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Getting Your Business Prepared for Coronavirus

Serving your customers with resilience during the coronavirus

The decision of whether to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day parade forces us to face hard realities about how prepared and resilient we are, as businesses, to cope with a natural disaster. It’s impact is huge on so many businesses. As we know, this was cancelled due to the potential impact to public health. In the past week, in my own circle, many other business and social events were cancelled as well.

It’s a challenge for business when events are cancelled, people don’t go out as much, or people don’t transact much because of what’s going on. Even a 20% fall in commerce can be devastating for a small business. As business owners we need to continue to do business whilst also being sensitive to the impact of Coronavirus on the public and on individuals. This requires a new way of thinking than in the past. It may also require new and creative solutions and offerings. What remains the same, however, is a laser customer centric focus. Businesses that do this will build resilience in their business and garner public trust. 

What does this mean on a practical level? Let’s break this down.

Here’s some of our new realities. To contain or mitigate exposure we’re being asked to:

  • Cancel, postpone or modify mass gatherings. We may not be able to have physical gatherings which impacts meetings and events.
  • Self isolate If we think we’re ill or have come into contact with someone who is. Some people need to stay at home either for themselves (they’re not feeling well or they’ve been asked to work from home), a child (whose school has closed), or for someone else (e.g., maybe a parent or elderly). 
  • Controlled travel or avoiding non-essential travel to hot spot areas. Some people can’t make it to you or your event because they need to limit travel. 
  • Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands. If members of the public come to our premises, we need facilities for warm water, soap and disposable towels.

What can you do?

As entrepreneurs, we help others and we provide solutions. Commerce and business cannot stop because life has suddenly changed and this is no different. We have to get creative.

Events - Can you do an online event now and have a real event later? Or maybe, if it makes sense, do a complete online event. The Collision Conference (sister conference of the Web Summit also by Paddy Cosgrave) has done just that. Theirs is a massive event with 30K attendees. They moved quickly online and they even branded it to Collision from Home. Your event is probably smaller but you can do the same. Talk about how you’re providing a great event online and also taking on board the impact of public health. You’ll have to work differently and probably a bit harder. But it gives you and your business more options to keep going. People will understand and there’s loads you can do around this.

Medicine/Tele-health - telehealth has been around for some time and some health practitioners already offer this although it doesn’t appear to be widespread. People still often want to physically see health professionals. In today’s circumstances, however, it makes a lot of sense for patients and practitioners to have tele-health and it doesn’t have to take a lot to get setup. Holistic practitioners in particular often offer zoom/skype consultations. If you’re one of these, make sure you tell others. If people are confined or self-isolating, they’ll appreciate being able to get help even remotely. 

Skype/Zoom meetings - for those who need to self-isolate or who have restricted travel, being able to conduct Skype/Zoom business meetings allows them to continue work/life while they’re in isolation. If you are in tech, many will assume you already do this. For others, however, this may not be something they consider and you may need to provide a bit of help around how they can meet you this way. 

Physical goods/Home Delivery - if you don’t already have an online store, this is a great time to start. You don’t need to sell everything. Supplying common everyday items for delivery can be a great way to get going. If they are low value items, consider multi-buys or packaging them with other items to make it cost effective. If you’re already offering a delivery service, let people know. Where they may not have been interested in the past, they might be much more interested now. Put it out there and offer a promo for first time delivery customers.

Collection/Delivery service - If people are confined, is there a collection service you can offer? Or can you provide collection or delivery free with purchase? Talk to delivery companies to see if they can do you a deal.This could be important especially as no one quite knows how long the Coronavirus will remain a problem. 

Wash hands - if you’re dealing with the public, a simple sign showing people where they can wash hands with warm water, soap and disposable towels shows that you are taking their health and public health into account. You can download HSE posters for this here

Reassurance - there’s enough hype out there. This is a time when it’s important to provide reassurance. People buy from people who they know, like and trust. What is your company/business doing to help? Put it out there in a way that shows you are thinking of them, sensitive to what’s happening and helping them to feel safe about you and your business.  

Branding

Your actions online and off reflect your brand. This can be a time to take a lead and help people feel good about doing business with you. It can also help others take a first look. 

Although United Airlines was never my top choice for travel, I was highly impressed by the message they sent to customers this week about their response to the Coronavirus. It gave me much more confidence in travelling with them and got me thinking that they’re actively looking at my best welfare. In the email they explained how they are in daily contact with the CDC, how they disinfect their planes, how their air filtration system removes 99% of airborne particles, how they have implemented procedures to limit person to person contamination and how, if advised from the CDC of a person travelling who may potentially have Coronavirus, that the aircraft is taken out of service and sent through a full decontamination process. 

Think you feel a bit more comfortable and safe after reading this? I do. They’re also waiving change fees for a period of time for the cherry on top. This is so customer centric and customer focused. If you didn’t feel open to them before, you’d be a lot more open to them now. And you’d have more confidence in using their service.

11 March 2020 Update: Delta Airlines has added a fogging procedure to their cleaning processes to protect customers. The proactive procedures and notifications go a long way to building customer confidence and trust.

What I’m Doing

I’m a small business. I work for myself with part-time contractors. I can work remotely and am already available and do skype calls. If people want to physically meet (for whatever reason), I try to accommodate them. I’m much more flexible around meetings and possible changes now as there's so much going on for everyone. The things that may impact my clients may not be just their own health, it could be their children, their parents or others.

I encourage people to try Skype/Zoom calls with me. These can be especially useful if I’m doing training or Live Design because they can see exactly what I’m doing. Sessions can be recorded and viewed later if needed which can be a big help.

Key Points

The Coronavirus could impact business for a long time to come. Now is not the time, as business owners, to sit and do business as usual. Our response, and our ability to help and serve customers, can say a lot about our brand and our ability to serve clients during a time of crisis. 
 

  • Think of how you can continue to serve your customers or add value, given what is happening with self-isolation, cancellation of mass gatherings, and the extended impact of the virus to customers in their daily life.
  • Are there new offerings, products or services that you can provide which make sense? How can you make life easier for them? Your brand, tone and choice of words are really important here.
  • Can you provide reassurance and confidence so people are happy to continue to do business with you or use your service?
  • How resilient is your business? This is a time to take a good hard look.

The coronavirus will impact business whether we like it or not. Governments around the world are putting measures in place to help. These may or may not help you depending on your type of business. Regardless, this is your business and it’s up to you to ensure that it is resilient and can weather the storm of a disaster. Failing to do this is failing your customers and putting your own business at risk. 

I’d love to hear what you’re doing or what other businesses are doing at this time. Comment below and, if I use it in an updated post, I'll make sure to credit you.

 

If you're staying at home, for whatever reason, self-isolating or can't get out of the house but want to get your next project going, make sure to get in touch. I help small businesses and solopreneurs with websites, eCommerce and online. digital marketing.

I’d love to hear what you’re doing or what other businesses are doing at this time. Comment below and, if I use it in an updated post, I'll make sure to credit you.

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