The stark reality of life under COVID-19 is finally dawning on most of us. The disease is here to stay until the vaccine is widely available to all. Continuing its relentless surge around the planet, it has sent billions of people into lockdown.
There have been some positive experiences, of course. Some households have benefitted from eating healthier, spending quality time with family, fewer expenses, and less pollution as we all drive less. For the global economy, there’s no way to sugar coat it – the damage this year will be less than previously expected, but still unprecedented.
Governments across the globe are trying to strike a balance between saving lives and protecting the economy. No sooner does a country ease restrictions than another imposes more. And yet, as health services, businesses, and families continue to adapt, people continue to spend.
During lockdown, money that might have been spent on commuting to work or a night out was saved or spent elsewhere. While not the experience of every household, from March until June 2020, online sales soared. In the United States, they increased 42% year over year in August alone.
Unsurprisingly, price and affordability were the prime concern for consumers before making a purchase. The latest Edelman Trust Barometer Report reveals that brand trust, however, is the second most important factor, trumping company reputation, performance, and how the brand treats customers.
The survey also revealed that people with high brand trust (75%+) will:
- only buy products of that brand, even when cheaper products are available
- immediately look into buying new products from that brand
- feel more comfortable sharing personal information
- pay attention to a brand’s communications
- share or repost brand content
- recommend and defend the brand
Remove doubt to reassure consumers and employees
As COVID-19 threatens economic recovery and we learn more about the disease, governments worldwide are reluctant to impose further restrictions. Some countries that had initial success in suppressing outbreaks are seeing infections rise again.
The US has lost the largest number of lives to the virus, so it’s not surprising that at least half of the American labor force is still working from home. According to a new survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 57% of people who are choosing to work remotely are doing so because of concerns about coronavirus exposure. With cases rising again throughout the country, state governments have begun enforcing restrictions once again in an attempt to slow the spread.
The pandemic has made people more aware of hygiene, at a personal level, at home, at work, and especially when they’re out spending, to reduce the chances of infection. A recent article in Forbes suggests that hygiene, not just cleanliness, is our new definition of safety. If it’s not hygienic, it’s not safe.
A clean environment has always been a sign of quality. These days, however, it’s expected. If you’re a hotel, restaurant, or shop open for business or hoping to re-open again soon, cleanliness will no longer allow you to stand out from the crowd. If we’re eating in a restaurant or staying in a hotel, we can see if something isn’t clean. We cannot, however, see whether something has been made hygienically safe.
Have something to shout about
To gain trust and reassure consumers and employees that their properties are risk-free, brands in all sectors are involved in shouting matches, screaming from the rooftops about how safe they are. But are they making the right noises?
Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Audi, and Volkswagen have tweaked their logos and taglines to spread the message of the importance of social distancing. The hotel industry’s Safe Stay program represents a new level of focus and transparency for an industry already built on cleanliness. Ambius is proud to be an AHLA Safe Stay sponsor.
Every day, brands of all sizes are launching COVID-19 awareness campaigns. But Fernando Machado, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Burger King, suggests that it’s time to do things, not just talk about things. He argues, “it’s time for concrete actions which will have a positive impact on the life of others.”
The time for talking is certainly not over. Businesses should be verbally reassuring their customers about what they’re doing to protect them before they visit their premises. Only those who already trust a particular brand will be satisfied with a few lines of copy or a video on a webpage. But even if we are told verbally, or via digital technology, should we simply take a brand’s word for it? After all, telling isn’t selling.
What the consumer and employee need is demonstrable, visible reassurance. As Forbes points out, safety is now “more than the plastic-encased map on the door showing the exits and stairwells in case of fire”.
Demonstrable hygiene and visible reassurance – what brands can do
Not every brand has focused on building trust. These brands may find their first few steps in the new normal sluggish. But by showing rather than telling – high standards of hygiene, and therefore, safety – can be trusted, consumers and employees will be reassured and begin to place confidence in that brand.
Brand trust is so important that the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) launched a series of action plans to re-establish and rebuild consumer confidence in the travel and tourism industries. The goal of the program is to support the sector’s recovery through operational and health protocols.
The program is open to companies involved in Travel & Tourism, International or national-level Travel & Tourism industry associations, WTTC Members, and public destination authorities (national, regional, and municipal governments). Those that implement the health and hygiene protocols outlined by WTTC will be awarded the bright green “Safe Travels” stamp and listed on the WTTC website.
