With unprecedented changes sweeping nearly every institution across the globe, COVID-19 has taken mere weeks to single-handedly redefine life as we know it.
As it shifts to accommodate the new normal, the global workforce has been inexorably transformed and new modes of communication, new work patterns, and new team dynamics are being created every day now.
In fact, even though we may feel like nothing is moving on, there are so many shifts taking place around us: for example, scientists are utilizing artificial intelligence to combat Covid-19, and education institutions are considering distance learning as a model for the long-run.
Along with this, business is moving forward: numerous inspiring moves have been made by many different companies across the globe to help others. If you’re curious, we’ve been covering this topic for the past 3 weeks in our COVID Heroes Series.
In our column, we’ve mentioned some of the companies that have shown us moving acts of kindness to help those in need, influencing others with their positive actions and responding to the emergency with generosity and philanthropy.
Today though, we want to shift the focus to a connected but slightly different horizon: what have these companies actually thought us during this pandemic?
Let’s find out!
1. Flexible Policies are Important
Airbnb was planning for an IPO. Then the coronavirus hit. Instead of proceeding, as usual, the company paused to focus on the needs of guests and hosts. They allowed guest cancellations, established a relief fund for hosts, and created virtual experiences, trusting that what they were doing now would help set them up for even greater success in the future.
Similarly, major airlines are waiving change fees, allowing customers to cancel flights, extending credits and reward points. Marriott and Hilton are providing free or steeply discounted rooms for first responders who are self-isolating themselves to protect their own family members.
And if brands can’t offer refunds, they should at least be flexible with promotions, credits, or returns. For example, leading retail brands including Amazon, Macy’s, Sephora and Victoria’s Secret have all extended their return policy while stores are closed.
Plans are changing, and the last thing customers want is to feel like they are losing out, so this might be the perfect time to reassess what we’re doing well and what we can be doing better, no matter the size of our company!
2. Safety Should Always be Top of Mind
Ever heard of TJX? Well, you should have, it’s a pretty big department store. But what’s cool about it?
As we all know, many retailers have closed physical shops and turned to e-commerce: using various tactics like deep discounts, email marketing, and online advertisements, retailers have tried to keep their business running as usual.
Instead, TJX Companies did something unheard of – they stopped taking online orders, leaving this note on their websites: “Our hearts are with people around the world who have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. To do our part to prevent further spread of the virus, we have temporarily closed all of our stores & stopped taking online orders. In the meantime, our site is open for browsing, but you cannot buy at this time.”
It sounds unimaginable these days, right? Well, this only shows that TJX is willing to take a temporary loss for the well-being of all employees. And this is definitely the best way to show your employees you actually care.
Something to think about!
3. Embracing a Common Cause is Key
One of the more memorable commercials in the 2018 Super Bowl came from Budweiser: the commercial showed how the beer company canned clean water for those without access after US Hurricanes and California wildfires.
Now, dozens of companies are retooling production lines to help those on the front lines. Automotive companies Tesla, Ford, and GM have all started building ventilators, distilleries are helping out making hand sanitizer and a coalition of Ohio’s Amish country businesses and individuals have come together to manufacture medical personal protective equipment.
So, no matter the industry you operate in: repurposing in times of need is always a great idea!
4. Recognizing Opportunities may Help Others – and your Employees
The number of people buying goods or services may have declined in some industries, but there’s likely still demand. For example, Lyft and Uber have pivoted their offerings to help fill voids in the community while also giving their independent contractors work.
Both companies are providing free transportation for front line healthcare workers and first responders. Lyft is working with state Medicaid offices and nonprofits to expand access to non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) so patients can still get to and from their health appointments. Meanwhile, Uber is providing free meals on Uber Eats to healthcare workers and first responders and has waived its delivery fee for more than 100,000 independent restaurants.
5. Double-Checking on What you’re Reading is Vital, literally
Misinformation and disinformation are spreading at an alarming rate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just take a look at this running list of coronavirus hoaxes compiled by BuzzFeed News, and you will see we clearly have a problem. False information has become so pervasive that the World Health Organization director-general called the situation an “infodemic.”
Anyone with an internet connection can access and publish information – and misinformation –from anywhere and at any time. That means we have an enormous amount of information to wade through to separate fact from fiction: staying away from toxic, non-verified information is vital, and learning how to check whether a piece of news is truthful is an effort that requires all of us to do our part!
These are just a few examples of the leaders who are putting the greater good ahead of profits and the brave employees who are working to support essential workers. Their actions remind us that we’re better when we’re together!
But there’s still so much work to be done. What can your brand learn from these others, and what can it do to help?