Welcome to our collective fever dream. In this tragic and fast-moving year, market conditions can change before you finish this sentence. We all know by now that how the world operates is different than what was initially planned for 2020. Even though things are tenuous, this “endless pause” is a rare opportunity to make the changes you will need to be competitive and successful as the world adjusts to whatever it ends up being.
You may be asking how to pivot when things are ever changing. The most significant move you can make is a fundamental change in your relationships with decision-makers and passengers alike. You must refocus your attention—or fortify, if you already do so—on generating transactions to building strong relationships based on trust.
Trust: An Unfortunate Casualty of the Pandemic
Mixed messaging, disinformation campaigns, the over-promotion of fake cures and tests that don’t work, and the constant stream of misinformation have resulted in what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls an “infodemic,” which has left many people—possibly even you—confused, angry, and feeling misled or minimized. In other words, trust has been shaken, if not lost completely. Operators can help build trust back into business relationships by focusing on their capabilities and commitment to buyers’ needs and not just profits.
Let’s pretend for a moment that you are not an operator but a bank—a relationship that you may have been lauding or possibly reevaluating in the most recent months. In our game, the accountholder is your customer, and you control all the deposits and withdrawals in every account. The number and value of the deposits will vary based on how happy the accountholder is and how safe and essential the bank makes them feel. Withdrawals occur when the bank is not meeting its commitments, leading the accountholder to consider other financial institutions as their trust has been questioned.
Luckily, your bank has a policy that when a commitment is not met, quick action is taken to relieve those concerns of reliability to rest. This, in turn, keeps the withdrawal value low. Additionally, your bank also consistently delivers tips on managing personal finances and promotes other services that the accountholder may not be aware of, and periodically, you or your branch manager sends a letter to remind accountholders that they are important and you are there to help. The bank account—the relationship—will be stable and grow because the accountholder trusts you, realizes the positive impact your bank has had on their well-being because you offer more than just a place to leave their money, and understands that you value their account. Why would the accountholder want to make a change? Consider your own experiences.
This is the kind of relationship that you absolutely want to build and continue to nurture as part of your “new normal.”
Changing Business Strategies to Your Competitive Advantage
People are already living differently, buying differently, and in many ways, thinking differently. Surely, you can’t expect things to revert to business as we once knew it. It was already on its last legs pre-pandemic. If your business model is employee-based, you own your vehicles, and you are open to integrating more technology, you now have a competitive advantage that you haven’t enjoyed for decades. You can do something that the TNCs, aggregators, and IO-based companies can’t do.
Duty of care suddenly has real teeth and operational control is an essential aspect of what you offer. In the simplest of terms, you will be able to establish processes and protocols to meet the new buyer persona that is driven by health and safety concerns. Most importantly, you can provide specific information by monitoring how you are protecting them. Since the TNCs have no real control over anything that happens with drivers on their platforms, this is where you can compete. Tell people what you are going to do, what you are using, how often you are going to do everything—and actually DO IT. There is no better way to build trust.
“Duty of care suddenly has real teeth and operational control is an essential aspect of what you offer. In the simplest of terms, you will be able to establish processes and protocols to meet the new buyer persona that is driven by health and safety concerns.”
The NLA has provided a list of standards that should serve as your minimum commitments. A full infographic can be found here: bit.ly/2EfSuyG. Read it, and augment as needed. Be specific and educate your customers. It is your job to provide the tools that let people feel like they are making informed decisions and are in control of their own health.
This isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Meet their concerns with answers. And, as with everything pandemic-related, what you do today may very well change tomorrow. As long as you provide the protections you have committed to and have a reporting mechanism that confirms compliance, reassures, and minimizes anxiety, your buyers will trust youto keep them safe during travel.
Reassessing Your Place in the World
Many of us are already suffering from quarantine fatigue, and others are dealing with a host of new, unfamiliar concerns regarding finances and the health of loved ones. Business travel, meetings and events, groups and conventions, and retail work have of course all changed monumentally in the past few months. People will still get married, celebrate other milestones, and be able to attend funerals once again, and although we know that Zoom meetings won’t entirely disappear, they will travel again for business.
As you begin to build your tactics for creating more profound, more meaningful relationships, look at other, new, revenue streams to develop. I see operators who are already successful with city-to-city travel and others with shuttle transportation for employees who still go to the office and want to avoid public transport. There is no doubt that you will have to get creative, but there are markets to be created with the equipment you have.
Ready, Set, Go!
First and foremost, try to get your head back into the game: Your positive yet pragmatic mindset is half the battle. Next, commit to re-positioning your company to capitalize on the systemic changes that now seem to be driving buying behavior. Finally, every process, every procedure, and every employee must focus on establishing high levels of TRUST in every business relationship you have.
It’s easy to get discouraged by depression and anxiety. Give yourselves the credit you deserve: You own and operate professional service companies. Many of you not only met but overcame the challenges of 9/11, redesigned your services, and changed your focus to survive the last recession. You adjusted to the onslaught of disruptors and loss of market share. You adapted. The majority thrived.
Are you going to let a little germ take you down? Of course not. Be a victor, not a victim. And, as the saying goes: “To the victor go the spoils.” Your power is doing it safely and regaining the trust of your traveling public.
One of the most remarkable aspects of our experience since March is that it is a shared global experience of an overwhelming event. If this shared experience can help eliminate systemic inequities and regenerate a sense of purpose, then adapting and thriving in this still unknown world is a little less scary.
Hope is not a strategy. But your strategy can provide hope. [CD0820]
Pat Charla is the founder of DriveProfit. She can be reached at email@example.com. firstname.lastname@example.org.