Like many other sectors, small businesses in the service industry have been hit hard by the outbreak of COVID-19. According to one report, one million service workers in the beauty industry are being impacted by the coronavirus. That doesn’t even begin to account for the personal trainers, maintenance workers, and dozens of other professions that are seeing customer interactions dry up.
When your business model depends on some level of human contact, you may be at a loss for how to shift your focus to stay afloat. This guide focuses on ideas for beauty and health providers, legal and accounting firms, and maintenance and mechanical services to manage the global pandemic.
To many of us, the world feels like a scary place right now. Everyone navigates this differently, but some are able to shift their mindset and approach this pandemic as a challenge rather than a source of stress. To be sure, changing the way you approach this crisis can be a different experience than taking on a growth mindset for the sake of personal improvement when your survival isn’t at stake. Shifting to a “can-do” attitude and tapping into internal determination is the first step to building your business back up again.
For service industries in particular, human contact is assumed as the baseline of business. Health and beauty professionals, for instance, thrive on in-person appointments, make-up consultations, group yoga classes, and in-person therapy sessions. Lawyers and accountants need to consult with clients in private, and attorneys may need to make court appearances. And other service professionals are in and out of homes making repairs, consulting on renovations, dropping off materials, or providing landscaping maintenance.
But there are multiple ways to establish contact. Identifying the most strategic ways to do so while preserving distance is key. As you start rethinking your service model, look to other sectors experiencing the similar challenges: schools, musicians, artists, and restaurants are all asking these very same questions. Creativity is the name of the game here. What can your business still offer that honors social distancing and keeps your customers safe?
Salons, spas, gyms, yoga studios, and other health & fitness service providers are struggling right now; many have had to completely shutter in light of shelter-in-place orders. Much of what they can offer now depends on each state’s particular regulations. As much as possible, these businesses should consider going digital. Here are some ideas to get started:
Remember that in addition to protecting your clientele, you need to keep your employees safe as well. Prioritize online activity and communicate regularly what you’re doing to sanitize your environment. This will help your team make educated decisions about when they feel safe enough to return to work, if they haven’t already.
Whereas some banks and other highly regulated institutions still require in-person appointments for certain services, legal and accounting businesses can be more flexible. Legal counsel and accounting services remain critical regardless of social distancing. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to transition your client consultations to audio or video calls.
Nevertheless, the COVID-19 crisis may create new hurdles for lawyers and accountants. Many individual professionals and firms might experience significant changes in their income during this period. These changes affect how your clients’ taxes must be filed and paid, or when they might launch a new venture requiring legal assistance, but they also may affect the budget they have dedicated to paying your fees. Here are some ways to be proactive with your business during COVID-19.
Like legal and accounting, landscape, maintenance, and mechanical services are considered essential. It’s likely that there’s some level of service you can still offer to keep cash coming in. But, many of your services will take more time because of cleaning protocols or limited staff movement. Customers will not be inclined to pay more, so how can you get creative with your services?
Here are a few steps to take to save money and build a low-contact approach to your business.
Service industry businesses are notorious for asking customers to send payment using paper checks, even now in the age of electronic payments. According to one estimate, most businesses still pay 50% of their bills using paper checks.
Early testing shows that COVID-19 can last up to 24 hours on surfaces like paper and cardboard. Not only are paper checks potentially risky during this time, they’re also inefficient. Paper checks run the risk of delayed delivery, loss, and/or theft. Even just using checks costs money: businesses lose anywhere from $4 to $20 to cut, mail, and process each paper check.
Instead, look for a system like Bill.com, Paypal, Zelle, or Venmo—or even a plain ACH transfer —to handle your billing. Many of these systems also offer invoicing tools as well. Make it safe, easy, and fast for clients and customers to pay you, as well as for yourself to pay employees and vendors.
Even though you may not be seeing your clients in person, staying in contact with them is important. Make sure your mailing lists are current, and notify your clients via email and social media about how your services are changing. Be upfront about what safety measures you are taking to keep your team safe. Make sure that these communications are in your voice! Service industry businesses are often personality-driven, so make sure that you bring your personality to all of your emails and posts.
Where can service providers go to find some extra help? If you need additional funding during this time, check out some of these options:
A little determination and creativity can help those in the service industry weather this storm. Try to find ways to offer your current services online or shift your business model to include a new product-oriented revenue stream. There are plenty of resources to help you keep accepting payments and get extra help when you need it. For more information, check out these web pages on financial relief, business preparedness, and our general merchant resources.