The spread of the fearsome COVID-19 disease has taken its toll not only on human life, but on human livelihood as well. Now that regular patterns of consumption have been interrupted by stay-at-home directives and stringent social distancing, businesses have been scrambling for solutions. If you own a business, you’re likely seeking answers to the following questions: how can my employees and I adapt to the “new normal”? How can we sustain business operations and keep our customer base now that COVID-19 has made it doubly difficult to do business?
The following tips are not blanket solutions for all types of businesses, but they should help most in rethinking their business model for this era. Read below for a list of things you can do to improve overall sales, strengthen your company culture, and stay in touch with your customers. These could be your best bet in keeping your business functional despite the difficulty of the times.
Make a Business Continuity Plan That Upholds Health, Wellbeing, and Transparency
The first thing your business needs to do in order to address the “new normal” is to make a business continuity plan. Such a plan ideally includes the following:
As the business owner, you have the biggest responsibility of taking care of your employees and ensure their continued health and wellbeing. It is also important for you to guide them through any new protocols you will adapt into your business contingency plan. You must also encourage them to be honest about any problems in their health or in their fulfillment of work-related duties. Let them know that honesty is key in being as responsive to the problem as possible.
Communicate Safety Precautions You’re Taking to Both Customers and Staff
It is also a good idea to openly communicate all the safety precautions your business is taking, especially if you are continuing onsite operations. That way, both customers and staff have a point of reference for how to safely move around and complete purchases on your physical site. This increases the level of trust that customers have in the business.
You can put a poster on the door of your place of business with a message from management, a list of safety precautions, and a disinfection schedule. Inside, you can ensure that the entire staff is wearing face masks and face shields, and place visual markers to help enforce social distancing.
Expand Your Pickup, Delivery, and Online Sales Avenues
Quarantine classifications in the Philippines have limited the number of customers who can go to your store on foot. All the same, there are those who are willing to shop if they can do so online, or if there are pickup and delivery options.
You will want to make sure that your products are available to customers even if they can’t go to your physical store. You can explore an ecommerce equivalent to your physical store and sell from your business’s website. You can also invest in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software suite that can help you manage sales done both offline and online. You can also entertain orders through free messaging platforms, or it’s also possible to open the possibility of pickup or delivery via third-party apps. The more options that your customers have to purchase your products safely offsite, the higher your sales could be—which is something your business needs.
Offer a Greater Variety of Payment Options for Your Products
The same principle as above applies to payment options. If customers have a greater variety of choices for payment, they are more likely to push through with their purchase. If your business wants to hold on to its profits, you must expand all possible avenues for payment.
Aside from cash, your business should accept contactless payments from customers such as via payment card, e-wallet, bank transfer, or QR code. Having a digital payments system in place will be good for your business as well as your customers. It is also much easier to track the numbers on digital payment systems than it is when you are physically counting cash. This will help immensely in your accounting and auditing processes and make them a lot more cost-efficient.
Check Up on Your Supply Chain and Logistics Operations
The supply chain and logistics aspects of your business will be one of your biggest challenges as the Philippines deals with COVID-19. Restricted mobility and lack of manpower may have greatly affected manufacturing, distribution, and delivery of materials and finished goods.
Your job as the business owner is to identify where the potential problems are in your business. It could very well be that one of your suppliers is having difficulty sourcing their own materials, or that your logistics providers are overloaded. Whatever the case is, it is something you will need to respond to through your decision-making. Knowledge of these issues could you re-formulate your restocking schedule and let your customers know ahead of any delays. Despite hiccups in the process, your business customers will get the impression that you have things under control.
Reach Out Aggressively to Your Customers
Lastly, your business can take this time to reach out more aggressively to customers. Customers are now on the lookout for businesses that can be consistent in supplying them with their needs. If you’re the one who makes the first move, customers will remember you and be extra glad that you were there for them.
It’s recommended that your business stays active on social media and other platforms to get the “pulse” of customers. You can also release promos and explore community-based partnerships, such as mass distribution of your product to a residential area. You can reward returning customers with loyalty programs, which will encourage them to keep going back to you. The goal is to stay present and to find opportunities to build long-term relationships with customers—the kind that will last through difficult times.
Keeping a business alive in this era is no small feat. But customers still turn to businesses in order to supply their needs, and employees depend on them for livelihood. The business that can adapt will continue to do good things for the community despite adversity. So, here’s to wishing for your own business’s resilience, adaptability, prosperity, and good health always!