Lots of phrases and words of wisdom have been thrown about for how a business can and should handle the pandemic, from the clichéd — “We’re all in this together” — to the over-used — “The new normal.”
Another important and very useful phrase to guide your conduct during these challenging times is simply, “Be aware.” As in be aware of yourself; your employees and teammates; your franchisees, partners and vendors; and, most importantly, your customers. Use this awareness to focus your efforts on the most important areas for maximizing sales and profits.
Guide and Reassure
Having consistency in your messaging can help calm fears in uncertain times. Your brand must represent something clear, coherent, concise and consistent. The pandemic has brought so much fear and uncertainty to the world, that consumers and others who interact with your brand and company need something to feel good and positive about.
Consistent messaging does one more important thing. It provides a road map your employees can follow with confidence and certainty. So how do you ensure consistency across the entire business and network?
It starts by being aware of different personalities. Everyone handles a crisis differently and comes to work with a wide variety of issues and things going on in their personal lives. Some are positive and cheery, taking on a fake-it-until-you-make-it persona, to get past the challenges. On the other side, some are negative with a personality that leans toward borrowing worry. For people like that, inclined to focus on the negative anyway, COVID-19 only exacerbates their worst instincts.
It’s important to remember, no matter the perspective, you shouldn’t be dismissive of anyone’s perspective. Everyone has something to offer, and shutting someone out of the conversation risks not only alienating him or her but others on the team.
Customers, like teammates, come to the coronavirus pandemic with different perspectives on life, and what they expect from your company. Some are merely happy you are open. Others are want to return to a sense of normalcy, and coming to your business is a step in that direction. The opposite is customers who are more nervous and apprehensive about getting back out into the world. They have deep concerns about whose wearing — and not wearing — masks, social distancing and cleaning protocols. Some want to go beyond medical and CDC recommendations. Ignoring, or, at a minimum, not being aware of all your customers’ needs during this time, is unwise and unproductive.
Another one of the often-repeated words of the COVID-19 era is “over-communicate.” But just because it’s overused doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
With employees not always at the office and everyone out of a routine, it’s essential to go over the top with how, and how often, you communicate with your network. Use all communication channels: emails, phone calls, social media, and video meetings — even field visits if applicable. Communicate weekly or even daily when appropriate.
Don’t forget to throw in some kindness and keep the mood positive, reassuring everyone that a brighter future is coming. Remind employees of the company’s values. Be inspiring.
On the customer side, make sure they can easily find the answers they need on store hours, safety updates, etc., when they need them. Be vigilant — and aware — of communications through the company’s social media, website and email lists. Above all else, don’t make it complicated for customers to do business with you.
When planning for the future, take a step back and learn lessons from every franchise location and its owner. Find the successes and share those stories — what they are doing and how they are doing it. Also, look for opportunities to add products or services that fill an unexpected need during the pandemic. The new revenue stream can not only plug a hole, but also provide franchisees with positive incremental revenue results.
Do your homework and plan for future success. One way to do that is to think and operate in increments. Leverage what you have to get to get through three months, six months and a year. Set some small goals and achieve them. Then set some bigger goals and get to work on them. In the end, when this is all over, your organization will be better than it was before this all started.
Commentary by Charles Bonfiglio. Here’s what you’ve missed?
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