Turning Adversity Into Opportunity

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In times of uncertainty, it is especially important to go above and beyond to strengthen employee engagement. Leaders may set the direction, but it is the people throughout the organization who make things happen, including building and maintaining a competitive advantage. Happy, engaged employees aligned with your corporate values, goals and strategy produce amazing results. A culture of pride of ownership permeates the entire organization and results in better products, better customer service and better business results.

The first step (and arguably the most important) is communicate, communicate, communicate. Don’t sit in your office and send out e-mails; walk around and reach out to folks personally, and coach your team leaders to follow your lead. Really talk to people about what is going on – and listen to what they say; it’s amazing what you can learn from them.

If you don’t already regularly survey your people, it’s a good idea to have a confidential survey program to get the feedback you can’t get in person. These can be set up easily using free online survey tools.

However, to be effective, you must act on the results and communicate early and often that you plan to do so. And remember that this is not a once-and-done process.

Your customers and distributors also need reassurance during difficult times. Making an effort to connect with them now will pay dividends over the long term. Brand loyalty leads to competitive advantage, and customer loyalty boils down to excellent customer service, which enables trust and confidence. Now is the time to reach out and communicate.

Leverage technology tools to enhance regular ongoing communication. Electronic newsletters, wikis and blogs are powerful ways to regularly update your teams, customers and distributors and get their feedback. Streaming video and podcast updates about how you are weathering the storm also are excellent tools.

My Perspective: Make sure your people are ready to respond with a higher level of empathy and support for the customer. Now is not the time to offer bad customer service, as emotions are running high and customers will vote with their feet.

Look for quick wins that will serve customers and stimulate sales in the current economy. Are there new products with lower pricing you could offer? Would a review of their current services to ensure they are maximizing any discounts or product combinations make sense? These initiatives demonstrate you appreciate their situation and the lower margin pain you feel now will be rewarded when customers come back for your products and services when things turn around. Plus they are a great opportunity to talk to your customers and potentially identify issues before they consider moving their business elsewhere.

Times may be difficult, but regular, meaningful ongoing communication will ensure everyone is focused on the goals of the organization and working in the same direction.

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