The Power of Transparency in a Pandemic and Beyond
When you’re managing your business in a pandemic, chaos and change are part of the game. You may feel as if you’ve finally found your sea legs, adjusting your procedures and protocols to prioritize customer and employee safety, only to have the local or global situation dictate something entirely different. For example, in many states, businesses had barely opened their doors before a surge of cases—and a corresponding slate of tighter restrictions—drove them to shutter once again.
Add the challenge of communicating these rapid changes to your network on top of implementing them and it’s easy to find yourself under water.
But the good news is that—with the right messaging—being open and honest about the circumstances at hand, as well as what they mean for your business, can actually work to your advantage.
To understand what we’re talking about, think about the most important quality in any relationship you have. More often than not, in connections ranging from business to romantic, friendship, and familial, it’s trust. Trust is absolutely crucial in fostering true bonds in any area of your life.
When it comes to those you serve, either as an employer or product or service provider, trust is paramount as well. And transparency provides the opportunity to build it in during some of the most difficult times any of us have ever faced.
Further, though a return to some semblance of normalcy seems like a distant dream, the trust you build today—in an unprecedented environment—is almost guaranteed to endure beyond the current conditions, netting you even more business when we can all stand fewer than six feet apart.
What are some ways to shed light on your current practices and their purpose? Let’s take a look…
Don’t promise what you can’t provide: In the past, guaranteeing overnight shipping, for instance, may have been a simple way to show clients and customers that you cared. But in the current climate, it’s not always possible to promise that kind of turnaround. Between short-staffed warehouses and offices and highly burdened delivery systems, your ability to offer that particular perk may have gone out the window.
The same goes for numerous other functions of your business that may have been par for the course. If you’re a physician or dentist, perhaps wait times are a bit longer as you ensure the proper safety protocols are in place and upheld, or having coffee and fruit available in the waiting room is no longer a viable option.
Rather than making false promises, hustling to keep up with increasingly impossible demands, or disappearing products and services customers and clients have come to expect without an explanation, be honest. Tell them about the current challenges you’re facing—in an appropriate and professional manner, of course—and what that means for the customer or client experience.
When people know what to expect, they’ll be more understanding of—and amenable to—the changes afoot.
Play up the positives: While things may not be “business as usual,” that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to connect with and impress those you serve. For starters, consider telling them about all the ways you’re keeping your customers, clients, employees, and community safe. When they see that you’ve gone above and beyond to put them first, you’ll have made significant strides in securing their trust.
In addition, think about what you can offer right now. Is it more service and support for your existing customers? Access to a free virtual toolbox to support their business needs? A free face mask or bottle of hand sanitizer with every purchase to help keep them well protected? More time for returns and exchanges—and thus a little extra peace of mind? These offerings don’t necessarily cost much, and they make a real impact on the experience you provide.
Tell them about your plans for tomorrow: Maintaining transparency is also about reporting your plans for the future. What will you do to maintain the trust and relationships you’ve built up over the past several months when any and all restrictions are lifted? How will the insights you’ve gleaned to date improve operations going forward? Are some of the safety promoting practices you’ve implemented simply good business, for instance? What does the support of your stakeholders—both now and later—mean for your present productivity and your potential?
Everyone your business touches is part of your story; make sure they know it.