Coping with Business Impacts of COVID-19
Should you change your business right now?
If you are wondering whether you should rethink your services and products – or indeed, the entire way you do business – to soften the business impact of COVID-19, consider this:
- This pandemic is bigger than “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done things.”
- It is bigger than “But our system isn’t set up for that.”
- It is bigger than “Why should I change my business model for just a few months.”
- And it’s bigger than “But we have to think about our margins.”
The virus doesn’t care about any of that. Your customers or prospects don’t care about any of that. Right now, people are scared and anxious, and they want to feel taken care of by everyone they interact with. Some businesses may need to radically pivot in order to meet people’s needs, and all businesses should at least be thinking about adjustments they could make right now.
The companies that come out of this ahead, or at least not too far behind, will do so because:
- They will figure out how to still legally do business in a changed environment; and
- They will build strong brand equity by thinking of every possible way to make their customers feel safe and reassured.
Here’s an example of how one business is responding to coronavirus.
Shipt for the Win
Shipt, the company that shops for you and delivers things like groceries and personal care items to your home, recently changed their signature policy. Previously, Shipt Shoppers handed customers their own cell phones to get a signature. Now, however, Shoppers are just signing for customers so that customers don’t have to touch other people’s phones.
Since it’s possible to receive a delivery without seeing your Shopper, and since Shoppers can make substitution decisions on their own if a certain item is out of stock, this means customers can now sign off on their delivery without verifying their purchases.
Do you think the returns, customer service and legal departments at Shipt would feel better about having actual customer signatures in their system? Of course they would. They probably also didn’t enjoy racking up legal costs while figuring out how to properly change the policy. But they understand that taking care of their customers right now is more important than business as usual.
Well done, Shipt.
So don’t be the company that says, “Well, that’s how we’ve always done it. Why should I change my business model now?” If it’s possible for you to change your policies, you must. Otherwise, customers will notice unsafe or unnecessary policies and will quickly choose competitors instead.
So How Can You Reframe Your Business Offerings?
It’s true – few businesses are as well-positioned as Shipt is to survive right now. Many industries are being hit extremely hard. It’s never easy to change your business offerings, especially when big-and-fast changes are required and money is tight. It’s not ideal for anyone.
Here are some ways you may be able to reframe services and the exchange of goods right now.
Do Business Virtually If You Can
This has been the most prevalent trend because some businesses are able to do it fairly quickly and affordably, and it protects their employees as well as customers.
There may be possibilities to serve your customers via video conference. Personal trainers are holding sessions. Doctors are seeing patients. Educators are teaching students.
Other companies can get even more creative:
- Caterers could sell a Zoom session to help a customer make a meal, step-by-step.
- Handymen and repair technicians could have customers send them pictures and notes to facilitate a diagnostic or quote.
- Veterinarians could allow people to drop their pets off inside the front door, then FaceTime with the owner during the exam.
- A trusted local plumber could offer an inexpensive content subscription service or live webinar to teach customers how he approaches a leaky sink problem.
Think about your customers – not your traditional business model – first and foremost. While virtual services may not bring in the revenue you’re used to, they may keep your business afloat, build customer trust and attract new brand impressions that pay off down the road.
Go Contactless but In-Person
If you previously relied on physical contact with your customers to exchange goods or accept payment, there might be a creative way to eliminate that exchange. Of course you’ve heard of businesses taking orders over the phone and leaving items outside for customers to pick up. If this isn’t an option for you, you may still be able to do business with extra precautions, depending on current state and federal guidelines.
Up-front technology and equipment costs may be worth it to make customers and employees feel safer. For example, install a simple plexiglass barrier at the register, and allow customers to swipe their own credit cards without touching anything else. Invest in mobile-based payment software that allows customers to order and pay by text, access their camera to take a picture of their credit card, and more.
Don’t forget, too, to define what “contactless” means to your business so people know what to expect. Will the delivery person just put the pizza on the porch and leave? Or will she outstretch her arm as far as possible for the exchange? Your customers want detailed information and will appreciate the care you take to provide it.
In all communication about your current business practices, consider including details about the following:
- What is your employee and customer mask policy?
- What is your glove policy?
- How exactly can a customer order and pay in a safe, convenient manner?
- How exactly do you exchange goods with customers?
- What other hygiene and health standards to your employees uphold?
Discount Your Services and Products
As you change your business model, it will most likely be necessary to change your pricing structures too. A customer will not receive the same quality of swimming instruction for their 4-year-old if you are walking them through the steps virtually while they use their own pool, so they likely won’t want to pay as much.
Because so many people are experiencing financial burdens now, too, you might consider tactics to relieve (or at least acknowledge) those burdens:
- Develop a free trial of your product or service.
- Offer an upsell but at a cheaper rate: “Get access to Premium membership for the cost of Standard membership.”
- Offer free consulting, advice or training.
- Unlock access to your most exclusive content or features.
- Suspend processing, transactional or shipping fees.
Lean into the Product Side of Your Business
A good option for service businesses is to pivot to a more product-based model:
- Dog groomers can sell at-home washing and clipping kits
- Restaurants can sell take-and-bake meals
- Nail salons can put together manicure package products for use at home
- Auto detailing businesses can place more emphasis on selling car cleaning products
Get the Word Out
Finally, if you simply cannot reframe your services or develop new ways of doing business, consider that many forms of advertising have become much more cost-effective as demand has waned. So if you can afford to continue – or even ramp up – advertising, you’ll find lower CPCs on Facebook. You might be able to negotiate better rates on billboards. You could potentially take some market share away from competitors if they have dialed back their brand campaigns in Google Search.
Don’t forget, too, all the free forms of publicity and marketing available to you:
- Increase your social media activity, especially by going Live
- Create value-driven webinars or other video content for your audience
- Take advantage of Google My Business Posts
- Expand your network and authority on LinkedIn by joining or creating Groups or writing articles
Adapt. Create. Solve.
The overall business impact of COVID-19 will be unbelievable. But people are often at their most creative and resilient when they’re between a rock and a hard place. Use the pandemic and its effects on the economy to re-think your services and business processes, delight your customers and be genuinely helpful.
At Oneupweb, we are nearly finished developing our own new services and processes to help people right now, so stay tuned for more! Until then, take care and stay safe.