Photo by Hattie Kingsley Photography
These days, it seems every aspect of our lives requires careful adjustment due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it's in our home, work, or social life, everyone is trying to acclimate to the new normal and the challenges it presents. Even with the economy and country beginning to reopen, it seems as though life is not going to go back to the way things were before COVID-19 anytime soon. Every stakeholder in your business will expect you, as a leader, to change your approach for these complicated circumstances.
Coming up with a plan for reopening is a significant undertaking, but you can find success by drawing on the experiences of other leaders and considering the expectations of the people who rely on you. (Learn more in this webinar) Creating solutions to new challenges and accepting the changing attitudes of customers and employees alike are crucial to the long-term success of your business and also present an opportunity for growth in a post-pandemic economy. Here are a couple strategies to keep in mind.
Strategy #1: Be creative and thoughtful in the ways you serve your customers.
Your customers should be at the heart of your reopening plans; without them, your business will not survive. Your customers will be understandably hesitant, so you have to be both creative and thoughtful in the ways that you serve them. Companies across the board have come up with innovative ways to get their products in the hands of the customer.
Recently, business.com interviewed Edgar Comellas from Aces Wild Casino Parties, a company that provides casino-style entertainment for events. Aces Wild needed to completely rethink their model to sell its products, as the demand for events has essentially disappeared. They came up with a solution that allows them to deliver their product in a safe environment – putting on Zoom conference casino events where each room is a different game. Pivoting to a digital solution to deliver your products is a smart way to create a new revenue stream while satisfying your customers.
Another piece of the puzzle is the need to offer your customers extended support and not leave them in the dark. Uncertainty will define the zeitgeist of this moment in time, and customers and prospects will likely show restraint. The most important thing to do is understand that the sales cycle will be more drawn out than usual and find ways to let customers know that you understand their hesitation. If it is financially possible, offering extended pauses or a more generous credit system is a good way to show your appreciation for their concerns.
Another best practice is to educate customers through content. Create blog posts, case studies and white papers to share information that you think will be useful to your customers as they navigate their challenges. Adding thought leadership content to your email and social campaigns and sharing important information will help to build your relationships with your customers even if you are not up to full operating capacity yet. Finding ways to add value will help your business bounce back when the economy finally stabilizes.
If your business is based on a retail model, it is imperative to maintain safe practices when opening up your location to customers. Companies such as Whole Foods have instituted policies to combat the spread of the virus in their stores. Effective strategies include limiting the number of customers in the store at a time, placing social distancing markers in the checkout lines, and ensuring that all employees have access to proper face masks and sanitation products. Such policies will make both customers and employees feel safer in the store, increasing trust on both sides. You can view the business guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here and get started on creating a safe environment for your retail locations.
Strategy 2: Ensure the safety and comfort of your employees.
The other most important group of stakeholders in your business is your employees. Your employees are your biggest asset, and maintaining their health and safety is of the utmost concern. You should put a number of practices in place to promote your workers' security.
The first thing to do as your employees return to the workplace is to provide proper PPE (personal protective equipment) for them. Retail environment or not, proper PPE will make employees feel safer and reduce the risk of an outbreak. Following the guidance of government agencies and officials is the best way to protect the health of your employees. The CDC has resources for worker safety and support, which you can find here.
Another benefit you should offer employees is the continuation of flexible working arrangements. One of the only good things to come out of the current situation is that businesses have proven remote work is effective and employees can maintain productivity at home. Returning to the workplace will be a difficult decision for many people, and giving them time to ease into it is the right thing to do. Industry leaders such as Twitter and Square have announced that their employees will be allowed to work from home forever if that is their choice. To find information on the software and technology products that will help your business succeed in a fully remote system, click here to view our COVID-19 Business Resources page. Where possible, allowing employees to return to the workplace at their own pace will serve their health and safety and let them know they are valuable.
Your employees' mental health is as important as their physical health. This is an incredibly stressful time for all of us, so it is important to understand your employees' needs and attitudes right now. Consider holding a series of one-on-one meetings with all your employees to get a better understanding of their individual situations, and develop your response based on those conversations.
Another necessary part of any reopening plan is a pandemic preparedness strategy for the future. COVID-19 has proven that these situations can and will happen and that the most important thing is to be prepared.
Weighing in on this article, business.com writer Adam Uzialko, who has been covering the impact of the coronavirus on small businesses, wrote, "I think this whole pandemic has eliminated the attitude that a disaster isn't going to happen or, if it does, it will likely be an isolated incident unlikely to affect 'my business.'" With the possibility of a second wave of COVID, having a plan for a future situation will help you deal with the effects of a pandemic and ease your employees' concerns. You can view Adam’s article about planning for COVID-19 and beyond here.
Reopening and adjusting to the new normal will be challenging but necessary to the success of your business. Thoughtfully consider the implications for both your customers and your employees in returning to an onsite setup. Learn from other businesses' experiences to find strategies with the best chances of success. It sounds cliche, but we are truly all in this together, and the business community must band together to come out stronger on the other side.
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