Don’t blame the virus – that’s a cop-out

Pivot, learn, adapt, make hand-sanitiser…according to the guru’s out there, if we don’t come out of this quarantine situation with a new product line or skill set, apparently, we lack discipline and our businesses were doomed to fail anyway.

It is a constant and unforgiving daily toil in small business to keep the sales moving and, hopefully, make a profit.

And that’s when it’s situation normal.

These days, things are anything but normal. Which is why sticking to the fundamentals of business is incredibly important.

So, it astonishes me when businesses, big and small, forget the most basic and key fundamental in times of crisis – valuing your customers.

Whether it’s your die-hard loyal fans of returning customers, or hard-won new converts; they will help keep a steady stream of dollars through the door, so hopefully you come out the other side of this.

Real value

But valuing customers is not the “Thanks for your order” system-generated email kind of value; or the “Here’s yet another discount for the next time you shop” (constant discounting in retail is a subject for another day!).

Value, or adding value, to a customer is not just a monetary or financial offering; it is a genuine and authentic show of appreciation and gratitude to those that support your business and is part, or should be, of your standard business processes.

Value is the element of surprise and delight beyond what is expected. That intangible action that brings a smile or gains trust.

Therefore, it stunned me during a recent online purchase with a brand that I have shopped with several times, the complete lack (read: non-existent) communication regarding impacts to their business processes, specifically, their shipping and delivery process.

Three weeks after ordering, and receiving no shipment notification or update, I contacted them to find out the situation. They replied, “Sorry, it’s the virus and we’re understaffed.”

What a cop-out.

I do believe they are likely understaffed and have probably lost key staff that would usually make the process run smoothly.

Be transparent

So why didn’t they communicate this? Offering transparency and letting their customers in on the challenges they have. Building trust.

People are, generally, patient and understanding, particularly in the current circumstances. But that is not an excuse to do nothing or say nothing.

A disingenuous response to customers for your deficient attention to a process is worse than saying nothing at all.

If you’re going to apologise, don’t just pay lip-service to the situation. At least sound genuine, even if you don’t actually care. Better yet, shut your doors and move on. There are plenty of other businesses who are trying their very best to deliver their very best during this difficult time.

Own it

The virus, or rather its impact, is the reality for all businesses, but blaming it for your lack of process and/or accountability during this time is simply bad business.

Keep your communication regular, authentic and relevant to your customers. In this age of technology, we have a plethora of virtual tools available to make it easy with the ability to craft content to be non-intrusive or repetitive.

If you truly value your customers, show up when you say you will. Do what you promise to, and if you can’t, let them know. They are on this journey with you too.

It takes a long time, and money, to build customer loyalty, but a nano-second to lose it.

So, rather than learning or pivoting (or making hand sanitiser) during this situation, take the time to assess how you value your customers, and continue to add value to them.

Sonya Michele, Founder, dog&boy