The coronavirus pandemic has put many business’s operations to the test. The evolving situation poses unexpected demands on areas that require rapid adaptation. This includes customer service, production, service delivery, backend support systems, and many more. The operational impacts are far reaching with physical distancing adding another layer of challenge for work that needs to be done on-site.
Let’s take a look at what your business could do to adapt.
- Understand the situation
With health authorities providing frequent updates on the situation and measures that we need to implement quickly, it is crucial to understand the implications and take responsive actions.
If your business can or need to continue to operate, Introduce appropriate measures to protect your employees and customers. It is your responsibility to exercise due care and not to compromise the health and safety of your employees, customers, and the community as a whole.
- Identify the essential customer needs
Review the needs of your customers and prioritize those that your customers absolutely need now.
Develop a plan on how your business would meet these needs. Communicate it and clearly articulate what the changes you are implementing mean to the customers.
Customers would like your assurance that you are there for them. Ask for their patience as your business adjusts its operations. Provide frequent updates to ease anxiety.
- Adjust the operations
Physical distancing has rendered remote work the best practice to minimize contact and the spread of the virus. However, there are likely some work that need to be on done on site.
If you run a manufacturing plant, could the production work be re-configured to accommodate the necessary health measures? If your daily activities require extensive collaboration, would virtual meeting and central archiving of work files be adequate? If there are manual processes, could these tasks be delayed or batched by implementing adhoc data upload? This is not a good time to introduce complex tools and increase stress for everyone.
If your business indeed comes to a grinding halt during to the lockdown, could your financial situation allow you work on projects that you would not have time to devote to otherwise? It is a good way to retain top talent and build capabilities and improvements so that your customers and business would benefit.
- Prepare the employees
It is likely that you need to reallocate employees to satisfy the changing needs.
The call centre could be flooded with inbound calls for instance, do you have simple training materials to get non-customer-facing employees up to speed? Is it possible to segregate the incoming calls so that experienced call centre agents would focus on the complex inquiries?
Working remotely could be an adjustment for employees. As they would be managing family needs simultaneously, how do you support them? Are there tips that you could offer on work planning, maintaining productivity, and ideas to keep their children occupied?
- Monitor impacts
The extent of the impacts from operational changes varies with the degree of adaptation.
Even though remote work might not be new for your businesses, the effects could be very different when every employee works remotely. Productivity likely would take a hit.
Switching to a new supplier, re-configuring workflow, or delaying certain tasks might introduce new issues. Hence, keep a close eye on how the changes work out, especially from the customer’s perspective.
It is important to monitor and assess impacts. Identify the critical process performance indicators such as cycle time, throughput and bottleneck that you need to track. The data would help to make continuous adaptation.
- Consider longer term improvements
The outcomes of the operational adaptation could prove to be an opportunity for your business to introduce improvements.
The objectivity exercised as you pare down processes to meet critical needs might lead to simplified, streamlined processes. Superfluous activities and unnecessary rules could be eliminated as a result.
Alternatively, it could be a reckoning moment of how disorganized your operations are. The monitoring and assessment performed in #5 above would provide much insight for longer term improvements.
- Look out for innovative ideas
As you actively monitor the changing business landscape, you might generate creative ideas on new products, services, delivery mechanisms and so on. Pilot these ideas and ask for feedback. Customers and business partners are always eager to try new options that add convenience and better their lives.
In the midst of adapting your business, strong leadership is critical to provide the anchor for direction. It is going to be a learning time. But perseverance would carry the business forward while maintaining a positive mindset in steering through the crisis.