Businesses are shifting operations to accommodate an unknown landscape.
Businesses across the globe are fighting for their survival during the current COVID-19 crisis. In virtually every industry, the businesses that survive will have to change the way that they operate and interact with consumers. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and Coronavirus has undoubtedly forced many businesses around the world to rethink operations. For franchise brands in particular, success will require franchisors to support franchisees and customers by pivoting their business models to better suit the changing marketplace.
Moving forward, short-term strategies for recovery should address what consumers need right now and position the brand to meet those needs. While the current state of operations will greatly depend on the individual industry, there are many universal trends that appear to be emerging across the board.
Virtual work outs – the way today and the future, too maybe.
For one, businesses across every industry will need to adopt options for a virtual or contactless model, whether it is tele-medicine, live-streamed workouts or third-party delivery for example. Rather than trying to upgrade systems and processes used in the past, businesses now have the opportunity to implement new, more impactful digital strategies. The trend toward digital began long before the arrival of COVID-19, and it certainly isn’t going to slow down now. From here on, every franchisee will need to be trained on best practices for utilizing technology to limit non-essential person-to-person interaction.
As states start to slowly reopen, brands need to be prepared to follow CDC guidelines and implement new safety protocols and procedures to keep their customers and employees safe. The brands that openly address how they’re keeping everyone safe are the ones who will be most likely to win after the pandemic winds down and people remember which companies eased their fears. No matter if the business operates in a corporate office or retail store, going the extra mile will be expected when it comes to safety, including everything from tables positioned six feet apart and adding patio dining as well as readily available hand sanitizer, face mask regulations and cleanliness procedures.
Outdoor seating and tables farther apart.
In addition to meeting the needs of consumers, franchisors need to support their local owners by helping them understand what operations will look like on the other side of the pandemic. The reason franchisees join a franchise system is because they want a support infrastructure in good times and bad. The franchisor should take the time to do the research and build the foundation so that franchisees don’t have to worry about creating policies and procedures, but can focus on day-to-day operations, training their staff and implementing the right process in a timely manner.
Now more than ever, vendor partnerships are extremely valuable for adapting to the current state of operations and keeping stores supplied with product. These suppliers are the ones that franchisees can rely on for PPE, including masks, plexi-glass to protect employees, as well as updated signage communicating new guidelines like social-distancing and “masks required” stickers on the floors and entry doors. While independent small business owners must acquire these tools on their own, a franchisee is able to lean on these established partnerships and the franchisor’s support.
Franchisors should also be researching the best practices outlined by associations in their industry, such as the International Franchise Association and the National Restaurant Association. In addition to state and local regulations, every industry has different expectations for staffing protocols, capacity limitations and vendor relationships. For example, some restaurant brands are requiring temperature checks before each shift or are grouping employee’s schedules to limit contact. Brands need to utilize these guidelines to develop a detailed reopening plan that covers everything from rehiring and restaffing to guiding franchise owners on the re-training of employees while over-communicating the brand’s new standards.
Increase communications adding: new policies, virtual training, e-mail, text, calls and video … [+]
In order for brands to recover and emerge stronger than they were before COVID-19, it’s also critical to think outside of immediate needs and next steps. The long-term strategy will be about being flexible, communicating often and creating a dialogue with customers and franchisees. These actions and operational updates will create a strong emotional connection and build loyalty moving forward.
While the current state of operations will not last forever, there is no doubt that some changes could be long-term, and the brands that are most adaptable and streamlined will be at an advantage when the pandemic is over. By actively obtaining the information about what their customers and franchisees want and need, franchisors are able to put new operational procedures in place in preparation for the future.