As Tony explains, on the surface, a lot has changed. Twelve months ago, nobody would expect to be having conversations about lockdowns, social distancing, masks in shops and the dreaded, overused phrase “the new normal”. Yet this is exactly where we find ourselves. And decorators are having to make real changes to the way they work:
"The new normal is a cleaner, more hygienic version of the old normal,"
explains Steve Dove.
"It’s very different trying to understand what clients’ fears are and putting them at rest even before we have any face to face contact. Everything we say is now focused on how we behave, how clean we’ll be, and our Covid-19 processes."
For Carl Lesh, the real change is in how he interacts with his clients before and after work.
"Most of my clients are regulars, and the change is with the social side. Not being able to sit with them and have a cup of tea. I even have clients who’d do me a full English breakfast, so it’s harder to be strict!"
These restrictions make it difficult to build a relationship with clients - which, as Steve points out, can prove problematic when customers buy a decorator as much as they buy a decorating service.
But help is at hand thanks to technology.
A common theme throughout the episode is that we can use technology to replace face-to-face meetings and reduce contact that customers might view as risky.
Steve explains how email, text messages and video chats help him plan jobs before he enters a property. Simply asking his customers for photographs of their home and the areas he’ll be working in allows him to come prepared, plan his cleaning and distancing processes, and accurately quote for work.
"I’ll be continuing that even after Covid!" he says.
The biggest worry for many decorators is how their customers will react to new working methods.
Both Steve and Carl discuss the reactions of their clients while teams of decorators are in their homes, and explain that it’s not a fear of Covid that’s an issue, it’s that customers aren’t cautious enough while they’re in a seemingly safe space.
The key is to be clear and sensible, and alert to the risks. That includes:
- Setting boundaries - no handshakes, turning down tea
- Keeping customers safe - reducing risk with social distancing
- Enforcing guidelines - entering a “safe” home and keeping it that way
- Managing hygiene - keeping work areas clean
- Contingency plans - “what if” planning for self-isolation and local lockdowns
Listen to the full episode for more stories from Tony, Steve and Carl, advice on working in a tea-free environment, and a summary of exactly what the new normal means for decorators around the country.
Find all the podcast episodes here.