By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
While we could all use a break from anxiety-inducing headlines, business leaders have no choice but to digest and react to the news about our economic state. The degree of economic turmoil varies across the world, but with talk of numerous countries entering or nearing a recession, proactive steps to bolster business are important for all service organizations.
This McKinsey article suggests that no matter your current business outlook, “To start responding to the challenges of the present, any company can benefit from establishing a core team to read and comprehend the economic signals, translate them into a range of business implications, and serve as the fulcrum for agile decision making.” It goes on to provide thoughtful guidance for companies specifically in the United States looking to build resilience.
The term agile is an important one, and my hope is that our collective experiences building muscles of resilience and agility throughout COVID have left companies in a stronger position to survive economic turmoil. During the pandemic, we became accustomed to new information every day – and were forced to learn how to react adeptly to continually changing circumstances. Those lessons weren’t learned with a temporary purpose, but to forever change the competence businesses have in adapting and overcoming challenges.
As I think about what could help service businesses weather an economic storm, a few things come to mind:
- Keep your customer focus. The companies during the pandemic that I spoke with that experienced the least negative impact were those who reacted quickly to how their customers’ needs had changed. They focused in on the opportunity to tout the value of service in extending the lifespan of assets. They offered greater flexibility and played up OpEx offerings. They brainstormed creative marketing to highlight their abilities to meet new customer needs. When a panic button is pressed, the instinct to turn internal can be strong – but don’t forget that your customers are what will pull you through. Staying in tune to their needs, and how those needs may be evolving due to current circumstances, is critically important.
- Make targeted investments to increase efficiency. Spending money to save money can seem counterintuitive when pressures are high, but there are ample scenarios where a targeted technology investment can achieve quick and significant ROI if you have particular areas of the business where productivity could really be bolstered. In this Deloitte article about resilience in manufacturing, there’s discussion around how targeted investments to increase productivity can be worthwhile. In fact, their data in this sector shows that higher investments before recessions bear higher returns during recovery periods.
- Protect company culture. When stress is high, often the burden can be passed to frontline employees, which can have a negative impact on productivity. In economic turmoil, your employees are just as stressed as you are – and often feel powerless. Remain conscious of their emotional wellbeing, and work to protect company culture. This doesn’t mean paining a rosy picture where there isn’t one, but rather communicating openly and honestly and – most importantly – remembering to acknowledge their hard work and effort even when the bigger picture might not be overly positive.
- Stay data driven. Insights and data should be prioritized over emotions and be used as the cornerstone of decision making. Being proactive is important, but so is being patient and pragmatic. It’s important that the entire company have an accurate picture of where things stand at any given time, both for decision making and general awareness.
I wish you all the fortitude and stamina to face any challenges you’re up against. If there are topics that would be helpful for us to find experts to interview, please reach out and let me know.