No one really knows or can predict the future for sure. We can guess or even use all the historical data to predict what could possibly happen, but it would still be a guess that could be 100% wrong.
So what should you do to ensure that your business fares well in the post pandemic economy and even better than most? Here are two actions that will set you apart and help you thrive in a fast or long, drawn out recovery:
One – Become Resilient
Here is the definition of resilience from Dictionary.com: The power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
This means that you are able to adjust and adapt to changing conditions. It means when things happen that disrupt your normal business you don’t freak out, but you take each change to your environment and make adjustments as quickly as you can that ensure your customer base is served to the best of your ability.
For bankers it means taking into account new ways that your customers want to access your services. Rethinking the true value and purpose of your brick and mortar locations. It means increasing convenient access to all of your services. How do you bring them to your customers versus making them come to you? It means refocusing your teams from reactive to proactive if customers no longer come to your locations.
Resilient companies are able to identify what their customers want and need or what they are experiencing and find new ways of supporting them. They show up in the middle of a crisis with the intent of helping their customer through their challenges as best they can, not hide and hope things get better. They experience the pain along with their clients so that during difficult times they are adding value and creating loyalty. They understand the long term value of these relationships to their community and their reputation. They continue to look for new ways of meeting their customer’s needs.
This may mean reorganizing your team around your customers needs. As much as you want to keep your entire organization intact, you may need to look radically different in order to thrive as you move out of crisis mode.
Two – Communicate Expertly
Communication has always been important, but now with customers and employees no longer visiting and working from your locations, the importance has increased by 10 times. I have seen businesses that have communicated and led their staff very well during the crisis and they have fared well.
Their employees remained productive and engaged. They felt cared for and valued during periods of isolation. Others were slow to allow team members to work remotely. They didn’t provide clear expectations and give employees access to vital information needed to support the customer and answer questions, helping customers know what they needed to do.
Some banks may have even hurt their reputation during the PPP Origination process because customers were left in the dark. They may have applied, but received little to know communication about their loan status and the process dragged on for weeks, leaving them frustrated and convinced their bank either was unable to help them or was unwilling. They experienced a “Don’t call us, we’ll email you with an update” approach, and never received the update. These banks failed to recognize each client’s sense of urgency for these loans. For many it was a matter of survival.
On the other hand, some banks took a more personalized approach and appointed a contact person for each application so that the client had someone to talk to and work through the complexity of each individual situation. They prepared each contact person with clear information that would help their clients navigate the process. They put together a web page with answers to customer questions to point them to what was needed. They didn’t rely on a single form of communication to manage the process. They recognized that many of their customers use text messages, for example, as their preferred way of getting timely information.
How and when you communicate with your customers and employees has taken on a new level of importance. Those that do this well will thrive while others will not. You are going to need to strengthen your team and broaden your media and channels to meet customers where they are at.
Here are some practical recommendations to begin your transformation in resilience and communications:
Create an Innovation Team – As CEO, this should be one of the teams you lead. What is changing in our business and with our customers and how do we need to respond. Use this innovation team to problem solve all types of challenges you are facing.
Begin to regularly survey customers with relevant and timely questions so you know what they are experiencing and how you are responding (meeting their needs). Frequent but short surveys are more effective and can be sent to smaller samples of customers so you don’t keep asking the same people over and over again.
Ensure you assemble a true, cross-functional team that is represented by the various personality styles to get the greatest input and adapt an openness to change everything.
Make sure everyone on the team is committed to asking customers, doing research, and staying abreast of innovations and operations. If they aren’t contributing, replace them with someone who will.
Create a Communications Team – As CEO, also lead this team, at least until you know you have identified the right leader and members. This should be a cross functional team that will give you insight into parts of your organization you may have little interaction with. Members of the team should know what customers are saying, thinking or experiencing. They should be required to bring information in these areas to your meetings.
Since customers will not be visiting your locations as frequently as in the past, determine the ways they want to hear from you.
Consider using video to educate our customers on products, services and how to’s. Video doesn’t need to be TV quality to be effective. You can get this done for a fraction of the price in the past. Your website and messages can have links to all sorts of educational video messages. Keep them short and to the point to create valued content.
Create a team of experts that can create and deliver the messages you need through all the various channels that customers prefer. Educate your team on how to effectively use these communications in conjunction with their customer interactions.
When you help your organization learn to adapt quickly to our ever changing environment and demonstrate that timely and honest communication is highly valued and part of your DNA, you will be well positioned to thrive in this new post-pandemic environment.
About the Author
Tim Scholten is the President of Visible Progress, LLC. After decades of leading innovation in banking sales culture, streamlining operations, process and technology enhancements inside of banks, Tim founded Visible Progress in 2008 to help community banks transform and innovate during one their most challenging times in recent history. He is known for his customer centric approach in guiding clients through crisis and transformations of all kinds. For more information visit www.visible-progress.com