Pandemic or not, companies that ‘do good’ also seem to do well businesswise. According to research, companies that drive positive change on issues that the public cares about have continued to outperform the market even through the COVID-19 crisis. The same research also maintains a corporate response tracker for how the hundred largest employers in the US treat their employees, customers and local communities throughout this pandemic. Are they empathetic, or is it business as usual?
Experts believe that the new COVID-19 marks a universal turning point where companies need to prioritize the needs of the stakeholders over those of the shareholders. So, how can businesses take specific steps that lead with compassion so as to emerge prosperous on the other side? According to the founder of Customer Bliss, “It’s the memory of how you conduct your organization during difficult times that will bring people back when it’s all over.” Below are a few ways that companies should be leading and operating right now.
1: Empathetic Extension of Grace
If there was ever a time to be merciful and lenient, this is it. Examine your fees, contract conditions, penalties, and even cancelation policies. Evaluate all of these and adjust accordingly due to the global crisis. Sure, you might have to take a few blows to your revenue and profitability. However, how you act today will shape and impact your future relationships with customers.
Note that people will be watching and speaking about businesses that didn’t show any humanity during the COVID-19 crisis. For instance, there’s an east coast chain of gyms that’s still yet to recover from bad publicity and a class action lawsuit. They continued charging their members even during the shutdown while providing no way for their customers to get redress.
On the flipside, captive loyalty now translates to long term admiration and advocacy later on. Hotel chains like Hilton are continually earning goodwill since they allowed full cancelations with zero penalties. They also extended loyalty status benefits, paused points expiration and donated rooms to healthcare workers to aid in the fight against COVID. When the crisis passes, those companies that showed compassion and humanity over profit will no doubt be rewarded with unwavering loyalty and a growing customer base.
2: Collaboration and Fearless Brainstorming
Even if you can’t meet with your employees, it’s important to simulate physical office arrangements. Collaboration and brainstorming are critical when working remotely. That’s why you want to simulate the office environment through a digital nerve center using tools like Zoom Room. Companies can even go further and open virtual rooms that give everyone a chance to ask and share. Remember, giving people a seat where they normally have no say could have a very energizing impact.
Similarly, it’s equally as important to provide a way for customers to connect with each other. Experts recommend virtual roundtables or webinars as a way to continue learning from your customers while adding value even as they work from home. And lastly, be very mindful of mental health during these trying times. Such discussion might be rare in the corporate world, but they can’t be ignored anymore. It’s all part and parcel of being empathetic.
Employers and business leaders have to acknowledge that many people are fearful and stressed out. As such, they should provide a judgment free zone for their employees to connect, share, and unload. A lot of companies are actually expanding benefits to tackle this issue. For instance, a famous chain of coffee shops now offer 20 annual therapist sessions for both employees and their families.
3: Communicate Messages of Hope and Optimism
As we stand today, communication is becoming just as important as the products you’re selling. Customers have to know what you’re doing to solve their problems. They literally need to feel you’re being empathetic. Likewise, employees want to know they work for a company they can be proud of. That’s why you have to keep your customers and workers up to date on everything you do. Lift up and show empathy to all those who have been hardest hit by the crisis. AT&T has set the pace by giving three free month service to each doctor and nurse in America.
That’s quite the impressive feat. Now, granted that not all companies are capable of doing such, just retool your business where you can. Even SMBs can rethink their strategy to reach out to the customer wherever they are. We’ve already seen restaurants evolve and completely overhaul their strategy to focus on delivery. What this means is that instead of complaining and being sad about all the things you can’t do, try to find a silver lining and make the best of a bad situation. You’d be surprised how far a daily dose of optimism can go.
Empathetic People – Over to You
Even with the advice above, establishing workplace wellness through empathy is no easy task. A lot of businesses are adjusting ops, reducing hours and laying off staff in response to the corona virus outbreak. It truly is uncharted territory for many as companies try to operate without a playbook.
But now more than ever, being kind, empathetic, and compassionate are far more important values to keep at the forefront of your company. As business leaders, take the lead and do the right thing starting with your employees going all the way to the customer. It’s not business as usual guys. So forget about quotas, don’t stress too much about revenue and prepare to bite some losses going forward. But when all is said and done and the COVID pandemic is beat, you’ll be coming out much stronger on the other side. Remember, it’s the memory of how you conduct your organization during difficult times that will bring people back when it’s all over.