Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as follows:
: continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition: the action or condition or an instance of persevering: STEADFASTNESS
Given that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission to the moon; I thought it would be fitting, in these uncertain times, to remind everyone that as Nasa and the crew of the Apollo 13 fit a square peg in a round hole and made it back down to earth safely, we too will find a way to adapt and persevere. We will all need to navigate the unchartered waters of this post Covid-19 world. If we don’t, our business will suffer and not only will we let our families down, we will let our team members and their families down. That’s a lot of pressure to carry on one’s shoulders, but as business owners and leaders this is the role we have assumed. Hopefully by the time this blog comes out we all will be back to normal working hours as we were prior to the Covid-19 appearing on our doorstep, but if not we still need to push forward. I am going to outline some suggestions that I hope will help you through these tough times..
This is not the time for door busters. Let me repeat that, This is not the time for door busters. Change is everywhere, there are a lot of unknowns as we navigate the complexities of the current environment. We are struggling to understand whether the economic, health and societal impact of COVID-19 is short-lived or something that will forever change the way we do business. Either way, we need to prepare and communicate; transparency and clear, honest communication are desired traits that build loyalty beyond crisis scenarios.
Though some companies are not able to pivot as easily as others, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate the current and potential impact of COVID-19 to your company, location and your customers. How does the current environment influence your customer’s journey and the makeup of their user persona? What short and medium term operational modifications can be made to your programs to address this new customer profile? The sooner you can adjust your current offering to accommodate changes in your customer’s consumption behavior, the sooner this relationship will become more stable and comfortable again. Change is not forever … or maybe it is and you need to adapt.
Establish a plan
Accurately communicate that plan to the communities you serve. Your team members are your most important asset; keep your employees happy, keep your customers happy, be transparent and forthcoming. Manage expectations and provide options. Is there a possibility for a short term audible? Are services and roles able to be slightly modified while still aligning with customer needs and local regulation? Whatever decision is made, make sure each team member knows how it affects them. Some locations may expand their delivery radius and some locations may allow for pickup. Whatever is decided, it’s paramount that you ensure each community receives information that is specific to them.
Communicate with your location managers / operators
As each community is affected differently, the continual analysis of feedback from your local managers has the ability to help reveal the true needs of their customers during a time that has no playbook. What works for big city locations will not work for small cities or rural areas. Each community must be evaluated individually. Each location's needs must be identified and addressed. Unfortunately, due to disparity in population size, smaller voices are often not heard or even able to be accounted for though they are numerous. Those large-market operations may often not feel the same pressure or financial stress that smaller markets do during times like we are currently experiencing. No location can be left behind. Hold weekly group calls. Help each of your locations understand exactly what impacts them the most. Better yet, gather field information. Oftentimes needs and regulations differ greatly community by community and strengthening communication and those relationships drive progress.
Communicate with your customers
Even with the best plan in place, if your customer isn't aware of it, it won’t work. Be where your customers are. Speak to each community directly: “This is our plan for your specific community because we understand and care about you.” It’s important not to miss the mark here though, and risk being perceived as patronizing. This may not be the best time to roll out a new offer. It is more important to remain present, capitalize on potential diminished competitor presence and a heightened appetite for local-specific news and increase brand awareness and favorability within your community. Your customers are living on this planet, and it’s important to show you are in the same headspace.
Plan for recovery but prepare to hunker down
We are still in a time of unknown. What makes this especially difficult is that the decisions made today will have a substantial impact on the survival of your business and how it operates tomorrow. There’s no time like the present to evaluate and review what offerings and procedures are in place from the past and make hard decisions about whether they remain that way in the future.
Learn everyday change will come fast
Which message did communities respond best to?
Which locations are operating more efficient and what is the new normal?
Which location is showing the most loyal customer base?
What is the best service modification?
What operational cost changes need to occur or are succeeding?
And most important of all, think about why these answers are the way they are.
Be patient - Keep a steady course
The new normal will become just that, normal (at least for now). Folks need to eat, get haircuts, and file taxes. Even if COVID-19 is reality for longer than we’d like, other topics of discussion will return. If you’re calm, calculated and clearly communicate your success plan to everyone involved, you will PERSEVERE.
ONE FINAL POINT…. WASH YOUR HANDS
Seems obvious but this is a must. Wash those hands people!
I hope this outline can serve as a starting point for all of you and I would love for everyone to share their thoughts and plans of action with us as well. This way we can pass along the information gathered to our colleagues in the industry so we can all persevere and come out of this the best way possible.