The Stakes Are High - Reopening During COVID-19

reachXOD Blog - The Stakes Are High - Reopening During COVID-19

What your company does today may determine your brand’s success forever.

The countdown is on for businesses to reopen across the country in the coming days and weeks. The steps you take now to build trust with your employees and customers will have lasting effects way beyond COVID-19. In many ways, what you do now will determine your brand’s success forever. Take a moment to let that sink in. Your stakeholders are depending on you to get it right--to create a new roadmap and re-establish your brand. 

We spoke to two reachXOD advisors, one a 15+ year-CDO in luxury consumer products, and a 20-year CEO in global retail. From their wise perspective we’ve outlined 5  Keys to Rise Above the Crisis and Come Out as a Trusted Brand Leader. 

  1. Compliance will be tough. You won’t be able to get around this, so know the rules, stay up to speed on the changes, and communicate often with your teams. Expect nothing less than full compliance. Eliminate the grey areas for your teams while empowering them to seek ways to improve processes and procedures for the unknown. Ask for, listen to, and implement your teams’ suggestions. They are your front line. Expect the unexpected and plan for every scenario you can brainstorm. And brainstorm again. You will certainly need a solid playbook to guide you through the reopening process. You can download a free Reopening During COVID-19 Playbook Checklist here. Get a list of things you can do right now to prepare your teams for success and ensure your customers have an exceptional experience when you reopen.
  1. Communications will make or break you in a crisis. Everyone remembers United’s epic fail in this category. They took a crisis and somehow made it much more catastrophic. Prepare for missteps and build responses to those so you can be swift and honest. How will you communicate with your employees and customers to show them how much you care about them and their safety? And how will you do that again tomorrow, and the next day? Your communications matter—both internally and externally. Take the time to be consistent, transparent, and matter-of-fact with your employees and customers. You will need to build trust during this time. Your employees and customers are wanting reassurance that their decisions to go back to work or return to your store or business wasn’t a mistake. Focus on safety in the front of house and back of house and be sure to communicate these plans to your teams and patrons. Proactively reassure your employees and your customers often, and in different ways. 
  1. Innovate your customer experience approach. You want to prove to your employees and customers how much you care for their safety, so be innovative in how you go about this. You must go beyond providing safety gear for employees and marking the sidewalks with signs for social distance spacing. That’s a good start, but don’t stop there. Ask yourself and your teams, “What would make me feel safe and proud as an employee? What would relieve my doubts and fears as a customer re-entering a store during COVID-19?” It’s the little things that will make you stand out. Don’t underestimate the power of individual attention given to employees and customers. Think of creative ways to personalize their experiences in your stores and businesses. Be willing to pivot if there’s a change three days in, and communicate the reasons for pivoting to your employees and customers. Encouraging your employees to also take an innovative approach to the customer experience will empower them to problem solve--and right now, you could use a few good problem solvers on your side!
  1. Model the behaviors that will instill brand trust and loyalty. When you see a Chick-fil-A drive-through employee wearing a mask and practicing social distancing when approaching a car, what runs through your mind? Model safety in everything you do. What you model in the front of the house is evident of what you’re doing in the back of the house. Remember that. Assure your employees they are safe because your leadership has taken the necessary precautions--and gone 10 steps beyond the necessary--to provide a safe working environment for every employee at every level of job role and responsibility. It must be a top-down approach so the organization becomes accustomed to stating what they are doing from a safety perspective and why they are doing it. The “why” is just as important as the “what” so don’t skip over this step. Do the same for your customers--model the safety precautions you have agreed upon so they trust you and will be loyal to your brand. Ask for feedback. All eyes are watching, so model what you want your employees and customers to see.  
  1. Empathize with your employees and your customers. How you think about the reopening experience from an employee’s standpoint and that of a customer will guide you and your decision making. Where can you go above and beyond to delight your customers? How can you strengthen loyalty within your business? First, you must be able to empathize with your employees that they are returning to a work environment that, in many ways, will be completely different from what they left just a few weeks ago. Also, it would be remiss of you not to empathize with your customers and their fears of re-entering stores, restaurants, and the establishments that used to feel safe to them. It’s the great unknown, so remind your teams and patrons what hasn’t changed—your commitment to them and their well-being.

Focusing on the needs of your employees and customers during this fragile time will assure them that you are considering their needs ahead of your own. Your brand has been built on trust, so re-instill that trust at every level. You have in front of you, possibly a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rise above your competitors and your own brand’s historical reputation. The success or failure of your reopening plan rests on your ability or inability to provide exceptional service to your customer—and to your employees. Focus on the people and the rest will follow.

reachXOD offers confidential executive advice on demand during hourly advisory sessions with C-suite executives who want to help leaders through this crisis. They led through SARS, 9/11, recessions, natural disasters and other crises and can get you to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis. If you need a sounding board and trusted advice from a seasoned executive, schedule a session today. You will be matched to a reachXOD advisor who has experience on the topic you need to discuss. You choose the topic and the C-suite role for your advisor. Don’t go it alone.