As organizations across the country begin to open for business, it’s hardly business as usual. These uncertain times have forced us not only to quickly transition to work models that keep operations running but also to reevaluate how these changes affect our moving forward.
As we discussed in the previous article, the first step to recovery is to stabilize business operations by mitigating short-term risks and finding ways to create a stable working environment. The second step is to orchestrate a return to the workplace.
By the end of May, all 50 states had reopened at varying levels of operations with the threat of reclosing should cases of COVID-19 spike. And that places companies in a unique situation.
You may be returning to the same company, but it’s not the same job. What plans are in place to protect your company’s infrastructure should another crisis threaten operations? How can you build trust in what may be an entirely new work environment? And how can you connect with customers who are facing the same uncertainty within their company?
In this second track from the Salesforce COVID-19 Response Plan, let’s talk about acknowledging this “new normal” in business and pinpoint some questions that will impact the success of your return to day-to-day operations.
1. How has your decision-making process been impacted?
It’s during times of uncertainty that expose a company’s leadership and decision-making capacity. “Decisions must be made with considerable thought given to social elements — community, emotion, and ethics,” said Kasey Panetta. “To deal with this, enterprises must revisit their core competencies. Determine what the core organizational competencies are, and decide how to leverage those to continue to generate revenue while also considering safety, continuity, and resilience.”
Experts at Garner.com identified three different criteria for business leaders to consider when making decisions:
- Traditional business value: To protect the financial health and viability of the enterprise.
- Crisis and disruption: To protect the health and safety of employees, customers, and the community.
- Social and emotional: To protect the emotional health of the community, and deliver on the enterprise value system in a manner that reflects current societal priorities.
As part of the reopening process, business leaders must discuss all three sets of criteria with equal importance. And the ideal final approach to addressing the changing needs of your workforce and stakeholders is to be proactive with information and then listen to feedback.
2. How will day-to-day operations look?
Many companies were confronted with the immediate need to transition their workforce to remote work environments. Now a large number of them are considering the flexibility of these work arrangements as a permanent solution. A Gallup poll found that 62 percent of employees transitioned to a remote work environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Three out of five of those employees would prefer to continue.
That doesn’t mean the office will disappear. But you do need to look at infrastructure amid this change. “Big trading floors or other open floor plans may be replaced in some cases by cubicles or other partitions for health reasons,” said Zack Friedman. How will social distancing be maintained at work? Sales meetings may occur more often on video conferencing rather than in-person.
To reopen your business successfully, you must be focused on the new, evolving needs of your employees, determine how those figure into future business goals, and share those plans with your staff. Then, use the same process with your customers.
3. Engage with your customers and listen to their changing needs.
Just as your company is exploring new ways to function, your customers, suppliers, and partners are experiencing the same challenges. It’s essential to reach out to those valued contacts. This is an opportunity to identify shifts in customer engagement. However, this isn’t the time to lead with marketing pitches or overt attempts to gain business. Instead, take this as an opportunity to connect by offering genuine support.
“Although no one knows how long the coronavirus crisis will last, the best leaders will prioritize customer engagement throughout its duration and beyond,” said Jason Wingard. And that should reinforce your customer relationships.
A Gallup poll found that engaged B2C customers—those who trust a brand and believe that this company always delivers on what they promise—return a 23 percent premium in profitability, revenue, and relationship growth over the average customer.
As your company moves toward reopening its doors, remember that a proven formula for success starts with conscientious decision making, mapping out day-to-day operations, and extending an empathetic hand to important contacts. In this way, you can provide a protective environment to withstand this crisis and future ones to come.