Why learning to adapt has been crucial to our business surviving

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Tania Zahoor Rashid is one of the Co-Founders and Directors of Aesthetics Lab, an award-winning cosmetic clinic based in Primrose Hill, London.

In this case study, she reflects back on changes the business made early on in lockdown – from upping its social media output to running online consultations, and, importantly, why she feels keeping agile is essential.

Here, she shares the lessons she’s learned in the hope it will help fellow small business owners.

“After months of lockdown, and our day-to-day life being completely turned on its head, seeing shops and other businesses start to reopen is fantastic.

“Like so many other businesses, as our entire business model is very customer facing, the pandemic has posed a huge threat to our survival. We therefore had to adapt quickly.

“As a company that offers very hands-on treatments to clients, we knew we would have to review the whole process of how we operate and interact with our customers.

Keeping in contact with clients

“During lockdown, we have implemented several things to ensure our existing clients know we are there to support them. The first was to make sure we were very active on social media. As the primary way so many people get information in today’s society, showing clients you hadn’t forgotten about them was vital to us.

“We also wanted to provide support and advice on any questions they might have, along with sharing some tips to maintain their skincare results at home with DIY treatments.

“While social media is an excellent tool for communication, we know it’s not for everyone so we also made sure our clients could reach us by email and even by phone with any questions they had.

Going online

“Like so many other businesses we made use of online meeting platforms and moved some of our consultations online. Even though our website doesn’t have an ecommerce feature, we worked with our clients to allow them to order any of the skincare products offered in our clinic online.

“What we have learnt is that we must make sure our business model can operate should the physical shop be closed. Of course, we will never be able to bring all elements of it online. However, things like ecommerce and online consultations are here to stay.

“While the reopening of businesses is positive in many aspects, we understand that some people may still be uncomfortable being out in public with others. For this reason, we are making a conscious effort to continue offering online options.

New ways of working for our staff

“Considering the industry we work in, safety is always a key consideration in anything we do, and we have always been very high on hygiene and cleaning. We have spent time during lockdown coming up with new measures to keep staff and clients safe, and I’d like to share some of them with you in the hopes it may help your own business.

“Front of house and till areas are present in the majority of retail businesses, and for most businesses, they represent one of the critical spaces that safety measures need to be in place. We have installed a perspex screen and stipulated all front of house staff members will need to wear PPE. There are also designated clean areas where members of staff who work directly with clients cannot enter, and clients must remain 2m distance away as well.

“We have also asked all staff members to keep any handbags and phones in their locker at all times. Also, to change shoes so as not to wear ones from outside while working and to change out of their work uniform whenever they leave the clinic. These are just some of the measures we have put in place for our staff, but they should be transferable to other industries.

How clients will interact with us in the clinic

“Where we have an advantage over other retail stores which rely mostly on walk-in customers, is that with the treatments we offer, they tend to be booked in advance. Because of this, we have created a COVID-19 form that clients will be asked to fill out before coming in for their appointments. This will allow us to determine the risk a client may pose and if necessary, reschedule their appointment for a later date.

“Any client, walking in or with an appointment, will be asked to let us check their temperature when they arrive at the clinic, and will be provided with hand sanitiser and PPE.

“To help reduce the number of people interacting in the clinic, we are spacing out appointments to avoid overlap of clients in the reception area at the time of checking-in and out. Because we do still offer walk-in appointments, and we realise this could lead to overlaps, we are adding extra seating outside the clinic to be used if the reception area is not free. When clients leave any area of the clinic, it will be cleaned by members of staff to help protect other clients and Aesthetics Lab staff.

“As customers start to return to the clinic, and we see how other businesses are operating in these challenging times, there could well be further changes to how we operate.

“I think it’s only sensible for all businesses to adapt and implement changes if they see better options in place elsewhere. The most important thing to remember in this situation is the need to keep staff and members of the public safe.”