The pandemic has had wide-ranging effects on businesses. To successfully navigate it may require changing the way you do business and confronting new challenges. The result will be a business that is more resilient to future incidents.
Rapid digitalisation and remote working
Across the globe, the pandemic has exposed an increasing digital divide and further accelerated digital transformation. Businesses’ priorities have remained the same – improving operational efficiency and customer engagement – but it became evident that a prompt and agile response was necessary to suit the new digital reality.
Businesses saw the following trends and realities emerging:
Remote working is here to stay – A significant proportion of employees have moved to remote working, and the majority of business owners expect more than half of their employees to continue to work from home after the pandemic.
Collaboration and culture – As a result of remote working, increased business collaboration using technology has increased, which has resulted in technology and business teams working closer together.
A new deal for employees – Work location and remote working have become one of the four most important factors for engaging and retaining key technology talent. Business owners need to rethink how they attract and engage their employees in a world where physical location is no longer a prime asset.
For more information on remote working, see here.
Increased cyber risks
Covid-19 has forced businesses to adopt new ways of working to meet new patterns of demand. In the meantime, crime tactics have adapted to exploit those changes. The shifts in your organisation's business model will likely challenge your fraud and cyber controls as organised crime groups look for new ways to target your organisation.
While the overall volume of phishing scams may have remained constant, criminal groups have adopted campaigns to exploit Covid-19 themes. Your customers and employees are becoming more susceptible to scams and coercion as they face personal financial hardships and health challenges. Your standard processes and tools for managing fraud, financial and cyber crime risk may need to be updated to reflect this changing environment.
Make sure your data is secure and encrypted, and your remote working environment secured. Here you will find the main considerations you need to assess your readiness to manage cyber and fraud risk.
National restrictions and supply chains
Direct interventions by local and national government, such as the closure of borders, regulatory measures like the enforced shutdown of bars, cafes and restaurants alongside non-essential retail, and new legislation and policies, are having a significant impact.
Customers’ spending patterns are shifting at pace. Some areas of demand – for example, online food sales – are escalating, while others are collapsing. And, inevitably, there is strong pressure to shift core services onto digital platforms and channels, often for the first time.
The forced closure of retail outlets and physical self-isolation has intensely and rapidly altered the pattern of customer demand and impacted the flow of products and services, affecting supply chains. New regulations and policies may disrupt market access, demand and distribution. Demand is changing materially, with many product lines seeing significant falls while other staples and key services are experiencing rapid growth. Businesses are being forced to pivot their focus to specific product lines.
• Assess which products and services are experiencing increasing or falling demand. Based on this, decide which activities to stop, start or continue. Assess how resources and capabilities can be reallocated.
• Review commercial arrangements (pricing, sales and service requirements), taking into consideration the changing situations, needs and expectations of specific customer segments.
• Monitor changes in the market, products and services, and the demands and behaviours of customer segments.
• Identify emerging new demand and transfer existing resources and capabilities to these areas while also assessing the impact on current business.
• Decide how to address overstock challenges with existing capabilities. See if broader industry or adjacent sector partnerships could help match surplus supply with demand.
Monitor daily how market access, customer demand, supply chains and distribution will be impacted by new travel restrictions, border closures and new regulations and policies.
• Plan and collaborate with key suppliers.
• Identify and assess responses to any increased costs and risks.
• Provide effective leadership to ensure business resilience and to maintain a high performance team to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations.
Learn from these examples of how businesses affected by the pandemic have adapted to overcome the challenges and increase their resilience.
Illustrative example: Consumer platforms providing SME support during challenging (Covid-19) times
SMEs in China
Background: Alibaba, one of China’s largest consumer platforms, has rolled out their ‘2020 Spring Thunder Initiative’ aimed at helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) recover and grow during the current health and economic difficulties. The organisation is offering capabilities such as resource support and fast-track processing, as well as enhanced financial terms through fee reductions and extended immediate settlement services.
Why it matters: The two largest consumer platforms in China – TenCent and Alibaba – already served as a primary channel for the majority of China’s SMEs. Since Covid-19, these platforms have stepped up to provide help to SMEs in their network and, in doing so, have signed millions of new merchants into their e-commerce ecosystems. A similar suite of programmes launched by Alibaba during the 2008 financial crisis helped the company reach 40 million SMEs.
Lesson learned: The online platforms are not just seeing increased volume and demand as people self-isolate and stores remain closed; they are also signing up millions of SMEs and merchants that will help them expand their ecosystem, enrich their customer data and – perhaps most importantly – enhance customer loyalty.
Illustrative example: Customer management in time of crisis
A small hotel and apartment rental business was affected with declining business and bookings due to the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and worldwide decline in travels. The general business policy was that cancellations were allowed three days before arrival date. After this time, the full price of the first night was charged. Customers were required to provide their credit card details in order to book a room.
The business decided to change its operating and booking policies in order to foster and retain good relationships with customers. The booking policies were completely changed:
— When customers cancelled, the hotel employees would call or email them to ask whether they and their families are staying safe and offer alternative dates for the booking without charge.
— For customers that did arrive, all relevant health policies were explained and implemented and customers were also offered specific loyalty programme benefits including amenities and discounts on their next stays.