The Winds of Change

Let’s talk about change. 

COVID-19 has brought forth several changes in our lives. Sometimes I find myself missing the comfort that comes from the past. 

I shop at the same grocery store a lot. It’s one of the modern-day monstrosities that deserves its own zip code. I hate shopping there because the place is enormous. Yes, they have almost everything you could need under one roof, but it feels like I walk 5 miles just picking up groceries!

The Winds of Change // Lighthouse Business Services

The Old Days

Sometimes I miss the charm of a simple Piggly Wiggly grocery store. I shopped at one of those when we lived in North Carolina. It’s a smaller store that just sells groceries. Come to think of it, who wouldn’t want to shop at a place named Piggly Wiggly? The name alone is marketing genius, and I certainly never left a Piggly Wiggly questioning whether I bought the items I went there for in the first place.

The SHIPT Army

During this COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve seen a lot of shoppers wearing green SHIPT shirts. SHIPT seems like a great service for people who don’t want to risk going out in public and being exposed to the COVID-19 virus. Their business appears to have grown substantially during this pandemic. I’m happy for them.

I have a profound appreciation for the people who have been negatively impacted by this virus and managed to find a way to reinvent themselves. I suspect that’s the situation for many of the SHIPT shoppers. Either by choice or necessity, they’re taking advantage of a definite change in consumer behavior.

Adaptation and Change

Successful businesses must continue to adapt and change. It’s hard to look at our social, political, and economic culture and come to any other conclusion. I’m advising my clients to consider these three primary things as they adapt their business to the changing times:

  1. Invest in technology
  2. Build a relationship with your customers
  3. Scale your business wisely

Technology is Key

Technology is going to continue to be important for every business. Not only does it provide for flexibility, in my experience, it also leads to increased customer satisfaction. 

This pandemic has highlighted the importance of staying technologically current.  How many Zoom meetings have you attended since most of us are working from home? 

I have clients that did a substantial amount of their business via cash and checks. For customers that are concerned about germs and viruses, the exchange of items from hand-to-hand is cause for concern. 

By moving to a system that allows for online credit card payments, they have made great gains in both payment flexibility and customer satisfaction. The ever-elusive win-win scenario.

Customer Satisfaction

Building good relationships with your customers has never been more important than it is right now! The days of simply plugging in the “OPEN” sign and unlocking the door are behind us…at least for the foreseeable future. Customer service includes a lot more than just saying hello when they come in. During this pandemic, it has expanded to include the following:

  • Providing hand sanitizer and disposable masks for customers that want them
  • Performing regular cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces customers normally touch
  • Providing updated information on your web page or social media page listing your business’s hours and preferred personal safety precautions. If your business doesn’t have a web page or a social media page, you should get on that ASAP!

I’m an easy customer to please. I have my own hand sanitizer, and I bring my own mask. When I go shopping, I want to find what I came for, give you my money, and leave. I don’t expect a lot. 

It’s a business; I get it. I own one too.

Make Sure Your Customers Have An Enjoyable Experience

I am impressed when I can check a business’s web page or Facebook page and easily find their hours of operation. 

When their personal protective requirements are clearly and neatly printed instead of handwritten with a Sharpie in illegible handwriting (a pet peeve, don’t get me started, separate blog).

Lastly, when they provide hand sanitizer and disposable masks for their customers, even if they aren’t needed. The totality of these efforts shows a genuine desire to ensure customers have a safe and enjoyable experience. 

That makes a great first impression and leads to a repeat customer. Seriously, if you’re sloppy with the handwritten sign, what else is sloppy about your business? 

Ok, I’m over the whole Sharpie sign issue now.

We Must Have Patience As We Get Used To This New Normal

As revenue begins to return to a relatively normal level, it’s natural to want to return to old spending habits, but this crisis is not behind us. Don’t expect that our government will be in the position of rolling out more financial aid for small businesses if we have another round of this. 

Now is the time to build up a sizeable cash reserve and spend wisely on things that will help when the next crisis hits. Plan for that eventuality now and be ready for it.  

October is almost upon us. One outburst of coughing and sneezing could send the country right back into a shelter-at-home situation. The Presidential election is 5 weeks away, so the TV, radio, and the internet are a smoldering cauldron of hate. And we still have rioting and looting taking place in major cities. The more I type, the better a stockpile cash sounds!

There’s no telling what hurdle fate will throw at the small business community next. The only certainty is that even more change is coming. Small business owners must learn from this pandemic and model their operations to be both flexible and agile. 

I have clients that are doing better than they have in a long time because they’ve made crucial changes in order to provide better service to their customers. 

Learn to embrace change…the future of your business will likely depend on it.

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