The COVID-19 crisis may have some small businesses on pause, but if you’re a contractor, landscaper, or plumber (or another business that’s called out to a customer’s home), you may find that your work is still chugging along.
After all, with more people spending time at home for the foreseeable future, there may be higher demand for your services. From clogged drains and springtime cleanup to home repairs and more, smaller contracting industry businesses are being called on now more than ever.
But being busy doesn’t mean you need to throw safety to the wind, because we’re here with small business support. Here are some tips on working with customers during the COVID-19 crisis.
Check your local guidance.
Some states are allowing only essential work functions to be done outside the home. Therefore, it’s worth checking to see if the type of services you perform fall into an essential or non-essential category.
In the event that you are considered an essential function, before you venture out to a customer’s home to work, per guidance by the CDC, you may want to give them a call to make sure that they (or someone they know) hasn’t been exposed to COVID-19 and are comfortable with your coming to their home.
To protect yourself, based on the CDC’s guidelines, you may want to ask your customers if they’ve recently experienced any of the following symptoms advised by the CDC, such as:
If a customer says they’ve had these symptoms or have been interacting with someone who has, you may want to wait to work on the project until they’ve recovered, the quarantine period has expired, or as advised by the appropriate health authorities. Your health — and the health of your employees and family — isn’t worth the risk.
Provide your customers with an emergency number.
If you don’t already have an emergency number associated with your business, it may be worth setting one up now.
Hear me out: A lot of families — and even towns — are experiencing a lot more strain on their plumbing systems and appliances. On a personal note, I’ve already seen emergencies where plumbers and public works personnel had to deal with clogged pump stations as a result of people flushing wipes (bleh!).
It makes sense; many people are spending more time at home practicing social distancing since for now, that is what the government is asking us to do. In fact, IT personnel and cable installers may find that they’re experiencing record-high demand, as more people are binge-watching their favorite shows and using the internet at the same time.
All of that activity likely means you’re being called on more than ever. If possible, I suggest providing your customers with an emergency number they can use that can provide direct access to you. That way, you can jump on more projects (thereby increasing work) while giving your customers reassurance that you’ll be there for them during this unprecedented time.
Don’t forget to add your emergency number — along with proof of your business insurance — to your website, social pages, and the rest of your marketing materials!
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Practice social distancing on the job.
At this time, it’s recommended that people stay at least six feet apart in order to flatten the curve related to the spread of COVID-19 within groups. The White House has also advised that people avoid groups of 10 or more, so if working on a project means you’ll cross these boundaries, we suggest holding off until the crisis has abated.
You should still incorporate social distancing on the job, even when you’re working with customers. For example, if you’re a landscaper and you want to ask a customer a question while you’re working at their home or business, as recommended, you can still maintain that pivotal six feet between the two of you.
As another example, ConstructionDive features interviews with contractors who have broken up their daily morning huddle with smaller huddles to avoid having groups of more than 10 people.
It’s also important to acknowledge that projects where you work for elderly customers may not be a good idea right now. If you have to cancel a project with someone who is considered “at risk” — such as those over 60 and with respiratory problems — you may want to give them a call to let them know you’ll be rescheduling the project to a future date.
And don’t forget, if you or any of your employees are sick or have been exposed to those who are sick, you should stay home!
Disinfect, disinfect, disinfect!
Whether you’re a contractor, landscaper, or a pressure washer, there are a few universal steps you can take to try to keep the job site — and yourself — protected from COVID-19, including:
Give your customers and employees the reassurance they need.
This is undoubtedly a scary time right now. Your customers may be feeling nervous or anxious about the future. That’s why, if you want to continue doing business during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s worth letting your customers know what you’re doing to try to keep your employees, yourself, and them safe.
To do that, you may want to try:
Don’t forget, if your business has to shut down or stop work as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, you may be able to apply for a no-interest emergency loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA). Simply Business will also be keeping you informed about changes that could impact you during this crisis, because we’re here with small business support.
One final note: Keep in mind that we’re not COVID-19 experts, so please pay attention to the CDC’s recommendations and your state’s announcements regarding policies with social distancing, quarantine, and more. If you’re advised to stay home, do right by yourself and your business and stay home!
I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner - I've had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!