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How to Regain Your Clients’ Trust as the Pandemic Wanes

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iStock/Drazen Zigic
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The last 13 months of the pandemic haven’t been easy. As people live in fear of a virus that disrupts lives and cuts them off from one another, businesses have had to adapt. Retailers, restaurants and hoteliers had to quickly evolve their operations so customers could feel safe in their places of business.

But progress is being made, thanks to the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines. But although we might be rounding the corner of this worldwide crisis, don’t fool yourself into thinking the hard work is over. Because the pandemic is not yet finished, experts warn.

Even as they get closer to the end, the retail, foodservice and hospitality sectors will still have plenty of work ahead of them convincing customers to spend more time in their places of business while working to regain their trust. But how will they accomplish this?

Believe it or not, you have been showing your customers how much they can trust you since the pandemic started back in March 2020. That’s the opinion of Mark Deuschle, the president of Navajo Inc., which provides personal protective equipment (PPE) to retailers. “With 12 months in the rear-view mirror, you’ve seen which companies have done it right,” he says.

Return to Retail

When one looks in that rear-view mirror, that person can see that supermarkets especially did things right, Deuschle says. Although their large spaces could make them “the most exposed place” that people could go to, supermarket retailers did a good job of keeping their customers safe and sound, he says.

For example, “They did a good job of enforcing mask-wearing as people went in,” he explains. Supermarkets also installed Plexiglass barriers between cashiers and shoppers, and constantly wiped down devices that their customers needed to touch to complete transactions.

Supermarkets also put up directional arrows for people to follow in the stores and added signage so that shoppers were reminded to stay socially distanced from one another. “All of those things added up to an experience that the shopper felt was optimized for safety,” Deuschle says. 

Retailers made other changes to their facilities to make customers feel safe and comfortable. For example, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that one of its members — Lidl, an international grocer — was the first retailer to commit to installing hospital-grade air filtration of MERV 13 or higher in all of its U.S. stores.

This came after new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September 2020 revealed that COVID-19 could be transmitted in the air. The stores also have enhanced daily and weekly cleanings, provided masks and gloves to all of team members and instituted temperature checks at the start of each shift.

Fine (and Safe) Dining

Their work continues, but businesses have done quite a lot to keep customers safe. “Some have done [excellently],” notes Mark Deuschle, president of PPE provider Navajo Inc.

It’s arguable that restaurateurs have a greater need to instill trust in customers than retailers, considering the amount of time people spend in eateries. Guests need to feel safe enough to sit down, make an order, wait for it and then enjoy it with the belief that the kitchen staff prepared it with all the care necessary.

To help restaurants during this crisis, the National Restaurant Association created its “COVID-19 Operating Guidance” collection of best practices. These included tips on cleaning and sanitization, such as advising eateries to thoroughly clean and safely disinfect their entire facilities.

For example, the association advised restaurants to disinfect high-touch points, as well as rarely touched surfaces in the back-of-house, front-of-house and guest-service areas. The guide also gave advice on how to prepare workplaces for the virus through ventilation. 

Citing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Restaurant Association reports that air cleaners and HVAC filters can help reduce airborne contaminants, including viruses in a building or small space. Although air cleaning or filtration alone is not enough to protect people from COVID-19 exposure, it can be part of a plan to reduce potential airborne transmission when used with other practices, as recommended by CDC and others. 

In addition, the association reports that portable air cleaners can help when operators are not able to ventilate outdoor air without compromising indoor comfort, or when the level of outside air pollution is too high. 

It also recommends using the cleaners to supplement increased HVAC system ventilation and filtration, particularly in areas where adequate ventilation is difficult to achieve. “[You need to] direct the airflow so that it doesn’t blow directly from one person to another,” the restaurant association adds.

Making Stays Safe

It is essential for hoteliers, too, to inspire trust in their guests during their stays, which can of course be longer than the average visit to a store or a restaurant. To help hoteliers keep their guests safe, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) released its “Safe Stay Enhanced Industry-Wide Hotel Cleaning & Safety Guidelines.” 

According to AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers, the association started the Safe Stay commitment to unite the industry on enhanced cleaning measures and safety guidelines, and to help people meet and exceed challenges presented by the pandemic.

The guidelines include many practices for employees, including the required use of face coverings in all indoor public spaces to ensure the safety of employees and guests. The masks, AHLA notes, should cover the wearer’s mouth and nose and be used in combination with precautions such as physical distancing.

