From ditching tea and coffee to paperless transactions, Lincolnshire Co-op Travel boss Wayne Dennett explores the options facing agents as a return to the high street nears.
At Lincolnshire Co-op we are working on plans for reopening our 14 travel branches following recent changes to government advice. We’re focusing on the logistics of opening our doors to the public – ensuring the safety of our colleagues and customers is the primary objective.
It’s difficult to understand when it’s the right time to put these types of plans in place, and we are monitoring what other agencies are doing, as well as other retailers on the high street.
Over half of the team are working hard; either behind locked doors or from home, with full access to our travel systems, and the remainder of our colleagues are either working in our food or pharmacy branches, or are on furlough.
Our aim is to prepare a plan over the next week to enable us to be ready to open from early June. But we are looking to give customers a number of choices on how they speak to the team and manage their current booking or make a new one.
The options we are currently planning include recommending that customers continue to correspond via email or phone, encouraging video calls with customers and offering an appointment booking service in branch.
It’s really important to put lots of thought into each of these communication channels to make sure that you don’t miss something that can put extra pressure on the team. Our aim is to encourage customers use the methods above to discuss their plans with the team.
These options will be the best way to keep colleagues and customers safe. But if our competitors have an open door policy and allow customers to walk in to the branch, we may need to open the doors at some point to ensure that we don’t miss out on passing trade.
It is really important to consider the safety of your colleagues and customers when the doors are opened again. This may include taking some key elements like the following into account.
Safety screens. Should these be introduced? If so, consider lead-in times for these and how this will work with the layout of your desks and branch. Screens may be a good solution, but they should be used alongside the 2 metre separation guidelines.
Do you remove brochures for the short term? We’ve decided that we may do this and bring them out fully cleansed for customers when they ask for them.
You should set up hand sanitiser stations at the entrance and exit of each branch, as well as signage to ask customers to use this facility before approaching the desk.
Think about your standard items such as tea and coffee facilities, too. Maybe it’s time to remove these for a short period of time as it encourages customers to stay in the branch longer than they perhaps need to.
Our colleagues in branch will have a strict cleaning checklist to complete at the start and finish of the day. Procedures will also be in place throughout the day to clean after each individual customer visit. This should be considered as a priority for a re-opening branch.
Can you go paperless in your branch? As well as being environmentally friendly, this will cut out much interaction with customers, as there will be no paperwork to handover and no pens to share. Seek advice from a solicitor before going ahead with this though, to avoid any complications in the future.
If you have upholstery chairs in the branch, do you need to cover these? Disposable coverings should be considered.
Is now the right time to re-open your bureau de change? Consider cash handling and hand cleansing after each transaction. Can your currency provider supply you with the required stock at the moment, and do you have enough sterling in case more customers are bringing back unused currency than will be purchasing new?
Each of our branches is a different size and shape, so a full assessment needs to happen to work out the number of colleagues and customers allowed inside, and my team and our customers’ safety will be at the forefront of any decisions that are made.
We are certainly looking forward to welcoming our customers back through the door and helping them with their holiday plans for this winter and next summer.
Wayne Dennett is travel and post office group manager at Lincolnshire Co-operative Travel.