• G.N. Benefield, Ph.D.

Crisis Management: Pandemic Panic or Proactive?

Government, companies, and organizations are struggling to control a health emergency with forced closings and rescheduling, citizens are scrambling to stay safe and protect their businesses and incomes. It is important to protect the health of customers, employees, and the public while developing and implementing a crisis plan.

While the full extent of COVID-19's global impact is yet unknown, it's a good idea to take precautionary measures to protect yourself, your employees and your business. In light of this medical emergency, or any other health threat, it's important to stay updated on health guidelines from trusted organizations like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or Public Health Emergency. Ensure you're getting information from reliable sources to avoid spreading misinformation.

Communicate proactively. Encourage your customers to put their trust in you. Here are some ways you can reach out to your customers and employees: Live chat with customers and keep customers updated on your events, product inventory or services. Use email marketing to let customers know about changes to your business or special offerings. Create a forum and actively respond to questions and concerns from your community. Write a blog article detailing what your business is doing to keep your customers safe. Update your followers on social media with any relevant information.

While hospitals and governments work to keep people healthy and safe, many businesses like yours are continuing to provide customers with what they need during this period.

Here’s a list of best practices you can consider to keep your business running smoothly—online and offline. Be flexible with your scheduling. When possible, postpone your business offerings to a later date. If you offer customers membership plans or packages for your services, consider extending or waiving the expiration date.

Keep your customers in the loop. Update your website and social media pages with any changes to your work hours, shipping delays or event/service cancelations. Add an FAQ section to your site to address customer concerns.

Be prepared to think on your feet and work around issues as they arise. Consider workarounds, innovative solutions and be flexible so you can ensure customers will return. There is no one-size-fits-all plan. Find solutions that're right for you and your business.

Postpone your event. Unfortunately, postponing your event may be the best way to ensure you keep everyone safe. Change the date on your event page to a later date or set it to TBD. Cancel the event. Offer refunds. Make sure to handle ticket refunds quickly. This is important to avoid chargebacks as well as maintain valuable relationships with your guests.

Move your event online. Determine if your event can take place virtually. If so, add links to your event page. Create a live stream; Use Facebook Live Instagram TV or Periscope to broadcast your event on social media.

Transform your event into a webinar. Post guidelines and safety tips. Create clear safety guidelines for your event and share them with every attendee. Make sure these guidelines are consistent with your local health organization’s recommendations. Include reminders to wash hands, avoid unnecessary contact and touching of the face.

Manage inventory. Many localities in China and across the world are currently on lockdown. With this in mind, consider alternative ways to fulfill your orders. If your regular product supply is impacted by the current situation, let your customers know. You can source products with drop-shipping suppliers, like Modalyst, to supplement your stock.

Alternatively, you can use print on demand services like Printful or Printify to quickly create custom products. When sourcing or creating your own products, pivot toward items that can be useful to customers. Update timeframes. Encourage online shopping. If you have a brick and mortar store, get your customers to shop online. Offer coupons and discounts to make that option more appealing. It's becoming increasingly important to remain at home. Go virtual. While there is nothing like in-person human interaction, consider offering virtual courses and consultations through video or live stream. Many meetings and classes can be moved online using tools like Google Hangouts, Skype and more.

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