A global consumer sentiment survey across 42 countries from McKinsey – the trusted adviser and counselor for many of the world’s most influential businesses and institutions – recently revealed a serious need for hygiene transparency.
Their research showed that consumers want convenience, availability, and value, but factors such as trust and safety are becoming increasingly important. The survey also revealed that consumers are concerned about how companies treat their employees. If they treat their staff well and put safety concerns first, it indicates that the company is making sensible decisions about safety.
Brands that provide visual reassurance, such as the “Safe Travels” stamp, are ahead of their competitors. And there are many ways to show consumers and employees that your brand is prepared to put your people first.
Don’t skim the surface
For any business, reassurance that measures have been taken to minimize the risk of cross-contamination is vital. Regular surface cleaning can help prevent recontamination and the spread of germs, but just telling consumers that you mop, wipe and scrub isn’t enough.
Frequently touched surfaces – such as door handles, light switches, handrails, payment terminal keypads, and shopping carts – accumulate germs from people’s hands and are a major cause of cross-contamination.
Surfaces can act as reservoirs for infectious microorganisms, which can survive there for days or weeks. Sprays and surface wipes can kill pathogens effectively. Disinfection eliminates germs by sanitizing touchpoints, surfaces, equipment, and floors with solutions that can kill bacteria and viruses.
At Ambius, our disinfection experts provide post-treatment reports and certificates confirming that a service has been provided. By introducing these solutions and displaying such certificates in your business, consumers and employees will have tangible evidence that hygiene safety is being taken seriously.
A safe pair of hands
Positioning no-touch hand sanitizing dispensers at contamination hotspots throughout your premises – particularly in high-traffic areas such as reception areas, kitchens, personal workstations or gyms – will not only reduce cross-contamination risks and help prevent hands from becoming re-contaminated, but they’ll provide visible reassurance to consumers and employees. Adding visual reminders, like our hand sanitization how-to poster, about how to sanitize hands properly provides an added layer of reassurance.
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Cleaning stations where staff can easily access hand sanitizer or cleaning supplies should be a priority. Visual signs and floor markings will show staff and consumers that you’re following government guidelines and prioritizing the health and well-being of your people.
The presence of hygiene experts on your premises to regularly maintain your facilities will establish trust too. Hygiene experts will be fully trained to work in this new normal, ensuring the highest level of protection so they can provide hygiene services safely to customers.
Something in the air
COVID-19 can linger in poorly ventilated indoor spaces. With the average person taking 20,000 breaths a day and spending 90 percent of their time indoors, air hygiene is a crucial factor in indoor environments and should be an essential measure to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
Harmful particulates in the air include:
- allergens that aggravate the symptoms of asthma
- allergenic particles from animals
- mold spores
- bacteria and some viruses
Air filtration units improve comfort levels, concentration levels, and reduce sickness and absenteeism. Higher quality air also means there’s less risk of long-term health problems later in life.
Any one of these reasons should be enough to buy into safer air during a pandemic, but the visual reassurance of these filtration units will clearly reaffirm to customers, guests, and employees that you’re providing high standards of air hygiene.
Our hygiene experts provide regular service maintenance reports confirming your units are clean and effective. They also provide posters that educate passersby about the units. By introducing these solutions and displaying such posters in your business, consumers and employees will breathe easier knowing that hygiene safety is being taken seriously.
The potential social impact of hygiene and brand trust
When was the last time you spoke to a stranger? When was the last time you spoke to a colleague from your office face-to-face? The decline of social interactions has the potential to lead to a social recession and could be leaving a negative impact on mental health.
Combined with the economic recession, social recession has the potential to harm the efficiency, productivity, and agility of us all. What the world doesn’t need right now is a “double pandemic”.
Now more than ever, brands need to partner with expert providers that invest in teams of microbiologists, product developers, and service professionals to deliver effective, proven, and science-led hygiene solutions which also help to offer visible evidence that their premises are hygienically safe.
This will not only build trust, but it will instill confidence and reassurance for people to begin rebuilding their social connections and quality of life when the easing of restrictions allows them to do so.
Partner with the global experts in hygiene to deliver holistic, proven and demonstrable hygiene measures for your business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Get in touch today.
Our business is to get you back to business
At Ambius, we understand the importance of protecting your people from the risks of poor hygiene in difficult times. Our integrated solutions will help to take care of your people and safeguard your business. Find out more about keeping your staff and customers safe in the ‘new normal’.