AHLA also notes that surfaces often touched by multiple people should be cleaned and disinfected at least daily, but other areas may require more, based on the level of use. These hotel-specific areas include front desk check-in counters, elevators and elevator buttons, ice machines, room keys and locks, and pool seating and surrounding areas.

However, guest rooms occupied by the same customer over several days should not get a daily cleaning unless the client requests it. “The frequency of room cleaning during a guest’s stay will be based on guest requirements,” AHLA says.

The association also advises that maintaining air ventilation and air quality is key to mitigating the spread of the virus. According to AHLA, properties need to ensure the systems operate as intended per their original designs and provide acceptable indoor air quality in accordance with the CDC’s COVID-19 Employer Information for Office Buildings. 

Steps include performing maintenance on air-handling equipment and conducting a building systems inventory assessment. In addition, AHLA says, hotels should increase the percentage of outdoor air to as high as 100% and apply filtration efficiencies to the maximum level supported by the equipment. 

Looking Ahead

In general, Deuschle says, businesses have done enough in their reaction to the coronavirus crisis. “Some have done [excellently],” he adds, noting that the airline and hospitality industries have reacted particularly well.

As time goes on, Deuschle predicts businesses will do more and get better at it — at least where it makes sense to them. “There’s a regionality to it,” he notes, pointing out how some states have relaxed their restrictions. “Some [of] these things will lessen and others [will be] on high alert.”

He also expects that retailers and other businesses will continue to try to do the right thing while making their employees feel safe. Those employers will ask, “‘Are my employees comfortable with the environment I’m asking them to go work in?’” he states. “You’ll continue to see [people] do more.”

He also anticipates that consumers will continue using PPE and taking other precautions even after the end of the pandemic. However, the use of some items will decrease. “Things like gloves will reduce just by nature,” Deuschle says. “They’re uncomfortable.” 

The use of masks also might go down significantly, but people will continue using hand sanitizer and wipes for a long time. “The core items are going to be around,” he says. “The heightened awareness is going to keep us moving in that direction.” 


PRODUCT SHOWCASE

These items can help the retail, foodservice and hospitality sectors in their efforts to prove to their customers that their businesses are safe to enter and that safety is an utmost priority.


GOLD SPONSOR

Isopropyl Alcohol, Hand Sanitizer and Sanitizing Kits

Navajo Incorporated’s PPE products include its lines of Handy Solutions Isopropyl Alcohol, Handy Solutions Hand Sanitizer and Grab And Go Sanitizing Kits, with made in the USA options.

Handy Solutions Isopropyl Alcohol is a disinfectant and sanitizing solvent that comes in multiple sizes. With everything from a small, travel-size container to a large jug, the entire range of alcohol products is clean and regulated. The products also are also available in 70% and 91% alcohol content.

The isopropyl alcohol is perfect for disinfecting hard surfaces, eyewear and glasses, and as a topical sanitizer. The high alcohol content provides quick evaporation to prevent watermarks and lingering dampness.

The products in the Handy Solutions Hand Sanitizer line are formulated with aloe and Vitamin E to moisturize and replenish the skin. They also remove up to 99.9% of germs. The 70% alcohol-to-water non-sticky solution causes the protective envelope of most germs to disperse, killing them instantly.

The Grab And Go Sanitizing Kits contain several essential items, including nitrile gloves, individually wrapped disposable face masks, hand wipes, hand sanitizer, facial tissue and lotion. The kits come in a range of sizes. Click here for more information, and here to download a whitepaper.


SILVER SPONSORS

Fans Eliminate Harmful Organisms

Airius PureAir fans work continuously to defeat harmful organisms in the air and maintain indoor air that is clean and healthy. The fans take existing indoor air and disinfect it 24/7 with a patented needlepoint bipolar ionization (NPBI) technology.

Ionized air has been proven to eliminate organisms and odors by applying an electrical charge to the air molecules. These charged air molecules will bind to organisms and disrupt the pathogens’ surface proteins, rendering them inactive and unable to replicate — leaving only clean air for people to breathe.

Airius said studies show the fans reduce the infectivity of certain viruses by 90%. The PureAir fans can be easily installed in any facility without having to access existing ductwork or HVAC systems. Click here for more information.


