Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize has confirmed that South Africa is experiencing a second wave of Covid 19. This comes as numbers of infection are increasing since the beginning of holiday festivities. The four provinces that are the key drivers of this new wave are; Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng Province.
The Centre for Disease Control recently announced that the second wave of coronavirus is likely to crash over the economy towards the end of 2020. For start-ups and small companies, this could spell disaster, especially if they do not have a functional business continuity plan in place.
Are you ready for the second wave of COVID-19? These are the actions you can take right now to help your small business survive the next, potentially larger, wave of the pandemic.
Assess your response to the first wave
There are lessons to be learned from your response to the first wave. Talk to employees, partners, and suppliers to find out what worked and what needs improvement. EY Canada (formerly Ernst & Young) suggests that businesses review their business continuity plan
“If there are deficiencies, companies will want to identify root causes, whether it’s timeliness of action, lack of infrastructure, labour shortages, or external environment issues?”
Did you experience inventory issues or workforce disruptions? Did you have enough personal protective equipment (PPE)? Were you able to pivot your business to continue bringing in revenue? When you have examined your response to the first wave, draw up new policies and procedures to reinforce what worked and fix what did not. Also, keep up to date with the latest regulations and best practices on COVID-19 prevention in the workplace. Prioritize employee safety and communication
Realize that in a second or third wave, your business may be affected again, so prepare for that eventuality now. Even if the wave is less intense than the first one, you can expect an increase in absenteeism, a falloff in sales or foot traffic, and perhaps even less worker productivity. Establish or update your succession plan should something happen to you or one of your essential employees. Your Business Continuity Plan should outline everything needed to sustain operations in a subsequent wave and reduction or suspension of commerce.
At the least, your business should be able to operate with minimal face-to-face interaction between employees, customers, and suppliers.
Operations should be able to continue, even if some of your key employees are temporarily unavailable due to illness or hospitalization.
Your supply chain should be flexible enough to suspend and start deliveries quickly. You will want to identify and engage alternate suppliers and delivery channels and discuss storage options for inventory, equipment, and orders in transit.
Now is the time to refine the processes that you have put in place and to do additional research to fine-tune your communication tools for the future.
Invest in updating your business website, it is a key communication asset and must be modern, maintained, and effective in converting online sales.
Work on expanding your customer email database. The email addresses collected through your website can be used to keep customers informed of changes during COVID-19.
Establish an engaging social media presence where you can directly and publicly chat with your customers.
Create mechanisms for building contact lists of your customers so you can maintain contact with them during a future disruption to your operations. Develop suitable promotions to encourage customers to continue their relationship with you before, during and after a disruption to your business, such as discounts, buy one/get one promotions or frequent shopper rewards.
Use social media to reach out to your customers, build a following and perform outreach. This will help you retain existing customers while keeping them informed about offers, operations and activities during a disruption.
Ensure your tone is empathetic and compassionate. Leave the whimsy and humour for a later time. Your customer base may be in various stages of grief or experiencing stress-related anxiety.
Monitor your web analytics to see what your site visitors are viewing. Revise your navigation to make it easier to find the information your customers are interested in, which may have changed since the beginning of the pandemic.
Think about adding a chat feature to your website so someone on your team can respond to queries in real-time. If this is not possible, create a unique email box for pandemic-specific questions, suggestions, or concerns. Just be sure you check it regularly so that the sender knows you care.
Activate your Business Continuity Coordinator or crisis team. Have remote-enabled staff take their laptop, mobile devices and work home with them each night so that they can work remotely with little to no notice.
Arrange for alternate delivery schedules/destinations based on your plan.
Clean all facilities thoroughly before ceasing operations, especially communal spaces such as eating areas, counters, break rooms and restrooms. If you are shifting to online fulfilment, takeout, curb side service or another alternate business model, inform your customers via your email list and social media channels.