Ben Kiziltug, international lead and UK country manager at Personio, considers how businesses can continue growth even in challenging times

Covid-19 has challenged businesses of all shapes and sizes. Changes in consumer behaviour, supply chains and cash flow have knocked companies off balance, making it impossible to predict or analyse their future.

But, importantly, whilst many businesses have felt the effects of Covid, many others have remained resilient and even grown during this turbulent time – proving that it absolutely is possible. Whilst uncertainty still prevails, it is up to businesses to flex and fuel growth as we tiptoe towards the ‘new normal’ – whatever that may be. Indeed, if they don’t plan for the future today, they may find that tomorrow is too late.

So, what must businesses focus on to continue a growth trajectory during these turbulent times?

1. Invest in new customers

In an increasingly competitive market, the sooner that businesses can fulfil new customer needs, the better off both will be. Indeed, this crisis offers leaders a unique opportunity to support new contacts at a time when they need it the most – whether that’s sharing insights that will help them protect their own business or offering complimentary access to elements of a product or service as a gesture of goodwill.

But remember, in times of crisis, people are extremely sensitive to both tone and motive. It’s important that businesses aren’t seen to be exploiting the situation. Businesses must ask themselves some difficult questions: are you reaching out to help them, or to sell them something? Does your approach feel authentic, or does it feel self-serving? At Personio, we offered a free home office tracking solution to help our clients’ employees track their hours whilst working remotely – just to help them out during a time of need.

Businesses that go the extra mile to help potential customers will create real connections that will outlive the pandemic.

2. But don’t forget your current customers

Whilst there is no universal checklist for this moment in time, customer retention will be crucial to the survival of any business. It’s much easier to keep customers than it is to win new ones.

Customer experience has taken on a new meaning and dimension in face of the overwhelming challenges of recent months. As such, what will set businesses apart in future is their ability to react and adapt to meet customers’ needs in real time.

In times of crisis, people want to be seen, heard and understood. Leaders must proactively seek to understand core customers’ demands to identify those that are struggling the most – and that means talking to them on a regular basis and moving quickly to solve their problems.

By focusing on long-term success and relationships with customers who have been badly affected, businesses will prevent churn, ensuring a smoother cash flow and increased stability for the coming months.

3. Pivot your approach

While we don’t yet know what the ‘new normal’ will look like, we can be certain that the world has changed forever. Instead of holding onto pre-Covid plans or waiting for clarity on what’s coming next, companies must lean in and embrace what could well turn into the ‘never normal’. This means building features and reimagining services to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s customers, even if that means discarding previous ideas that felt perfect before.

In the last few months we’ve seen alcoholic beverage companies pivot to produce hand sanitiser, and fashion brands dip their toes into the manufacturing of face masks and PPC. We’ve witnessed the capabilities businesses have to innovate, collaborate and succeed at a rate once assumed impossible.

Crucially, we mustn’t unlearn what we’ve learnt. Indeed, it’s up to businesses to continue to apply these newly revealed capabilities and flexible approaches moving forwards. Whether that means bringing your business to customers’ homes, accelerating digital options, or investing in touch-free solutions – businesses that act quickly to innovate their model will establish a strong advantage.

4. Protect your people

You can’t tackle a crisis without your most important asset: your employees.

Frontline employees have proven themselves as a company’s eyes and ears on the ground who represent a strategic tool to collect and aggregate real-time ideas and feedback from customers. As such, businesses must ensure they provide new tools and training to enable employees to deliver superior customer experience in the new environment. Creating an environment of support and understanding of the current situation will allow your employees to not become overburdened and will help protect their mental health. This isn’t just a moral obligation it’s essential to retain your staff and prevent burnout.

What’s more, following the outbreak, the ‘duty of care’ has never been so relevant for businesses. With employees facing so much change, uncertainty and many unexpected challenges, businesses must ensure their staff have the support they need.

It isn’t easy to grow a business during turbulent times. As we’ve tragically seen, in many cases it’s hard even to keep some companies afloat. But by prioritising these simple steps, business leaders stand a better chance of securing future success. Act now and invest in your future – before it’s too late.