Leave a Comment
Dear Clients, Partners, and Friends,
Today I am sharing with you my reflection on an article I read the other day by Kenn Adach, on the potential changes we can expect in the business world and the potential for behavioral changes post COVID. It is my hope that you find these topics interesting and thought provoking. Hopefully they spark greater creative thinking within your respective organizations.
Behavior Changes are a Certainty
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, COVID-19 is dramatically changing both consumer and business behaviors over the last two (+) months. Undoubtedly (and perhaps sadly), some of those behavior changes will continue for a long time, possibly even after the defeat of the Corona Virus. These new behaviors will likely become permanent the longer they are in place. With this pandemic the primary human emotion at play is fear. The prominence of fear in our society accelerates and embeds the new behaviors we are seeing in people.
Our companies really need to think about how the COVID-19 crisis will change our society’s long-term social interactions, industry events, personal relationships and what products and services will people gravitate towards in the “new” post COVID-19 world.
“Many people will certainly have higher sensitivity to germs and the risks of spreading infections. This behavior alone will change many industries. Customers and workers will be more skeptical of close contact with others. Consumers travel, dining, entertainment and product preferences will be different tomorrow,” says Chief Outsiders contributor Kenn Adach.
There will certainly be a very long list of changed behaviors and their impact will be equally long, as COVID-19 runs its course. The amount of changed behavior will depend on the number of people that are directly affected, how severely and for how long. In my view, many of these “new behaviors” will become normal as they are practiced and repeated over the coming months.
All of the above beg the questions: “How will behaviors shift in your industry?” Customer behavior changes will very likely require you to develop new or modified products and services. “New market leaders will emerge while some past leaders falter. Many companies will struggle post COVID-19,” says Adach.
How can you implement a proactive approach in the Post COVID-19 World?
Knowing your marketplace/customer/consumer needs as well as your competitors is always the best way to meet market demands. Come to the acknowledge that what you knew before may not serve you well in an uncertain tomorrow. Agile companies will adopt a proactive approach to understand what changes will occur and be ready to adjust their products, services and strategies quickly to meet current and future customer needs. This is especially true in the produce industry as consumers make choices. The challenge is to meet the consumers in their new state-of-mind.
Three important steps you can to implement now:
Debrief – gather key members of your team and debrief them on what they have been hearing from customers, vendors, and colleagues. This is something we have been doing here at TMD Creative since the beginning of the pandemic. Having a work session to identify what might be changing and importantly, what you don’t know about the “changes” will set the stage for the next step.
Gather Insight – Develop a plan to “take the temperature” of the marketplace. How can we validate new behaviors we are seeing and hearing, and gather the information we don’t know? Don’t assume anything. Your customers can tell you what they will need, but you must ask them. These are unchartered waters, and in many cases your customers need help in areas they may not have identified yet.
In the current situation our world is in, it’s critical to conduct customer interviews, surveys, market research or get customer feedback by other means. Gather the comments, attitudes and data, then analyze. It is critical that you be objective. In other words, be open to things you may have never thought would occur, and understand how these new changes can impact your organization!
When interacting with customers during this period, make sure your team is equipped to have open conversations with customers who may be facing dire business circumstances. Asking empathetic questions like; “How can we help you get through this?” not, “Here’s what we’ve got.” In other words, lead with empathy not competence. Your goal should be to help develop a solution to their crisis, while also letting them know you are there for support.
Re-Plan – [that 2020 planner you have — get rid of it 🙂 ] We all had our 2020 plans, but clearly COVID-19 requires us to forward think, develop new strategies and re-planning on many fronts. With all the new insights you’ve gathered from the marketplace, re-plan and prioritize strategies and tactics in all critical areas. This could include Food Safety, Sustainability, Manufacturing/Operations, Production/Harvesting, Sales, Marketing Communications, New Product Development/Innovation, Customer Service and other areas of your businesses.
“Understanding what your customers will value in the post-COVID-19 business world and acting on it will ensure your survival and success and put you ahead of major competitors. This cannot be over-emphasized. Knowing the customer will sort the post-COVID-19 business winners from losers and also-rans.”, says Adach.
It is important to not forget that your customers buy VALUE, and value comes from meeting their needs, which comes from understanding their needs, in words and actions. Focus on providing value, and revenue and profit will take care of itself.
The question going forward for many of us is, when will customers come back? But even more important and more under your control is, what will you need to deliver differently in terms of product or service, features and benefits?
Business Impacts we might expect Post-COVID-19
Just looking back a few years in history can provide validation that major changes are coming. Just think back to 9/11 or even the financial crisis of 2008. The post 9/11 world brought us permanent changes in the way we travel with tighter airport security, the creation of the TSA and Homeland Security, and increased security at everything from sporting events and concerts to large office buildings in major cities. Behaviors changed, industries were changed and created, as they will again now.
