Maintaining Your Electrical Business During a Pandemic
The success of your electrical contracting business hinges on two significant factors: customer satisfaction and the happiness of your workers. Complicating matters, there’s already a global slowdown in income for small businesses. The World Health Organization notes that, based on numbers from the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, global GDP was reduced by as much as 5 percent. As it was a century ago, the macroeconomic picture is out of our control. But to ensure that contractors continue to serve clients for the long haul, we need to put our customers and employees foremost in our considerations. Here are a few ways that contractors can hope to keep their businesses afloat while still ensuring that their work is of high quality. Like so many have said before, we’re all in this together.
New OSHA Guidelines
According to the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), the changes created by the COVID-19 virus require a different approach to how contractors approach OSHA regulations. The guidelines that NECA has offered include:
- Workers should disinfect all surfaces regularly, and utilize disposal cups.
- Contractors should encourage regular hand-washing for employees and set up stations to facilitate this. Hand sanitizers that are no less than 60 percent alcohol should accompany regular soap and water.
- Workers should try to avoid touching their faces with unwashed hands and avoid employees who are demonstrably sick.
- Companies should review their current illness policy and adjust it to meet the demands of the changing times.
Utilize Protective Gear
As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) mentions, face masks can be a handy preventive measure for limiting the spread of the virus. In addition to standard protective masks, employees should also wear booties to cover their boots when working within the confines of a client’s home.
When interacting with customers, it’s best to remain far enough away to maintain social distancing protocols as well. When these methods are combined, employees can help to do their part to limit the continued spread of the disease.
Take Full Advantage of Current Technology
With the rise of video conferencing technology, contractors can discuss issues face-to-face without endangering themselves or their clients. But customer discussions aren’t the only thing that video-conferencing is useful for. Employee check-ins can also happen remotely.
Phone calls also provide an essential method of limiting exposure by keeping the time a contractor needs to be onsite to a minimum. Encourage the client to discuss as much about the job as possible over the phone. Finally, company’s social media channels can help keep customers engaged while ensuring that no one within the company is at risk. Digital consultancy and videos can help raise your presence as a service provider that is innovating within its industry.
Electrical contractors also can use modern technology to facilitate payments. Some contractors already accept digital payment options on their websites. Alternatively, you could send out invoices in the mail. There is always some level of risk associated with invoices, however, and this should be a concern.
Alternatively, allowing employees to walk with Ziploc bags for the transfer of money or credit cards for processing is also a positive step. Some companies have a detailed payment procedure outlined to ensure the limitation of exposure.
Be Aware of Potential Risks
One thing that local health agencies have been doing to manage disease spread is to trace those who have come in contact with previously infected people. Contractors can do something similar to keep themselves and their staff safe. Asking clients if they’ve been sick recently might seem like a weird question in normal circumstances.
However, the virus has made things abnormal to the point that clients might even be expecting the question. Being open and honest with a client helps to build loyalty. Don’t feel pressured into accepting a job if the client is obviously sick, either. The safety of your workers and your family is of the utmost importance at this time.
Keep Your Tools Clean
Cleaning your hands and wearing protective equipment will protect you to some extent. However, tools are also a concern. The Journal of Hospital Infection mentions that studies show COVID-19 can survive on surfaces for anywhere between two and 10 days. Employees should disinfect tools properly to keep the spread of the virus at a minimum. Among the methods of cleaning that electrical contractors can adopt are:
- Mild soap and rest — If there was no bodily fluid on the item, then you can use mild soap and a damp cloth to clean it, then let it rest for three days to ensure safety for use.
- Mild soap and diluted bleach — This procedure is similar, although it uses a secondary cleaning methodology of applying diluted bleach to the surface.
Keep In Constant Communication
Regular updates about what the company is doing should go out to both clients and employees. These informational pieces can help to keep workers’ spirits up and put clients’ minds at ease. Additionally, management should listen to the concerns of employees. Their firsthand experience out in the field may help the company adjust its safety measures to be more efficient and reduce risk further.
Emailing or calling/video-conferencing with clients to keep them appraised of unavoidable delays goes a long way toward improving customer confidence and loyalty. In this sphere, technology is also useful, since mass communication with clients through constant social media or blog updates is relatively simple.
Adapting to a Changed World
Businesses need to be able to adapt to this changing environment to keep providing high-quality service. Doing this in such uncertain times requires a company to adjust its procedures. Technology has given us a lot of tools to help businesses remain professional and competitive in these trying times.
However, interaction with customers is only the first part of the equation. Keeping employees safe shows that you value their lives as well, and it can do wonders for worker morale. Businesses that make it out of the COVID-19 crisis will have a different appreciation for doing business. Many of the things we so recently took for granted now have to change. Embracing this change is the best way to keep a business running in such a brave new world.
Bobby Lynn is the owner of LiveWire Electrical, a fully licensed and insured residential electrical company serving Charlotte, N.C., and surrounding areas.