5 Tips for Business Recovery in a Post-COVID World
May 11, 2020
Throughout history, humanity has experienced a handful of events that have fundamentally changed the rules of business. Today’s global Coronavirus pandemic may well be such an event, and it is likely that we will start to hear more and more about the startling differences between pre-COVID and post-COVID business practices in the coming months.
The “social distancing” that has now been ingrained into the psychology of people and society as a whole has shifted not only the way we engage each other socially, but also the expectations that we have of businesses and the manner in which we are going to want to interact with them in the future.
Business evolution in a post-COVID world
In many ways, owing to its sheer scale and the speed with which it has enveloped the entire world, the global recession that has resulted from the pandemic is unlike any other recession we’ve ever experienced, and we can probably expect its long-term impact to also be unparalleled.
As lockdowns come to an end in the coming months, we are going to bear witness to many fundamental changes in the way business was conducted in a pre-COVID world.
As business owners and managers, it is not difficult to understand that we will need to challenge every aspect of our operations to survive and thrive in a post-COVID world.
From the physical and digital channels & touch-points we use to communicate with and service our customers, to the manner in which we will design our stores and offices to cater for new social dynamics and a desire to stay at home more often, and even the way in which our colleagues’ job roles are going to have to shift to satisfy these new ecosystems, everything will change – this is a certainty.
With the economy nosediving, and with so much business uncertainty, comes the need for business innovation, and an urgency to innovate with haste. Companies will need to almost reinvent every aspect of themselves to ensure they remain relevant to their customers. However, because of this black swan event combined with the vast amount of work we’re going to have to do in addressing the new inadequacies in our operations design, we are ill prepared and many businesses lack the necessary skills and tools to understand or affect the changes they need to make.
Here are five principles you should consider incorporating into your business recovery strategy.
Put your customer at the epicenter of your reinvention
Over the past several years, customer experience (CX) and customer journey design has been receiving significant attention in the business community.
The premise of the customer experience philosophy begins with taking the time to deeply understand who your customer really is as an individual and what makes them tick. This information is then used to craft your business operations and touchpoints around a capability to deliver an individualized, meaningful experience to them in the provision of your product or service. The results achieved will be increased profitability, improved customer loyalty and a generally healthier business overall than would be realized if you chose to design your operations capability without consideration of these topics.
There is much evidence available that this premise is valid. Many of the world’s business leaders consistently apply customer experience design philosophies and approaches as a means to differentiate themselves and realize competitive advantage.
Moving into a post-COVID environment, CX is going to become even more important. With the pandemic raging havoc on our economy, a good customer experience is no longer a luxury for competitive distinction but a necessary practice that all businesses will need to embrace if they are to remain relevant. There is simply going to be too much supply and not enough demand for anything less to be acceptable.
We are operating in a new world: Customer needs always change, but now, during this pandemic, customer needs have gone completely off course. Customers aren’t even sure of what their new needs are yet as the dust settles around them.
Leverage ideation and innovation in your team
The ability of business to help establish, predict these new customer needs, and be able to still satisfy them is essential if companies wish to adapt and thrive. And, we need to achieve this in the context of lockdowns and not being able to collaborate in the same physical space.
In addition to identifying customer needs, we’re also going to need to identify what we do with these new insights. What do we change in our businesses to satisfy these needs? Where should we start first?
As you try to answer these questions, don’t try to do it alone or within the confines of a small management team. Instead, make sure you leverage the collective knowledge and experience of your entire workforce. With the amount of flux that this article anticipates, there will be much that needs to change in our businesses, and to try and determine where to start first is going to be a completely overwhelming task for any individual business owner or manager to attempt on their own.
Instead of attempting to innovate alone or in smaller management teams, businesses are going to need to learn crowdsource and evaluate ideas from every employee within their organization and from customers, suppliers and other business stakeholders too.
