The COVID-19 pandemic has created an incredible amount of uncertainty. Employees wonder whether they’ll keep their jobs amid rising unemployment, parents question whether their kids will be safe returning to school, and business owners struggle to navigate the pandemic while keeping their companies afloat.
In the current climate, these concerns are global in scope. Executives around the world face a future filled with more question marks than they may have thought possible before. But constantly obsessing over unknowns is a surefire path to decision paralysis and, ultimately, inaction.
This is true for any crisis, from global health and safety concerns to economic uncertainty to organization-specific challenges like losing a crucial client or star employee. And no business can survive these tumultuous times by sitting back and doing nothing.
But how can you, as an executive, provide stability and confidence when you, as a human, may be experiencing the opposite? To move your company forward, you need to focus on what you can control instead of worrying about what you can’t. Start by taking steps to meet the following three goals.
- Provide excellent customer service.
When your company is affected by a crisis, your customers are likely affected, too. As a result, you’ll want to provide high-quality customer service to keep your brand-customer relationships strong. Train your customer-facing team members to add more of a human element to their conversations and to take note of any new difficulties people are facing. Doing so may help you find new ways to provide value.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, some companies have stepped up to offer additional services or relief to customers as an extra layer of support. Ford started a program called “Built to Lend a Hand” that aims to give customers a break on payments and support buyers using credit. And apparel brand Tultex has helped about 4,600 small businesses reopen by adjusting its offerings. “By expanding custom product offerings to include our Pleated and Flat Face Masks, businesses are able to keep up with this ever-changing market,” the company says. “More and more businesses [are] joining us. Not just as the demand for apparel grows, but as the future of face masks gets brighter.”
- Market to customers where they are.
If your marketing efforts have been low on your list of priorities, it’s time to bring them back up to the top. Of course, your existing strategy may no longer be relevant to your target audience depending on how the crisis you’re navigating has changed their behaviors. If you previously relied on in-person strategies, as was the case with Ford, you’ll need to adjust course to reach your customers online instead. You can still create exciting conversation and engagement points, though.
“Design brand experiences to engage a few and be shared with many,” suggest the experts at experiential marketing agency Department Zero. “Small-footprint activations will be required in the short run, so niche activations that focus on generating sharable content and conversation as an outcome will be key. Social sharing, live streaming, and press coverage will increase reach and ROI. Consider local community angles and charitable partnerships that give consumers a reason to participate in a fun, cause-worthy effort.”
- Prioritize company culture.
No matter what challenges your team must navigate, they will need a consistent and supportive company culture to lean on in tough times. Yes, even if your team members are working remotely and haven’t seen one another in person for several months. Identify the top values you want your company culture to embody, and demonstrate those values yourself when you communicate during one-on-one meetings, in small groups, and with your whole company.
From there, reinforce these ideas during training and update sessions with your management team so they can cascade those concepts down to their direct reports. Recognize employees who exhibit what you value to encourage others to do the same. And above all, keep avenues of communication open from the top levels of your organization to the entry-level positions and back. Communicating thoroughly and often can help keep all your employees on the same page and let you know when problems arise so you can address them right away.
Don’t let your company get tossed around in the rapids while navigating a crisis. As the leader of the group, focusing your energy and effort on making sure your team continues to provide excellent customer service, that your marketing efforts reach consumers where they are, and that your employees remain connected to one another through ongoing company culture initiatives. Doing so will help keep your company on course until you’re able to reach calmer waters.
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