These are extremely difficult times with millions in isolation, people working from home, children being home schooled, and small businesses trying to keep afloat. Add in a mix of fear surrounding the effects of the virus, worrying about loved ones and wondering what the world will be like afterwards is creating a high level of uncertainty.
Business owners are learning to operate under extreme conditions expanding their skills to incorporate juggling, plate spinning, firefighting and learning to keep a positive mind set. But even in these strangest of times and despite best efforts customers will still find the time to complain that the service provided is simply not good enough.
Challenges to business
Business owners are facing unprecedented challenges. These may include operating with less or no staff, reduced cuts in supply chains, reliance on delivery services and a decrease in capital. Whatever the reason if you are able to keep your business going you shouldn't be dismayed. Most customers will be understanding if not grateful that you are able to run even a restricted service.
Regardless of the situation it’s important to safeguard your business in the short term to protect it for the future. The first step is looking at your company and taking an appraisal of your operational status during the Coronavirus lockdown.
Consider the following aspects:
1. Are you able to continue operating?
This is an important question. No business owner wants to find themselves unable to operate but ploughing ahead without at least considering the situation could be a costly decision. Managing a business at this time is very stressful and the benefits may not outweigh the negatives.
2. Can you operate with a reduced service?
If you can continue, review all services and select only those that can proceed uninterrupted. Scaling back may not be desired but it could make the difference between having and not having a business at all.
3. How can you reduce impact on the services that will continue?
Update procedures to include halting the sale of any products or services you are unable to deliver. Look at ways to expand supply chains and liaise with third parties to understand more about potential work arounds. Where possible increase delivery timescales to compensate for delays, and be honest about what you can offer. Communication with your customers is a must letting them know of changes.
4. Can you ensure the safety of employees and yourself?
Social distancing is in effect and needs to be reflected in your decision making. Most companies can continue with staff remaining at home. If you do need staff to work ensuring they remain safe is the highest priority. You should keep up to date with governmental guidelines. The world is watching and receiving bad press will not help your business once things return to normal.
5. Have you explored all the government finance support your business might be eligible for?
The government is offering a host of different support methods to help small businesses manage during the crisis. To see what you might be entitled to visit the website. COVID-19 Business Support
Regardless of what you do to safeguard your business there will always be a small percentage of customers who will complain. Receiving a complaint is never nice for a business, but during these stressful circumstances it can feel devastating.
Here are ways to mitigate the impact to your business:
Don't read and react
- Review any complaint carefully and take extra time to process a response. You should always aim to be professional.
Don't respond emotionally
- Remember people's emotions are running at an all-time high which may cause them to act before they think. Keep your response to the facts, and apologise for the delay.
Offer a solution
- In almost all circumstances a solution can be reached, even if it means giving a refund. Talk to your customer to reach an appropriate resolution.
You must respond
- Ignoring a complaint is the worst thing to do. You must ensure you send a response an unhappy customer does not like to be ignored.
Don't let the few ruin your mind set
– Try not to take it personally most people will be sympathetic and maybe more willing to forgive and forget.
Don't think you can operate normally
- Trying to run your business as you would have a month ago is not going to work. We are in a crisis and therefore you need to manage your business accordingly.
Don't assume you won't have to stop trading
- Sadly there are daily reports of companies having to cease trading due to the virus. Regardless of your best efforts you may have to close your business either temporarily or for good.
Taking stock of operations and making changes is essential.
The key is protecting your business today to stand a chance of continuing in the future. Regardless of how you feel about the current situation it will not last forever. Remain positive, like most things in life something genuinely good comes out of a bad situation.
Be realistic and know that regardless of how air tight you make your business processes someone is always waiting in the wings to complain. It's an unfortunate part of the job, but it's how you respond that matters.
If you do manage to continue operating safely give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back, attempting to struggle onwards during these times should be commended.