If you’ve been wondering, as a businessperson, how best you can help with either the medical or economic challenges we all are facing at this time in history, you probably don’t need to learn how to sew protective gowns (if you’re not already a crafty person) or provide respiratory therapy (unless you’re already a licensed professional). Rather, your existing core competency, re-purposed as necessary to address the realities of this historic moment, will probably have the most impact.
Here are four examples of organizations that are improving the greater good by using the power of what they do best.
Nextiva is a fast-growing business communications company in Scottsdale, Arizona whose core offerings include cloud phone service and the comprehensive customer management platform known as NextOS. The company’s customers range from sole proprietorships to Fortune 100 companies. [Disclosure: I have done professional work for Nextiva.]
In late March and early April, Nextiva provided use of its cloud phone system and technical expertise to power two United Way virtual telethons, one on each coast of the U.S. Between the two efforts, United Way of Greater Los Angeles and United Way of the Greater Triangle in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina raised a staggering $2.6M to help their communities respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
Both efforts happened with minimal notice; in fact Nextiva had only three days’ lead time to pull the Los Angeles virtual event together. Even with such a short timeline, the Nextiva team managed to get their technology into the hands of every volunteer and to onboard everyone to get them fully up to speed before the event went live on ABC7 KABC.
Imagery from emergency United Way virtual telethon
“We were gratified at the opportunity to help out with this telethon, and are so glad to have been able to step in on such short notice,” says Yaniv Masjedi, Nextiva’s CMO and one of the company’s team of 10 employees (ranging from positions in sales to members of the C-suite) who stepped up to make this happen “It shows that when times are tough, we can all come together for the common good.”
Oji Life Lab is an emotional intelligence learning company that offers a self-paced mobile learning program developed with top Yale University scientists. (I’ve covered Oji Life Lab in more detail here.) And it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to imagine that the struggles this unprecedented time in history are of the type that could benefit from a tactically applied dose of their expertise. CEO Matt Kursh explains:
We wanted to be helpful in as direct a way as possible helpful in this crazy time (even though we don’t have a secret cache of N95 masks). We decided what we could do best was to strive to give help to everyone–not just our customers–so they could better navigate the unprecedented emotional challenges we’re all encountering. Toward this goal, after a lot of late nights and great discussions with our co-founders (who run the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence) we created an e-book with tips and techniques that people can apply right now to create a bit of calm amidst the COVID-19 chaos.
You can grab your own free copy of the ebook, known as the Corona Care Toolkit, here:
I remain struck by the example shown by Disc Makers, a manufacturing plant in southern New Jersey that, in better times, devotes its factory shifts to the manufacture of DVDs, CDs, books, T-shirts, and the other essentials for the gigging independent musicians who make up its customer base. [Disclosure: I worked for a sister brand of Disc Makers from 2006 until 2016.]
With that world suddenly upended due to event cancellations nationwide, the company has pivoted its operation to the creation of face shield for medical personnel and first responders. (I encourage you to read more about this effort in my longer Forbes piece.)
Finally, I’m heartened to learn what e-commerce company Zappos has been up to. What is Zappos’ core competency? Arguably, selling shoes and apparel. But that’s not how they view themselves. Rather, they think of themselves as a customer service company, first and foremost. So in the face of COVID-19, they have transformed their customer support operation (what they call their Customer Loyalty Team) into a kind of “ask me anything” resource. “If you just want someone to talk to,” they say, “about anything–the weather, the latest Netflix show, your dream vacation plans for when this is over–anything. We’d love to connect with you.” No purchase required. Here’s the link for more info and the phone number.
Micah Solomon is a customer service and customer experience consultant, keynote speaker and trainer. He also works as a content creator and ghostwriter and as a customer service expert witness. Micah was recently named “the World’s #1 Customer Service Turnaround Expert” by Inc. Magazine. Reach him directly at email@example.com, visit his website, or check out his new bestseller: Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away) (HarperCollins Leadership).