Reopening Stores with Social Distancing
Having stores closed has been incredibly painful for retailers. The opportunity to re-open can be daunting.
Retailers have to not only put the highest priority on customer and associate health and safety, but have to do so in a way that complies with a maze of regulatory guidance that varies by state and municipality. And today’s guidance is likely to be completely different two weeks from now.
A key requirement for re-opening will be providing a store environment that supports social distancing protocols. To address this, many retailers are introducing store visit by appointment-only policies. Many of these retailers have little to no experience delivering a customer friendly appointment or reservation experience for their customers, nor do they have the systems or tools in place to do so.
It is not difficult to find appointment setting tools on the market. However, it is challenging to find tools that are designed for retail and will provide long term value to the business as requirements change. And this is important because none of us know how the COVID-19 experience has changed customer engagement preferences. While rapid deployment is key to address today’s unique needs, the following considerations should also factor into the investment in an appointment setting tool.
- Is the tool schedule aware? Can customers book an appointment that aligns with the schedule and availability of their preferred associate and will that appointment automatically populate into the associate’s schedule? Are both parties automatically notified of a change affecting that appointment such as a sick call-off or an appointment cancellation?
- Does the tool have pre-appointment and post-appointment features to account for necessary cleaning and sanitation procedures with associated reminders and checklists?
- Does the tool support the concept of assets so that services requiring use of limited assets such as curbside slots can be optimized for the customer?
- Does the tool support queue management and virtual queue management so that waiting customers do not actually have to stand in a line?
- Can the tool be seamlessly linked to the retailers’ website or mobile app?