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Will a General Liability Waiver Cover Me During an Epidemic and More of Your Questions for October

And how to head off ‘boss’s pet talk’ at the pass.

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Can I ask my staff to sign a blanket “liability waiver” to protect me from claims in the event an employee is infected with COVID-19?

No. It’s simply not enforceable, says attorney Tiffany Stevens, who specializes in offering legal advice to retailers. A better approach is to create policies for your business and give every employee a handbook spelling out what you’re promising to ensure their safety and asking employees to promise they will take reasonable safety measures as well. Stevens recommends you hire a local employment attorney for advice on the employee handbook, since state and local laws change frequently.

I can’t carry every line that everyone wants. But what do I do when a customer asks for a brand I don’t carry?

Knowing that you can’t be everything to everybody — and not trying to be — is already half the battle, says consultant Kate Peterson of Performance Concepts. Be thoroughly familiar with the unique features and benefits of the products you do carry. Then, train your staff to become expert listeners, tuned to hear and discern the customer’s real needs. “Although there are some ‘brand collectors’ out there (for whom nothing but the exact model will do), you should recognize that more often than not, when a customer asks for a specific brand, he or she is most likely asking for the ‘look’ (i.e., something he or she saw elsewhere) or the implied quality of the brand (i.e., ‘Lindberg means good frames’),” says Peterson. When a customer asks for a line you don’t carry, the typical “no, but…” is the worst possible response, she says. The customer hears nothing after “no.” A more appropriate response might be to answer the question with a question: “Is there a particular lens feature you had in mind?”

I’m matching face shapes to frames and recommending computer progressives with anti-reflective coatings, and even blue light protection, to my customers who say they need to look better in Zoom meetings. Is there anything else I should be doing?

It sounds like you’ve covered all the bases from the optical angle. The next step is really stagecraft, meaning offering advice on lighting and body positioning. That’s typically beyond the purview of an optician, but the more you can help them to look good, the more they’ll keep coming back to you for their vision needs. Start with these tips. It’s important they look straight into the camera, not at the person in the screen (which may require some adjustment of their computer set up, especially if it’s a laptop). Urge them to lower the brightness on their screen to reduce the glare and reflection showing on their lenses. They also probably need to experiment with lighting behind their camera to better illuminate their face. If this creates hard shadows, try bouncing that light off of a smooth, white surface, such as a white wall or even a sheet of paper. A dedicated space or room that provides a proper background with distractions and competing sources of light removed from back walls can also help. Never have so many people needed to look good on a screen. This is your chance. Seize it with helpful advice.

How can I get the most out of my direct marketing efforts this holiday season?

Don’t treat all customers equally, says Ellen Fruchtman of Fruchtman Marketing. “Do all of your customers deserve the same value gift card or special offers during the holidays? The answer is no,” she says. “The object is to separate your customers into different buying ‘buckets’ and create incentives and offers that will move them up the ladder to a higher bucket.” One example might be a $25 gift certificate on any purchase of $200 or more, sent to a customer “bucket” that is historically and consistently purchasing below $200. Another good example would be targeting the “win-back” bucket (customers with no purchases in the past two or three years) with a message that should encourage them to get back into the store during the holidays (e.g., “we miss you and here’s a special incentive to welcome you back”).

I have one great employee, to whom I assign important jobs. This causes resentment among the other staff. What do I do about “boss’s pet” talk?

First, understand that fairness doesn’t mean uniformity, says Marcus Buckingham, author of One Thing You Need to Know. All employees are different and will feel fairly treated if his or her differences are recognized and accommodated. Your B-grade performer can be perfectly happy with a star getting important projects — as long as they have a chance to show off their best talents as well. Employees will repay you with loyalty if they know what’s expected of them, have the resources and the chance to excel, feel that someone cares about them at work, believe their opinions count, and know that merit is rewarded, says Buckingham. If you can do that, all employees will feel like they’re your favorite.

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