With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, work-life has slowed to a crawl in most parts of the world, and remote work is the new normal. For startups and small enterprises, there are some important decisions to be made to ensure business survival in the short term. To aid that decision, here are a few tips:
- Focus on existing customers
This should take the highest priority on your to-do list because your existing customers are your lifeline, with the chances of new sales diminishing. Making sure your customers are satisfied with your product or service, and will continue to rely on them, guarantees you a steady revenue stream. It’s universally established that it costs more to acquire a new customer than retaining one. In these uncertain economic conditions, you’d have to spend a lot more on marketing and sales to acquire a customer. With that in mind, here are some steps you can take to retain current customers:
- Understand how their business is affected and look to solve the issues where your product or service can contribute.
- Offer free value-added services or additional features discounts on new purchases or build a loyalty program to keep your existing customers satisfied and relieve some of the financial strain they might be facing because of the current situation.
- Constantly stay in touch with them to be on top of any requirements or roadblocks they might be facing.
- Keep employees motivated
While you might be tempted to take a peek at your human resources from a cost perspective, right now, your employees could be your most valuable assets. When motivated, their ideas and dedication can lead to unique solutions that might not have occurred to you before. But more importantly, if you keep your employees assured and happy, they’ll do a better job of keeping your customers happy.
It’s common that everyone on the team should be prepared to take care of customer support when you are a small business owner. Especially during times of uncertainty such as this, employee-customer relationships can play a big role in business survival.
Here are some ways you can do that:
- Make sure that your employees are safe and well settled into their new situations because their physical and mental wellbeing is important, and it’s the responsibility of a company to ensure that.
- See to it that all your employees have what they need to comfortably work from home (whether that’s cloud-based technology, collaboration tools, or hardware they will need access to) while also keeping an eye on resources they might need to make this a smooth transition.
- Engage with them regularly because social interactions and communication can help boost morale.
- Be empathetic to customers
Many customers are going through the same scenarios you are, so while you might be in a tough spot, some of your customers are also focusing on business survival. As a company who can understand these difficulties, being empathetic towards them during this time will earn you their trust. Here’s where customer service plays a vital role.
Train your agents and other employees – from your product development teams to your marketing and sales teams – to be understanding of customer concerns knowing that they also have tough decisions to make. Doing that proves that you are a company that takes customer experience and satisfaction seriously. Here are a few action items to tick off for your customer service in these times:
- Prepare agents for tough questions and how to be as understanding as possible, while keeping an open mind when finding solutions.
- Proactively reach out to customers whenever there is any issue or update that needs to be conveyed, whether that’s product/service-related or policy-related.
- Try to fulfil the requesters they have quickly. While there are financial restrictions for both customers and you, keep negotiations and problem resolution times as short as possible.
- Find other ways to add value
Helping customers in this difficult time is not limited to engagement and problem-solving. You can also add value with useful resources that can help them get through this difficult time. A few videos, guides, or tips in the form of easily accessible assets can be beneficial for companies trying to stay on point and keeping things simple. Here are some examples:
- Stripe has built a great resource page with essential information companies can use, such as sources of financial aid, government policies, etc. during the current crisis.
- E-learning portal Educause created a page for educational institutions to navigate their academic calendar and deal with the disruption to normal classes and schedules.
- Northern Beaches Mums has shared guides and blogs that could help mums and families during these trying times. They have organised a guide showcasing businesses that are still open during the lockdown, etc.
- Inspiring business survival stories from the previous financial crisis
It’s not yet certain how long this situation will last, neither is it clear how much of an impact it will have on the economy. But if there’s anything we can learn about business survival, it is from companies who have been through similar situations and found ways to add value tot heir customers’ lives. These companies rode out the storm that was a financial crisis of 2008 and came out the other side stronger, so here’s a little inspiration:
- Groupon – The story of Groupon is a magnificent one. During a time when companies were shutting down and governments had their hands full dealing with the aftermath, Groupon launched their business. They built an e-commerce platform on the idea that groups of people want to buy the same product for a discounted price. Their first offer was a ‘2 slices of Pizza for the cost of one’ deal. It quickly became a hit amongst customers! By being a company that helped consumers cut expenses and save every last penny on every item possible, they were able to solve a customer problem and, therefore, quickly grew in revenue.
Learning: Even if you are going through a period of great economic difficulty, identifying customer pain points and creating products that speak to a market need, you can still find ways to add value to customers.
- Netflix – Netflix takes up more than 1/3rd of the USA’s bandwidth capacity! It’s safe to say they have been thriving, especially in times of uncertainty. It’s only fitting that their now-famous video-on-demand streaming service business model was conceptualized in the 08’ financial crisis. They managed to turn around their failing video rental business quickly by providing attractive plans and offers such as an unlimited number of shows or movies streamable every month as well as providing exceptional customer service.
Learning: What Netflix saw in the chaos was an opportunity to capitalise on the need for convenience and choice at lower price points. Being agile and swiftly rethinking parts of your business model based on the current situation can open up new avenues that can help you navigate the current situation.
There is no question that this is a very confusing and challenging time from both a personal and professional standpoint. Most companies are having to re-work their strategy in 2020 and create new ones that focus on business survival. But normalcy will resume soon and here’s hoping that we can look forward to seeing the resumption of business as usual.