Reusable Masks for Different Occasions

Tricol Clean Inc. offers face masks that it says can reliably and affordably protect workers and their customers. The company has been manufacturing face masks and other microfiber products for decades.

The company offers three product lines of reusable masks that are odor and shrink-resistant:

  • Cooling masks — The company’s newest mask product is designed to keep the wearer’s face feeling cool and dry. The cooling masks are suited for working out or for double-masking over a disposable three-ply or KN95 mask.
  • All-seasons reusable three-ply masks — Tricol Clean’s original mask design features an adjustable nose bar for a perfect fit from nose to under the chin. It can be worn with a disposable KN95 filer insert for an extra layer of protection.
  • Warming masks — Ideal for outdoor use in the winter, this style has an inner layer of warming material to retain heat.

Click here for more information.


Transparent Film Never Stops Protecting

Nanoshield is a self-disinfecting, protective, transparent film that eradicates viruses and bacteria, including coronavirus, influenza, norovirus, staphylococcus and E. coli.

Nanoshield, which is distributed in the United States by Keywest Technology, produces electrically charged copper ions that attach to viruses and bacteria and alter their structure — stopping the way they work.

Viruses and bacteria can survive on hard surfaces for long periods of time. High-touch areas like smart devices, elevator buttons, digital directories, self-serve kiosks, vending machines, handrails and more are hot spots for transmitting diseases. Nanoshield can be used on these surfaces to kill viruses and bacteria.

Nanoshield is continuously disinfecting: Within seconds viruses and bacteria begin being eliminated, and within minutes their numbers reach undetectable levels. Unlike traditional disinfectants where viruses and bacteria can thrive in between sanitation procedures, Nanoshield is constantly fighting a war against these unwanted germs. Click here for more information.


Plastic Barriers Customized to Your Needs

Professional Plastics, a plastics distributor and fabricator, works closely with its clients to design solutions to protect people, including clear plastic barriers to be used in a variety of settings to protect against COVID-19 and other viruses and bacteria.

Professional Plastics can provide custom design services, which makes it a fit for customers looking for solutions that not only work but look good. The company supplies plastic sheet, rod, tube, film and fabricated parts. Its in-house capabilities include precision cutting, fabrication and value-added capabilities.

As a supplier of personal protective equipment, Professional Plastics said it is accustomed to manufacturing to high quality standards such as ISO 9001:2015 and 14001:2015. Click here for more information.


Face Mask Dispenser Kits

Calego International Inc., which has a long history as a developer and distributor of luggage, travel bags and accessories, recently launched its iFLY Smart face mask dispenser kits to make workplaces safer. The kits, which come in three sizes — 50, 100 and 200 masks per kit — dispense face masks that are individually wrapped so that the wearers can feel protected.

The idea of an open box of unwrapped masks that others have had their hands in didn’t seem like “a clean experience,” according to Calego President and Chief Strategy Officer David Rapps. “We then came up with this dispenser idea with individually wrapped face masks because we wanted to make it safer for people,” he said.

Calego International also designed its mask solution so that it could be easily mounted to any wall surface. Click here for more information.


Safety? There’s An App For That

SafetyCulture aims to help companies achieve safer and higher-quality workplaces through innovative, low-cost mobile-first products.

The company’s iAuditor is a mobile and web app that can be used to provide visibility and insights into raising safety and quality standards across an organization. Companies can collect consistent data, standardize operations, send reports, identify failed areas and get problems resolved with this easy-to-use checklist software.

With the iAuditor, SafetyCulture says users can say goodbye to paper by digitizing their team’s work. They can convert current paper checklists or Excel spreadsheets into smart inspection forms in minutes.

Automatically generated reports can be directly shared to inboxes of a user’s team, managers, contractors or clients. Data can be easily exported to other software and tools. Click here for more information.


Hand Sanitizer Stations

Working Safe America, a distributor of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks and alcohol wipes, and Newco Enterprises, a maker of “touchless” coffee and tea equipment for the office, have combined their areas of expertise to devise hand sanitizer stations that meet the unique challenges of highly trafficked places.

The new “180” hand sanitizer station provides two adjacent and yet socially separated dispenser units in a design suitable for entrance areas. For really big gatherings, the “360” station provides four dispensers that would be right at home on the floor of a busy convention center. The approximately 4-foot-tall stations also can be equipped to dispense PPE such as masks or wipes. Click here and here for more information.

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