By Roger Magalhaes
Now that the economy is starting to reopen and consumers are returning to shops and studios, business owners are faced with challenges never imagined before: dealing with an invisible enemy that not everyone believes is real or dangerous.
I am not going to discuss the politics related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are some health (and legal) considerations to think about as we prepare to visit homes and businesses and interact with people again. Here are a few potential scenarios that we may face in the weeks and months ahead.
Perhaps a client who has already purchased products from you has someone in their household with an underlying health condition and they don’t want to let outside workers into their property. You may have to hold their products in your possession until they feel comfortable enough to schedule the installation. If you don’t have the physical space to store all the boxes, consider renting a storage space. You might also ask the client if you can drop off the goods at their property and collect the balance you are owed for the window coverings. At least you can recoup your investment in materials that way.
Perhaps you or your employees will have to deal with people that won’t show sympathy for your health concerns and refuse to wear a mask or follow other basic safety protocols. This can create some friction and discomfort for yourself or your team. I don’t believe you will have a right to force your installer to perform the installation if he or she doesn’t believe the environment is safe. You may need to hire an outside installer for certain jobs, especially if your installer has an underlying health condition that makes it important for them to limit their exposure to COVID-19.
Also, make sure to discuss all the details of the installation process at sales calls. Be clear with the homeowner up front about what you expect of them, whether it is to wear a mask when interacting with the installer, keeping a six-foot distance, staying out of the home or something else. You may be able to identify and negotiate a solution with people who are unwilling to do this during the sales call and avoid an uncomfortable situation for your installer.
Employees Not Fully Committed
Another situation may involve your employees not wearing all the PPE (personal protective equipment) during installations or, even worse, removing their PPE while at the client’s premises. The last one happened to a competitor of mine and his installer and the homeowner asked them to leave immediately. I only know this because the designer called me to ask if I would go and complete their installation.
This is uncharted territory for everyone (clients and service providers), and nobody knows the best way of handling the situation at this point. I believe the best approach will involve a detailed discussion with your employees and with each client about what they expect from you and from your company, as well as what you expect from the homeowner.
Currently, I wear a mask for the duration of my interaction at the client’s property. On top of that, I wear disposable shoe covers and disposable gloves when possible. I try to keep all the tools, equipment and products contained in a small area of the house (use a mover’s blanket to “mark your territory”). I also bring hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to clean doorknobs, light switches and other areas.
This is not convenient for anyone and creates extra expenses as well as increasing the installation time per job. However, at the present time, implementing these extra steps and demonstrating your concern for the client can pay big dividends. They’ll be more likely to refer you to their friends and other people. You might even ask them for an online testimonial. Don’t be afraid to ask them to mention that you went the extra mile to make them feel safe. It can only help your organization in the long run. Stay healthy and keep washing your hands.
Roger Magalhaes is the owner of Shades In Place, Inc., in the Boston area. He has received formal training and certifications from many of the country’s most respected vendors such as Somfy, Hunter Douglas, Norman Shutters and Lutron. He also attended the Custom Home Furnishings Academy for formal installation training focusing on drapery and other soft treatments. Roger is the founder of the Facebook group Free Speech Window Covering Pros and the Installation Instructor for the Window Fashion Certified Professional FastTrack program.