BEST PRACTICES: ENGAGING WITH THOSE WHO RESIST FACIAL COVERINGS

In our current environment, social distancing, masks, constant sanitizing, and overall changes to school and work have become the norm.  Covid 19 affects everyone’s lives, from the cancellations of vacations, weddings, and concerts, to the life changing events of people’s businesses closing, getting sick, or even losing loved ones. This pandemic has shifted us to a whole new way of dining, shopping, working, communicating, and, well, LIVING. 

In all of this, in an effort to stop the spread of Covid, bring businesses back, and try to get back to some sense of normalcy, many states and cities have implemented mandates  requiring individuals to wear face coverings in public spaces.  The details of these mandates vary, but broadly speaking, they require masks in indoor public spaces such as retail shops, restaurants, and markets.  They are also implemented for public transportation, ride-hailing services, and outdoor spaces when people are unable to maintain a 6 foot distance from others.  (There are some exceptions for people with disabilities or medical conditions that prevent the use of face coverings, along with allowances for certain situations where masking hinders necessary tasks like eating, dental treatments, and so on.)

Unfortunately, face covering mandates have become more than a health or safety concern.   Even with the mandates, there are some customers that still refuse to comply, or at the very least, become argumentative.  Across the country, there is an increase in reports of retail employees, restaurant workers, healthcare professionals, security guards, and other contact professionals being confronted with altercations and violence while trying to enforce the mask requirements.  Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers have an obligation to provide a safe work environment for employees and need to take into account the impact a threatening customer could have on the safety of employees, other customers, and their business as a whole.  So how do you minimize the frequency of incidences or respond when one does occur?  

  • Have proper signage.   Educate everyone in the environment.  Make signage abundant, clear, and immediately noticeable so it is clear to all entering that you and the business is abiding by your state or city’s mandate.  
  • Demonstrate concern.  Focus on employee AND customer safety.  Express to customers that you are taking proper precautions to keep everyone safe, “ Please wear a mask – we want our employees to remain healthy and our business to be able to provide you the safest and best service possible.” 
  • Provide a supportive atmosphere.  As a contact professional, you are the ambassador for your business.   Vistelar training emphasizes that you are never responsible for the outcome, but you will be held accountable for the process.  So by providing a supportive environment, one that cultivates cooperation.  It gives you the ability to look professional and show that you are demonstrating concern. 
    • Train management and employees on how to handle face covering policies and procedures.  Remaining calm is key.  For their own safety, staff should not argue with nor attempt to block entrance into your business.  Using both the correct verbal and non-verbal tools can make all the difference in how others respond.  Avoid negativity and don’t focus on compliance.  Instead, make them aware politely and discreetly, if possible, because most will adjust once they are aware.  Let them make the decision—ask , don’t demand.  
    • Make sure the correct people are available to handle each situation.  Individuals have their own personal style; some are pleasant and disarming, and some have a stern demeanor.  Use each person’s strengths in the appropriate area and make sure they know the protocols in case things progress in a negative manner.  If a situation escalates, make sure someone in authority can greet the person who is being non-compliant and ask them if they saw the signage or had any questions on the signs.  They should listen to the person’s concerns and hopefully the customer will relay what is really bothering them.  You want to get to the heart of the issue rather than the issue become the heart of that contact.  Most people just want to feel heard and understood.
    • Lead by example.  Practice compliance yourself.  Focus on safety for all and model the correct behavior yourself.  This not only adds to the supportive atmosphere, but shows respect, concern and leadership to staff and clients.
    • Have masks available for those that may have forgotten theirs or those that use not having one as a possible excuse for non-compliance.  This is a far better option than just not allowing someone to enter.  

Watch the video below to learn how to improve communication among staff and customers while wearing a face mask.

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Using these techniques and keeping our “Treat People Right” adage in mind, you and your staff can improve awareness and communication to your customers with minimal conflict.  Want your staff to become even more skilled at conflict management?  Would you like to have less stress, more confidence in dealing with conflict, increased emotional and physical safety, improved work performance, and better personal relations with your clients?  Vistelar can help any contact professional learn how to build respectful and safer environments within your organization.  Contact us at info@vistelar.com and see how we can help!