Applying this sort of philosophy will not only inject a degree of innovation efficiency and reduced duplication of effort that is going to be a critical success factor in the coming months, but it will also serve to keep employee motivation levels up and help people to feel that they are playing an important role in rebuilding their own futures – a psychological need that has widely been identified as necessary for our post-COVID mental wellbeing.
Enable business agility
Because of the urgency of transformation that businesses around the world are going to face, time is not going to be an ally in the coming business recovery period. We will certainly not have the luxury for planning elegant change management strategies that span several months and slowly but surely achieve the changes needed with limited discomfort being introduced to our business operations.
Instead, we’re going to need to fight a change management battle on many fronts in parallel and allocate resources from within our business to multiple projects at the same time in order to drive change more quickly.
This practice, sometimes called “agile” project management is one that has long been applied in the software development world where the need to evolve products iteratively and respond to changing user needs has been the de-facto mode of business evolution. At its core, agile software development advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery and continual improvement mindsets, and it encourages rapid and flexible responses to changes in environmental demands.
Over the last decade, the agile manifesto has been gaining more popularity in other areas of business operation too. This is because of its impact on seeing business change being realized more quickly and its effectiveness in assembling cross-functional teams to address business transformation needs. As we move into the global post-COVID recovery, more and more businesses are going to need to learn to embrace agile business philosophies to effectively manage the rate of change that’s going to be required.
Don’t assume anything is sacred
We will be operating in a new world where everything we know in terms of business will have changed. Rules of the past may no longer apply. Don’t assume that just because something has worked well in the past that it will continue to do so going forward.
You need to re-evaluate the role of every resource in your business to make sure you’re using them as effectively as possible. Challenge every touchpoint, every process, every job description.
As we expect, the post-COVID world will usher in a new type of customer with different needs and expectations that business will need to satisfy in order to be successful. How we achieve this will mean defining new personas with new journeys. Defining new journeys will mean identifying different touch points as many of our previous channels may no longer be suitable. Companies may also find themselves out of their comfort zones as the digitization that now characterizes our world will mean digital touch points as well.
With a changed mindset that has resulted from COVID-19 and remote workforces already being tried and tested during lockdowns we may see work-from home as the new normal. This means that processes we had in place in the past may no longer be relevant and new systems need to be designed and implemented to support this new way of working remotely in order to ensure efficiency of our operations and efforts in achieving our new goals.
New processes will also mean defining new roles. Roles are associated with certain responsibilities and expected delivery of outcomes. Role relationships and policies regarding accountability are linked to your company processes. The new ways businesses operate, and the new systems put in place will help to identify new roles or highlight how existing roles must change in order to fulfill changed demands.
There is a definite interplay between customer needs and the changes we need to make to our systems and channels to continue to satisfy these needs. We reiterate here the importance of agile decisiveness and actions by courageous leaders to implement the necessary changes in these elements and so ensure business relevance and continuity.
Track things that matter
Lastly, make sure you have the necessary measurement tools in place to track your performance with leading indicators for both your successes and your failures. Without metrics, you won’t know what is working and what is not working and how your new processes and channels are effectively satisfying business goals. However, while it’s important to have metrics in place, you need to ensure that your measurement systems are relevant to the current time and acknowledge the current context in which we now find ourselves.
Metrics such as surveys also provide a means of communicating with your customers. Communication is key especially during uncertain times. The post-COVID customer will have health and safety at the forefront of their minds and will need to hear from your company in ways that make them feel confident and secure so that you can help to get them through the new challenges they face.
Your communication needs to be relevant and filled with empathy to build trust. It is perhaps time to listen more than you question. Listen carefully to the voice of your customer. Your customers are the lifeblood of your company and are the best informers of how you are or are not meeting their needs. They provide great insight into your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.
Everything about the way people deal with your business is going to change, Using the data that you have at your disposal effectively during your business recovery period and adapting quickly to changing customer needs is going to be critical to make sure you pick the right battles.
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