23 Mar Coronavirus is the Time for Business to Build Trust
It’s on. Covid-19 has spread its tentacles around the world.
With forced shutdowns and closures, the response from business is part panic and part respite. Whatever it is, the one thing we can be certain of is uncertainty.
So what can we do?
This is an opportunity to build relationships.
Now is the time to build trust.
Be that through our supplier relationships, our customers, our prospective customers, our staff, this is a litmus test of leadership in which we can build trust.
How can we build trust?
First of all, be calm.
Locking down is the right thing to do. Sometimes commerce gets in the way of necessity. This is one of those times. Let it be. It is what it is.
Understand that we are in a state of flux and accept it. It’s a universal law that everything changes. A good leader will acknowledge the choppy waters and hold the rudder steady. Maintain your vision and integrity.
One thing I have read a number of businesses say is: “These are unprecedented events for all of us.”
These events are in no way unprecedented — either globally or in Australia.
Churchill. Jack Ma. Rooseveldt. Throughout history, good leaders have shown the power of clear communication and a strong vision. The tactics are flexible. This is a time for total flexibility because things are uncertain. But uncertainty should never fly in the face of your vision or your integrity.
Show Some Empathy
Express concern for your stakeholders and their concerns. Let them know that we are all in this together. Whether you need to suspend their work or will continue after the storm is over, let them know you’re in it with them.
What can you Give?
Some of your staff will have children that they are suddenly homeschooling. These sudden teachers probably need help and support. What can your business do that will help your existing customers and staff in this situation?
Right now, it’s not about take, It’s about give. Brands that withstand the coronavirus character test will be those that Give.
Are there learning apps or activities related to your sector to which you could share social links?
What about existing customers?
What can you do that is helpful that lets them know you haven’t disappeared?
There are a lot of people who feel shut out.
But many universities who have had to close are operating like a beehive behind their walls. They have virtual classrooms and moodle systems to keep on delivering their service in a new, non-contagious way.
Wiley Online Resource Library is making research and journal articles about the virus freely available to researchers around the world. Other institutions are also sharing data so that we can all advance, non-competitively. (The stakes are too high. Bring on post-capitalism, I say.)
National museums, art galleries, theatre events, zoos and significant cultural centres are offering visits and activities for free. Does that make a customer feel appreciated and respected? You bet it does.
So what about you?
Can you offer Zoom video calls? Can you so a Facebook Live event?
Ask and listen to what people might need and try to deliver it virtually.
Refine your systems and procedures
Now is an opportunity to loosen that bottleneck in your business.
Do your SOPs (standard operating procedures) need an update? Time to streamline and declutter.
Can you modify your terms of service to help being in financial difficulty stay afloat and feel a bit less stressed?
You may be able to reduce operating costs when you move from a paid subscription to a free one that is just as good (e.g. Microsoft to Google apps).
This is not the forum for me to soapbox about how the East has handled the coronavirus outbreak, and how poorly the West has. That said, it’s a time to reflect on your own values as a business and one hope’s they don’t conflict with your personal values.
It has been said that a nervous breakdown is better conceived as a spiritual breakthrough. This is a societal nervous breakdown. But things will change.
And COVID-19 — despite the fear, death and distress — has the potential to help us be better in the long-run.