For many, the COVID-19 pandemic is arguably the most significant litmus test that we have faced as business leaders in our lifetime. There has been great concern about employees who are under immense mental and physical strain. Externally, the pressure to keeping critical supply chains open while adhering to strict health and safety guidelines has required a new level of resilience from us all. Thankfully, we are on the path to recovery. Many organizations in the region have adjusted to the new realities of doing business.
Having now weathered the roughest parts of the storm, this experience must contribute to an even stronger, more sustainable business strategy. We must continue to obsess about our improvement so that we can move forward with confidence. In the end, it all comes back to the fundamentals.
Putting customers first – Customers are used to interacting with businesses at various touchpoints. Those physical interactions suffered interruption in a time of crisis. The temporary closure of retail stores, for example, left mobile and online communication as the only viable method to handle customer feedback related to after-sales service, returns, and so on. Many businesses had to rapidly expand their “virtual” customer service capabilities in such cases. But once set, online customer interactions were found to often be as effective as earlier methods. In some cases, even more. A scalable, omnichannel contact center allows you to extend customer service around the clock while sparing customers the time and cost of frequent trips to physical stores. It is all part of the new modus operandi.
Inspiring talent - Response to a crisis requires a collective effort involving every member of the team. The way co-workers in many industries have pulled together under extreme conditions has been admirable. The value that a business places on its staff is most evident in such situations. Moreover, open communication sits at the crux of engaging and inspiring talent. By keeping team members regularly updated on the issues at hand, and responding promptly, businesses create trust and deepen relationships. And while top-down communication is essential, the importance of lateral communication modes cannot be gainsaid.
Supporting the wider ecosystem – Modern businesses do not operate in a vacuum. In addition to engaging their customers and talent, collaboration with a broader ecosystem of stakeholders is essential when building resiliency. The evolving relationship between public and private sector entities has perhaps been most apparent this past year. Whether it is through the lens of safety compliance, licensing, visas, or even economic forecasting, the organizations that have opened new avenues of communication with the government will likely find themselves in a better position—now and in the future.
This approach extends into the community, too. Family businesses in the region—of which GMG is one—have traditionally been generous contributors to social causes in the community. According to a recent PwC survey, 93% of Middle East family businesses regularly engage in social responsibility activities1. This commitment to social engagement was evident during the pandemic, and has helped whole communities and industries to stay afloat.
Testing new technologies – Digitalizationcan make a massive impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of a business’s governance model. We saw how COVID-19 disrupted normal operations in global work-from-home directives. Digital platforms like cloud computing became even more critical in ensuring business continuity. Those businesses that had taken digital transformation beyond mere buzzwords were able to continue operations with minimal disruptions. Even now, ensuring that technology tools are available for a flexible work environment pays dividends for employee morale and productivity.