A Chance to Accommodate Customers in New Ways
By Phebe Taylor, Water Programs Coordinator, Resource Central
In any year, Resource Central’s Garden In A Box low-water gardens bring joy and value to communities across Colorado. This year in particular, with the COVID-19 quarantines in place, the response was overwhelming as there was a desire to nurture something, be outside, and take actions that lead to sustainable positive change. Despite the immense public interest in our products, the unique nature of the virus-related restrictions created a few opportunities for learning along the way.
Our biggest challenge during the pandemic was needing to rethink the distribution of gardens with health and safety as our main priority. Our typical model involves us hosting pickup events at our city partner locations across the Front Range over the course of the spring. The events are held in municipal or school parking lots, where hundreds of customers file through, receiving their pre-purchased products. Customers select a pickup date and location at the time of purchase.
Due to COVID-19, many municipalities were particularly sensitive about holding events that might pose even a perceived health and safety risk or violate any group gathering restrictions. As a small nonprofit, we also had limited staff to run these pickup events, as we previously relied heavily on our volunteer network, which was out of the question this year. So, we chose the safest solution by offering delivery with FedEx SameDay City service to deliver gardens to more than 4,000 customers across the Front Range. This was made possible through a generous COVID-19 response grant from one of Resource Central’s partners, the Walton Family Foundation.
While this shift towards delivery was not without its hurdles, we did get the chance to envision our program without direct exchange of goods at pickup events. We now have more information about what data or processes need to be in place if we ever begin offering the shipping of gardens to accommodate customers who may be deterred by the lack of accessibility of pickups.
Due to the logistical complications of delivering printed product materials with the delivered gardens, we offered all materials for download this year, making it convenient and timely while also cutting out printing costs and saving paper. Generally, we’ve been reinvigorated about the role gardening plays in our customers lives and have a renewed commitment to the growth and longevity of these important community programs.
An Opportunity to Implement Planned Technological Solutions
By Jared L. Sonnenberg, Sonnenberg Agency, LLC, & companion company, Oakwood Insurance Group, LLC
COVID-19 has certainly changed much for many, and our agency is no different. During the early months of the pandemic, when physical distancing was critically important and Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ orders and directives were meant to slow the spread (“flatten the curve” as they said), offices spaces such as ours were asked to operate at 50%, or less, capacity. We were able to achieve half of our staff working remotely because of our existing technological infrastructure.
During 2019, we had upgraded computer servers as part of our standard operating procedure. One agency partner had been closely monitoring world news towards the end of 2019, and based on this, we had created contingency plans that would allow staff to work remotely if the worst-case news headlines became reality in the United States.
When Polis issued the statewide “Stay-at-Home” Order on March 26, 2020 (which included businesses like ours to operate at 50%, or less, staff capacity), we did not have a one-size-fits-all approach. A couple staff members preferred to work at the office with the doors locked, meeting clients by appointment only, a few staff members took their office computers home because they did not have computers capable of handling the necessary workload at their houses, and a couple of us had computers at home that were capable of fully utilizing the ability to remote-in to our computers at the office.
For those working remotely, their office telephones forwarded phone calls to their cell phones. Most business was conducted by telephone, email and electronic signature. We also had a staff member that would come to the office after 5 o’clock each evening, and handle some clerical and environmental service tasks.
When the Stay-at-Home Order ended and we re-opened the offices on June 1, we did so with practical safety measures and protocols in place, such as: signage, floor markings to promote physical distancing, cleaning procedures, and one point of entry/exit to monitor persons, to name a few. And now that we have lived through conducting business remotely, we know it can be done again.
All our changes, new protocols and procedures are posted and updated (as necessary) on our agency’s social media platforms. The option remains for staff members to work remotely, if they feel that is the best and safest decision for themselves and their families. Our agency has been flexible, responsive and compliant during this unprecedented time, and we will continue to do so.