“Many believe that COVID-19 will affect more people and businesses directly and will have a more far reaching impact on businesses of all types than any crisis in the past half century,” says Adach.
If we try to look at the bright side of this crisis, it is that change creates opportunity. The business leaders who act now, communicate with customers and take a proactive approach to their changing markets will likely do much better than those who take no decisive actions. Perhaps the most important things we can do is share more and cooperate more with each other.
Stay well, Remain Optimistic,
Nicholas M. Pasculli
Leave a Comment
Effective and good communication is at the heart of every sound leadership and management practice .
From establishing clear expectations, setting big picture goals, building company culture down to fostering accountability, communication is always at the core of effective leadership. Clearly messaged, trusted communication can either make or break our operations and enhance our employee engagement.
A study by The Economist Intelligence Unit indicates how poor workplace communication is detrimental to an organization. “Survey respondents say that communication barriers result in delay or failure to complete projects (44 percent), low morale (31 percent), missed performance goals (25 percent), and lost sales (18 percent).” This can be worse when a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic or a natural disaster hits.
Communication clearly is crucial to an organization’s stability
Effective communication becomes even more critical during times of crisis and uncertainty.
Workforces globally are facing a massive challenge to their business operations with the COVID-19 pandemic. It has prompted businesses to take drastic measures to ensure the safety of staff and customers alike. (a shout out of appreciation to all those on the front lines.) Depending on the nature of the business, some have ceased operations or function under a skeleton workforce and limited hours, while other organizations have implemented work from home arrangements. While working from home may become more commonplace, it is not always optimal in building strong teams. This will have to be carefully looked at as we climb out of “shelter in place” orders.
Effective communication can really bind your team together.
Given the shifting workplace situation, effective workforce communications are more critical than ever. Any crisis, whether a natural disaster, a corporate meltdown or the outbreak of a disease affects employee morale. It can also affect the psychological health of individuals and teams. Effective communication can still bind your team together even during times of uncertainty. Leaders need to do their part to address issues promptly and clearly. Being remote adds a new level of complexity for leaders as there are going to be times when difficult news needs to be delivered and you may not be able to do that in person.
With an increasing dependency on social media and online platforms, this can turn employees into de facto spokespeople for your organization. Whatever they share on their platforms about working for your company will reflect how you communicate with them. Those communications — or lack of a clear, consistent message — can result in a better brand image or sprout into a new crisis. Use of social media in a period of social distancing needs to be discussed within teams.
So how can we as leaders effectively address our teams during a challenging time like we are in?
When a crisis strikes, it’s essential to address employees, customers, vendors and stakeholders as soon as possible and to be as transparent as possible.
As leaders you may not have answers to some of the questions you will get right away. In the case of rapidly developing situations, like the COVID-19 pandemic, this is understandable. But it’s crucial to let all stakeholders know that you are looking into the issue and finding solutions to their concerns. What matters is to give them the assurance that you and the organization is aware of the situation and that their welfare is a priority.
Solidifying your message is key. While different roles have different concerns, it’s essential to keep the overall message continuous and consistent.
Address all of the concerns and frequently asked questions. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the questions will revolve around remote work, schedule changes, payment arrangements, leave management and other operational issues. Baring in mind that company policies are still in full force whether someone works from home or in the office.
Diversifying message delivery is equally important as how it is crafted. Empathy is important during a crisis, but what if face-to-face communication is no longer possible?
“Video conferencing or a recorded video message are viable options, but how do you let staff know about it? Email is a common communication channel for organizations, but it’s best to diversify delivery channels when the situation is urgent,” say Workforce.com. In a 2019 survey by text-messaging platform SlickText of over 1,000 employees across the United States, 43 percent of respondents say that timely notifications and emergency alerts are best sent through SMS and not email. According to Workforce.com, “Chat platforms also are useful in this case as they can quickly disseminate information and concisely. Employees are likely to open chat platforms frequently, too.”
Remember communication is a dialogue not a monologue.
Effective communication to employees, clients, vendors, and stakeholders goes beyond issuing announcements or bulletins. It’s about keeping communication lines open and asking for feedback. This is something I put in place long before this pandemic and is greatly appreciated by 90% of my team.
During a crisis, it’s imperative to open additional channels for discussions and to raise questions. Chat applications are suitable not just for discussing in groups but in one-on-one correspondence as well. It’s more immediate than email too and helps pass information more quickly. Of course let’s not forget the good old telephone. As the old AT&T or MaBell used to say; “Reach out and touch someone.” (Ha Ha, they meant with the telephone for those of you thinking otherwise.
A good communication process is critical for any organization. It’s important to equip a workforce with different and creative ways to stay connected. If you would like to share your ideas, drop me a note or comment on my TMD Blog. As always, stay safe, stay healthy, stay home. Let’s beat COVID-19 together.