Throughout the global pandemic, companies have been under pressure. They have had to meet customer demands at a time when no one knows what they need.
Not only have businesses had operational, strategic and financial strains, but brands and communication channels have also needed to pull their weight. Companies have had to work hard on cash flow in particular, but the latest Edleman Trust Barometer has shown that 50% of customers believed companies have failed to put people before profits (https://www.edelman.com/research/trust-2020-spring-update).
As part of building a #BusinessForTomorrow, should leaders now be considering the impact their strategic decisions have on their people and subsequently their brand to secure the trust and confidence their customers have in their business?
People before profit?
Businesses have to survive and to do so, they need to breakeven or make a profit. Although this has become harder for many, the paradox with creating customer confidence has not changed – you still need both. However, creating trust amidst a global pandemic has become increasingly difficult to win and retain. Not getting control over building or retaining customer confidence and trust now, could create future issues for demand.
In many ways, this dilemma comes back to one solution and that is ‘communication’. Not any old communication with your clients, but clear, transparent, honest, timely communication; what we will call, ‘human’ communication.
‘Human’ is an interesting word in this context, as when you strip it back, every business is ultimately humans working with humans and that is how revenue is generated. As humans, we have emotions that change, and we naturally create relationships and attachments. So why should your company communication be any less human?
Company updates at the start of the pandemic focused on preventative measures and their continuity responses, and since the initial flurry of emails, many businesses have had to pull back their communication due to resource, initiative or budgets. This has therefore left a gap, resulting in an opportunity to foster that relationship, which otherwise, may have been filled by a competitor. This also becomes a transparency gap – What has been happening? How can you help them? And in the spirit of being human, how are your employees?
No company has been immune to this. For example, Amazon has been criticised for the methods they used to deliver uninterrupted services at a potential human cost. This shows that it has to be genuine and not just a communication stream, but rather a question for strategic decisions – Is it ‘human’ and is it right for our company in the long term? For example, you may take two weeks longer to open your shop than a competitor, but you fit it out with new ideas and put health measures at the heart. The shopping experience, trust and confidence you build in the weeks after opening keep customers coming back, whilst your competitor is wrestling with old procedures, with their footfall dropping.
This pro-active approach can flow through into your communications and act as an essential tool to winning customers for the long term. This has become more of a marketing strategy than ever before. The day to day operations, such as how you run your office, can now be a point of differentiation and, if done correctly, will set you up for a future return on investment for extra costs or time.
Good friends are listeners and not just talkers
As with any relationship, it is a two-way street. Your company communication may do all the talking, but are you listening? None of us like meeting a friend and been spoken at for an hour, to only come away and think they did not ask about you. It is the same for corporate communication and companies are now putting a focus on this. HLB, our international network, conducted some research which reveals the following:
- 53% conduct more frequent market research to stay abreast of the shifting consumer behaviours.
- 45% rely on social listening and sentiment analysis online.
- 43% invest in improved client relationship management (CRM) processes and platforms.
For the full report, click here.
By understanding what is happening at a human level, you are then able to demonstrate how you can help, alongside building their trust and making more informed business choices. This does not have to be expensive software or massive surveys, but could simply be achieved by asking your key account managers/sales team for feedback or getting them to put in a quick call to a selection of clients.
Get your internal communications right too
Communication is as much internal as it is external too, such as between colleagues and suppliers. By extending and applying human nature to these interactions as well, you will be listening and creating open routes to share ideas, understanding how clients are feeling and of course, discussing the everyday logistics. Having daily or weekly catch ups is not revolutionary, but in an agile world where we use video for inclusivity and setting the right structure to the meetings, it can bring a whole new functionality. Again, this can inform your external communication, continuing to build trust and confidence. For example, you may wish to share stories of what your staff have been working on or how they have adapted.
Cash flow is your brand; your brand is your cash flow
Your brand is everything, it is not just your logo, it is how your company goes about the day to day and the making of big decisions. It is as much about the look and feel of a website as it is your dress code. It is about the communication, both externally and internally. By building that trust and confidence with customers and maintaining two-way conversations, you are creating the cash flow for your business. It is the people, the human communication, that creates return custom, especially from existing customers, as well as new customers or even ‘better’ customers.
It should not necessarily be people ‘before’ profit, but people ‘and’ profit. If you do one thing today, question your company on human communication and think about how it can help you make a #BusinessForTomorrow.
For further insights and advice to support businesses in building a #BusinessForTomorrow, visit the dedicated resources webpage which is updated daily: www.hazlewoods.co.uk/responding-to-the-coronavirus.
For more information on Hazlewoods business advice, please contact Scott Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01242 680000.