Much has been made of the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and we’re not here to restate anything that’s already been said, or to fuel the general anxiety that many folks are already feeling. Much has been written, some has been exaggerated, many are afraid, public events like the NCAA Tournament (more affectionally known as March Madness) have been cancelled, and this is certainly an issue to which we all need to be paying attention. While health officials continue to assure us that this virus will not be a population-decimating event like the plague, it is indeed a threat to the elderly, to those with serious or chronic medical conditions, and to those dealing with ongoing autoimmune disorders. We certainly don’t need to panic, but we should take the coronavirus seriously and follow the recommended precautions prescribed by health agencies like the CDC.
In Tough Times Like These, We Need Leaders Who Will Lead
We’d like to take a moment to speak to our fellow business leaders. How can you lead your business, your customers, and your employees through challenging times like these? The fact of the matter is this – no matter what this virus does or doesn’t do, your customers will still need the products or services that your business provides, and your employees (and their families) are still counting on you to lead them. How will you respond? The current coronavirus crisis is really an opportunity for your leadership to shine, and for your business to really set itself apart in the eyes of both your customers and your employees.
Show Yourself to Be a Business That’s Truly Customer-Centric
We’re not suggesting you should try to find ways to monetize and take advantage of people’s angst over COVID-19. Far from it! But this uncertain climate we’re all having to navigate is really a fantastic opportunity for companies who are truly customer-centric to shine and set themselves apart. (Likewise, the companies who aren’t very customer-centric are more likely to be exposed for who they really are right now, as well!)
So, what can you do to create a better experience for your customers during this season? You could set up some stations with hand sanitizers and masks, sure. Honestly, you should make those available as a common courtesy all the time. But what can you do to be more intentional about showing your customers that you really care? Here are a few tips:
Communicate, and Over-Communicate
Let your customers know what your coronavirus action plan is. Let them know how you’re being proactive to protect them (as well as your employees) and promote their safety. And be honest, too. If you run out of something that you normally offer, notify your customers promptly. If a project is going to be delayed due to supply issues, labor issues, or some other COVID-19 ripple effect, tell your client that, and tell them why. They will appreciate your honesty and candor much more than they’d appreciate being hemmed-and-hawed to, or downright lied to!
Let your customers and clients know what’s going on, and err on the side of over-communicating, rather than not saying enough. If you have a designated customer service department or call center, make sure to keep it as fully-staffed as possible right now. When there’s a crisis like this, people have questions, and your call volumes are really more likely to go up, not down.
Continue to Innovate for Your Customers
Whenever a problem is well-defined, that’s actually when some of the best innovations spring forth! Although we may not understand everything about this virus, it won’t take long to realize some of the very well-defined problems COVID-19 is creating for your customers, as well as for your business. Now is the time to create solutions that will address your customers’ fears, and to find some new ways to add more value for your customers.
Innovate because you care about your customers and you care about people, but also look at it as an investment. The customer-focused innovations you’re willing to invest in now will almost certainly result in bringing you more business in the future! Your customers and brand-followers are watching, they’re noticing, AND they’ll be sure to let their friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers know what they see you do – or not do – during this telling season.
Listen, Be Patient, and Be Human
One of the very best things you can do right now is listen to your customers, be patient with them, and show the human side of your business. Your customers still need your products and services, but what they’ll really appreciate right now (and remember later, too) is your empathy. Empower your customer-facing or client-facing employees to take a little extra time to listen, and to offer up an encouraging word. Be reminded that people don’t care what you know, until they know that you care. That sounds like a cute bumper sticker slogan, but it’s just as true for the world of business as it is for life and relationships in general.
Show Yourself to Be a Business That’s Employee-Centric, Too
Your customers aren’t the only ones who are hurting right now; your employees need to know you care, too. Take care of the people who are taking care of your people! Zig Ziglar wisely put it this way: “You don’t build a business – you build people – and then people build the business.” Customer-centric companies understand that happy employees can make happy customers. But if your employees don’t feel cared for themselves, they will in turn be much less motivated to take care of your customers!
What are you doing to take care of your people through this uncertain time? Many companies are offering more flexible work schedules. Several have increased the amount of paid sick leave available. Many more are giving employees the ability to work from home; some are even requiring it! Some of these concessions may not be practical or possible for your particular business, but you need to take whatever steps you can to meet your employees where they are right now. The more you’re willing to do that, the more motivated your team will be. Focusing on the customer experience is incredibly strategic and necessary, but focusing on the employee experience is just as important – and perhaps even more important! As Dan Cockerell (retired VP of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom) likes to say, “You have to get the employee experience right first, or you’re never going to get the customer experience right.”
We Can Weather This Storm, Together
NOW is the time to be a force for good in the midst of this time of stress and uncertainty. Leaders, it’s time for you to step up and lead! Your customers are counting on you. Your employees are counting on you. We all need each other right now!
And here at Cibirix, you can count on us, too. Because so many folks around the world are going into self-quarantine mode, they’re likely to spend even more time on the internet than usual. Would you like to be able to communicate your story in a way that rises above the noise, and actually gets seen, heard, and listened to? That’s what we do!
Take a moment and browse our digital brochure to learn more about how we can help you to grow your business! And if you’d like to reach out to us about how we can help you Rise Digitally too, just click here!