The coronavirus panics the world of business

Is your business coronavirus ready?

Over the past 12 months, BECG has led the response to some of the UK’s most high-profile crises and issues in the built environment – leading on fire response incidents, tackling building safety and dealing with national customer service outages.   

But this new coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic has sparked a global crisis, and it’s set to affect us all. Fear has now reached fever pitch because no current immunisation exists to control it. But this virus isn’t just targeting individuals – neither businesses, governments nor society at large are immune to its effects.    

For the UK, the next seven days will prove to be critical. The number of UK residents infected with the virus is increasing exponentially each day, and questions over the UK’s national response – be it quarantines and shutdowns, or smaller isolations – will continue to play out over the coming days and weeks ahead.   

Dealing with the impact of coronavirus is now a reality for every business or public organisation.  

We all now need to ensure that we are alive to the risks and are ready to provide decisive leadership and communications, develop action plans and ensure worst-case scenario planning is prioritised.  

If your business hasn’t yet prioritised the risk management for coronavirus, we’ve provided below five key steps for you to consider, including what your business should be prioritising:  

1) Keep customers confident
Fear and anxiety can develop quickly. For both B-to-B and B-to-C organisations, it is important that you show that you have planned for the virus and that you are responding in an appropriate way, whilst continuing to monitor and respond to coronavirus as it progresses and takes hold.  At times like this, your previous investment in communications channels can really pay off – allowing you to communicate quickly and responsively on strong digital and social channels, whilst ensuring contact centres and all communications outputs are aligned to your messaging.

2) Prioritise employee communications
Like customers, your staff have been exposed to conflicting and confusing information. Again, leadership and communications are critical:  provide regular communications updates through existing channels to show that the business has prioritised staff welfare. As with all communications, the tone you adopt will signal how concerned people should be – staff will take their cues from the leadership team – so strike a tone that demonstrates authority but is understanding of people’s natural concerns. If coronavirus progresses, be ready to scale up the level and frequency of communications. But above all, always keep it people-focussed.

3) Build meaningful policies and procedures
Coronavirus has come into our lives at pace and with force, and few organisations in the UK will have “off the shelf” policies ready to deal with this outbreak. With that in mind, keep your policies simple to understand and ensure they deal with the “real” issues.  Support these policies with separate “frequently asked questions” documents (separately for customers and staff) to deal with evolving issues.

4) Plan for likely escalation
Can you scale up your communications and alerts to customers, suppliers, and staff with a depleted workforce? And does your business continuity planning feature workable solutions to: a significantly depleted workforce, continued market uncertainty, alongside increased customer demands? BECG’s own contingency planning and protocols mean we are ready and able to scale up our communications support for clients, providing real solutions to future challenges and ensuring our communications offer is agile and workable across all platforms.

5) Be part of the solution
Finally, no one person, organisation or stakeholder has the answers to coronavirus, and the problems and questions you’re tackling will very likely be troubling other businesses and stakeholders. If you have developed an agile and flexible plan, your stakeholders will be reassured that you are providing your customers, suppliers, staff, and community with the support they need, and proactive engagement to demonstrate the steps you are taking will be welcomed.     

For more information please visit our crisis planning and communications page, or to talk through your organisation planning and response contact me on 020 3697 7650 or at jenny.riddell-carpenter@becg.com.