Partner support and communication the key during and after ‘lockdown’

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The past few months have been some of the most difficult months the country has seen in a long time. No one has been immune from the ongoing impacts of COVID-19. But for our Rockingham Partner, Frances Slabber, open communication and trust have been essential for her business to survive and thrive.

While many businesses were forced to close during the pandemic, Specsavers took the approach of remaining ‘Open for Care’ to provide ongoing support to local communities.

I was so impressed by how well and efficiently decisions were made to protect the store team, the partners and the customers. “I felt Specsavers was very proactive. The support we as partners had from the support team and the leadership team was commendable, regular communication ensured that everyone was well informed.  I really felt protected during this period,” says Frances.

At Rockingham, the doors were closed, but Frances, and her optical partners continued to provide health care to first responders and customers with urgent care needs.  “Hearing and vision care is important to all individuals and especially for essential workers and customers with significant deficit, continuation of the service was crucial,” she says.

“We had a doorbell so that customers could alert us to their arrival, and clearly marked areas indicated where they could sit and wait once inside the store. Hand sanitizer was provided as customers entered the store, their temperatures were taken upon arrival and all the partners used gloves and masks,” she says.

Frances says teamwork was essential during this period and really reiterated the fact that the Rockingham team is a family.

“I have a very strong relationship with my optical partners.  We function as a team and there is always open communication between us. I am always aware of what is happening in their business as well as keeping them across what is happening in mine. During our open for care period, I helped the optical team to hand out collections and package glasses that came in and we were focused on making sure frames and surfaces were cleaned immediately.”

In addition to supporting her partners, Frances was also committed to supporting her customers.

“I phoned and delivered batteries and consumables to customers at home, and I did house calls to collect faulty hearing aids and delivered them again after repair. When I did battery drop-offs over Easter, I included an Easter egg with the batteries. The customers loved that! I also went to a legally blind customer’s house to replace a faulty speaker as his daughter who always brings him to the store was in isolation.  We did the exchange of a receiver with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer on his porch and at the end of the visit he handed me a massive Rocky Road Easter Egg.  That absolutely made my day, a small act of kindness can lead to so much gratitude.”

As we continue to take steps out of lockdown and towards a ‘new normal’ our partners are refocusing their attention to supporting their communities and growing their businesses.

“At Rockingham, it is business as usual, with added cleaning and precautions to ensure social distancing and hygiene.  The business is slowly but surely picking up, and while it will take time to be in full operational mode again, the team are motivated and energetic and that is all that is needed to get the business up and running again,” she says.

And knowing that many of her customers remain vulnerable to the virus, Frances is doing everything she can to provide a safe environment for hearing care.

I use PPE when I am in close proximity to my customers. I regularly use hand sanitizer and wash my hands, as well cleaning desk surfaces, chairs, headphones, response button, door handles and booth seat. And all the customers still have their temperature taken as they enter the store,” she says.

And she is again positive about what the future holds.

I am excited to see where this new normal is going to take our businesses. Telehealth and remote programming of hearing aids are exciting ventures that we are implementing and that should reach a wider customer base and provide better care to customers in remote areas who are not able to visit the store physically on a regular basis.”