With more than 100 sites now working at full capacity, among the first SIG Roofing branch to reopen its doors was Working. RCI’s Nichola Farrugia spoke with branch manager Lewis Dunn, to discuss the measures the store has put in place to ensure that it is correctly set-up to safeguard both its staff and customers, and also discuss what the new measures mean for the customer buying journey.
It’s fair to say that the first six months of 2020 have been among the most turbulent in living memory for UK businesses. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent measures against it, have forced sectors nationwide to make significant changes to their day-to-day operations.
As the government slowly repeals its stringent lockdown measures, SIG Roofing has begun a phased reopening of its UK-wide branch network, with more than 100 sites now working at full capacity. However, with social distancing remaining a fixed part of our lives – at least for the short term – branches have had to work hard to ensure they’re correctly set-up to safeguard both staff and customers.
Among the first SIG Roofing branches to reopen its doors was Woking, one of the busiest in the company’s network. The branch, which is managed by Lewis Dunn, supplies to hundreds of roofing professionals across Surrey and the south east, many of whom were itching to get back on-site.
“We are a very busy branch with a widely-spread customer base, so we knew it was important for us to get back up and running as quickly, and safely, as possible,” said Lewis. “To that end, with the support of head office, we have introduced a number of new measures, which both safeguard social distancing and hygiene, without compromising the customer’s in-branch experience.”
Lewis continued: “Most notably, we have put in place a ‘one in, one out’ policy at the branch, to ensure employees and customers can maintain the important two-metre distance between one another. This is aided by clearly marked lines in the store and outside, to ensure that those who are queuing up to enter the branch can also ensure they are maintaining the correct social distance.
“In addition, Perspex screens have been fitted across the trade counter to act as a barrier between staff and customers, while all employees have been provided with the correct personal protective equipment. Hand sanitiser is also available to customers as they reach the trade counter.
“To further bolster the hygiene credentials of our branch, we have also introduced a regimental cleaning process, which encompasses the cleaning of the most regularly used items and surfaces after each use.”
In short, the changes the branch has implemented have made a small but necessary difference on its daily working lives, as Lewis explained: “The social distancing measures mean the branch must now carefully manage staff workloads to ensure that we are keeping everybody safe, and employees are able to do their jobs while maintaining a safe two-metre distance from one and other.”
Indeed, these kind of measures can only be successful if they have the full buy-in and adherence from staff. According to Lewis, all of the introduced processes have been “whole-heartedly embraced by staff members, and for now, it looks set to be our ‘new normal’ for some time yet.”
Customer purchasing habits
Perhaps the biggest change the branch has noticed in terms of customer purchasing habits has been, unsurprisingly, an increase in the number of telephone and email orders.
“Where possible, we are actively encouraging customers to contact us ahead of time with their order, enabling us to ensure its ready for collection by the time the customer arrives – ultimately ensuring a smoother process all round,” said Lewis.
“What’s more, as there is only one customer being served in the shop at any one time, we have dedicated other members of the sales team to receiving and processing the telephone / email orders.”
Something that concerned a lot of people ahead of reopening, according to Lewis, was how the new measures would impact upon the customer’s experience. He said: “We’ve been careful to ensure that safeguarding measures are rigorously enforced in a way that doesn’t negatively impact a customer’s time in the branch.
“To that end, so far, the feedback has been fantastic. Although the one in, one out process does take a little longer to serve customers, they are aware that this new process is necessary for us to be able to operate and ensure we’re safeguarding everybody in the branch. And ensure our customers can do their work.”
When Lewis considers his ‘day in the life’ prior to the pandemic, there has undoubtedly been a lot of small changes in the way the branch operates, but the way the team works in the branch now is as close to normal as possible, as Lewis concluded: “These changes may only be temporary, but I am proud of the way my team and customers alike have pulled together to make this ‘new normal’ work for everyone.”