Navigating the New Normal

Dean Ditmar | Georgia Oak Partners | May 11, 2020

Navigating a New Normal

Businesses are rapidly adjusting to the changing needs of their employees, customers, and suppliers. Financial and operational challenges are front and center, and companies across the globe are working to cut costs. We are all questioning how to get back to growing our business when this crisis subsides. How do we prepare for the ‘new normal’ as we come out of this pandemic?

Max McKeown, influential author on adaptability and change, said "Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win." The amount of change can be overwhelming, but we are here to help.

MACROS TRENDS RESULTING FROM PANDEMIC

Supply chains have taken a hit. Many companies are having their vulnerabilities exposed. Those that rely heavily on a limited number of vendors face a new wave of challenges.

Businesses have little cash on hand. Small and medium sized businesses are struggling to pay workers, which means higher unemployment. Many businesses live “paycheck to paycheck” and declines in consumer demand can tip them into the red.

Consumer purchases are focused primarily on staple products. Consumer confidence is low in this pandemic. If you are a B2C company, how will you make your products appealing in a post-crisis time?

Consumers have shifted to online-only channels. The recent environment has forced consumers to completely turn to online channels.

new business trends are emerging and will remain in place (1)

HOW WILL BUSINESSES SURVIVE AND EMERGE STRONGER?

Understand how market and consumer behaviors have changed and how this impacts your business.

Focus on these 5 key areas to prepare your company for future disruptions and emerge a winner.

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Act in Ways that are in Keeping with Your Culture

Culture is guided by purpose and values. Values exhibited by strong cultures are collaboration, agility, integrity, innovation, and accountability. Companies that exhibit a winning culture inspire their employees. Take a moment to reflect on your company’s purpose. A crisis can bring these into sharp focus.

Communicate to customers, employees, and suppliers in a way that is consistent with your values. Communicating openly and empathetically helps customers and employees understand tough decisions.

Use technology to enhance communications and trust during this time. One example is the tool Star Me Up. It’s an online app that lets employees recognize colleagues who have been helpful. Another example is “BeThere”, where people can share photos. These work-appropriate platforms make it possible to keep your brand ambassadors and build upon your culture.

Empathetic leadership and communication

aid human resilience in difficult times.

Know that Remote Working is Here to Stay

COVID-19 forced companies to switch to remote working very quickly. To be successful in the long term, a structured approach is needed. Success requires clear guidelines, new tools and frequent communication. Business leaders need to set up practices to be able to communicate clearly with employees and stakeholders. Communication should include regular feedback rounds.  This improves collaboration and builds necessary trust. Leaders can help employees understand not only why, but also what and how.

Fortunately today, the technical aspects of remote work are much easier. Everything from Google docs, Hangouts, Zoom, and Skype for communication, as well as cloud-based process management tools such as Jira, make life easier.

Secure Your Customers, People and Systems

COVID-19 is forcing companies to work in new ways, and systems resilience is being tested. Companies are operating under a new reality that puts great strain on their systems.

Secure your customers, people and systems wherever they are to counter the bad actors who seek to take advantage during and after a crisis. On the systems side, take actions to secure your cloud solutions, individual devices (BYOD), and 3rd party apps and platforms. Ensure your teams are set up to quickly identify security abnormalities.

On the operations side, be proactive and create a long-term customer-oriented strategy. Examples include bringing in highly skilled, distributed teams that can deliver on customer promises anytime, anywhere. Work to build a long-term, resilient operations.

On the supply-chain side, build redundancy and flexibility. Product-focused businesses should standardize as many components and parts as possible. Service businesses can formalize processes to drive flexibility. Process automation improves flexibility by standardizing time-consuming, high-volume processes with speed and accuracy.

Double Down on Digital Commerce

Those who viewed digital as a secondary channel now need to shift towards a digital commerce mindset. There is an opportunity to focus on digital commerce, enhancing existing offerings and creating new services.

This is an opportunity to grow revenue, attract new customers and drive lower costs, but digital channels need stability and the ability to scale.

Focus on the Customer

Providing compassionate customer service during and post-pandemic will increase brand perception and customer loyalty. Businesses will need to deliver quality customer service and experiences.

Leverage data and analytics to address customer needs and increase customer support. Reprioritize customer support so that the most critical needs are addressed first, with non-critical customer interactions redirected to digital. Consider setting up or enhancing virtual customer care agent capabilities.

Businesses can prepare for "the new normal" as we come out of this pandemic, but winning in the post-pandemic environment requires innovation, resilience, and adaptation in these key areas.

COVID-19 has changed our experiences – as customers, employees, and businesses. Our ability to work together to understand evolving needs and communicate changing demand will get companies through this uncertain time, and help them emerge stronger, wiser and more connected than before.

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