As retailers, offices, and businesses everywhere resume varying levels of operations, what additional safeguards should property owners and managers consider moving forward?
It seems for the foreseeable future, business operators will be required, whether socially or legislatively, to adopt preventative measures to keep their staff, customers, and operations safe. While the specific processes may vary from retail to office, it is in everyone’s best interest that all businesses take reasonable steps to help keep people safe and stem the tide of COVID-19. Businesses that don’t will stand out which could negatively impact their image, hurt their sales, and expose them to potential liabilities.
It will be natural for people to be hypersensitive until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available or we have reached the global state of “herd immunity.” This will take time. Based on current reports, it will be at least 12-18 months before we get there. In the meantime, we need to keep our businesses productive and profitable. Implementing reasonable and effective safeguards while maintaining business continuity will be our mission should we choose to accept it.
George Santayana said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” The world has seen and overcome significant challenges in the past. And from those times we can learn from those who left their trail maps behind. A timeless work that came as a response to the Great Depression was Dale Carnegie’s, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Its specific intent is to help us get out of ruts, create new thoughts and visions, improve our ability to work with others, and achieve our ambitions. It was written to help people effectively get back on their feet to restart their businesses and the economy in the 1930s.
While Carnegie provides many valuable lessons in his book, the principle of “make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely” is one that stands out and holds particular value today.
The businesses that practice making other people feel important are noticeable and they will greatly benefit from it. Being mindful of the health and safety of others is arguably the greatest way to let them know that you care and that they are important. When people treat me this way it makes me feel like they care and that I matter. This feels good and makes me want to reciprocate.
Here are some recent business examples we are seeing of this principle in practice:
- Grocery stores, such as Albertsons, Ralphs and others, cleaning and sanitizing every shopping cart before use
- Gas stations, such as Mobil, adding hand sanitizer, gloves, and disinfectant wipes next to each fuel pump
- Local restaurants selling groceries and household products to help people get what they need when markets had sold out
- Pharmacies, such as CVS, providing free home delivery of prescriptions
- Wireless phone companies, such as ATT and Verizon, providing free data and bandwidth for mobile hotspots to help all of us working from home improve our connectivity while competing with our kids for WiFi
This list is not exhaustive and there are many other examples out there. The point is that these gestures are not going unnoticed. We all understand that these additional levels of service these companies are providing are neither easy nor fun, and they do not directly produce additional income for the business. However, they are making their customers feel important and this will be remembered and rewarded with brand loyalty and customer buying decisions.
You may be asking how does this apply to property owners and managers?
As a landlord or property manager, our customers are our tenants. They are the lifeblood of our businesses and without them, our business models don’t work. As our tenants (i.e., customers) have problems, our response to their problems will significantly impact the relationship with each of those tenants moving forward. It may be worthwhile to ask yourself, “Am I making my tenant feel important?” If not, pause, and reframe your conversation to assure them that they are important, empathize with their challenges and let them know that you are an advocate of their future success.
Second, your tenant’s foremost concerns are those for which they are liable and can control within the boundaries of their premises. This leaves the shared common areas to us. If those areas are not being maintained with the same level of importance it reflects poorly on our tenants. We need to help our tenant’s customers feel important as well. This level of care shows up in how we operate our properties and facilities. Ask yourself if you are keeping the health and safety of your tenant’s staff and customers as a high-priority objective? And if not, what would it look like if you were?
Many of the ways to improve your practices are common sense such as routinely disinfecting patio tables and chairs, handrails, elevators, trash receptacles, etc. Again, this additional work isn’t always easy, fun to manage, or income-producing; however, it will be noticed. It is also a good idea and to your benefit to help people notice. For example, some large mall owners are intentionally using disinfecting products that have a stronger smell of bleach. This gives people more assurance that things are clean and their safety is important.
Another way to help people notice is by showing evidence in the form of real-time graphs and charts that procedures are being followed on a routine basis to keep them safe. Similar to the A, B, C grading system health departments have restaurants post in their front windows, businesses can provide peace-of-mind to their customers in this manner as well. As a shameless plug, check out Common Areas to make this process easy.
Moving forward, the business operators who make others feel important and come up with new, effective ways to help will be the ones that achieve their ambitions. Whether this is socially or legislatively driven doesn’t matter. The bottom line is we need to adopt preventative measures to keep our staff, customers, and operations safe because they are important.
In response to the changing business landscape, Common Areas has released CDC and OSHA inspired checklists, deficiency tracking and reporting as well as remote working asset and safety tracking to its solution, to help businesses mitigate unforeseen operational liabilities, keep track of remote business assets, and simplify operations no matter what the business climate may bring. Learn more here.