them to work harder.
Try developing creative recognition opportunities for employees who are working especially hard during this crisis. These could involve gift certificates and small prizes available at the market. Or consider issuing several small-value coupons for general recognition and a large gift certificate or gift basket to an employee of the month.
Feeding the Hungry Requires Self-Care
Providing food and drink to people—especially when they are in stressful situations—is laudable, yet demanding work. Remember to take care of yourself and your own employees. Convenience services operators need to take care of their own needs so they can take care of their customers.
Are you seeking additional ways to enhance your customer service during the coronavirus crisis? Social media is a great option. Learn more here.