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Responding to COVID-19

The world has had to pivot in response to the public health crisis, COVID-19 that has impacted every facet of business and personal life. The sudden impact has required businesses to be nimble in their response at a time where innovation is most pivotal. Throughout the region many companies have stepped up to the challenge, diversifying their offerings to cater to new consumer demands and realities, and refocusing their enterprises to survive the uncertainty.

 

What initiatives have been implemented to ensure customers’ needs continue to be served?

Recognising that many customers’ financial realities have been impacted, most companies have agreed to stop disconnections due to late payments and waive late fees; working with consumers to create payment plans that provide some form of flexibility and reprieve. As an example, the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) COVID-19 Relief Programme has committed $10 million in support for elderly and disabled customers through bill-payment relief as well as care packages to vulnerable customers.

Amid social distancing orders, payment and customer service centres have either been closed or restructured to allow for less foot traffic. Companies have encouraged customers to make use of online payment and other low-contact options e.g. online banking and mobile apps and encourage calling in to call centres instead of face to face interaction in branch.

Companies quickly adopted the work from home policy for non-essential workers who can’t be on-site, thus limiting the interaction with essential workers. As much as possible distancing for field crews, implementing one person per vehicle for employees out in the field. Effort is being made to limit interaction between work teams to prevent cross-contamination among crews. This means that for field crews, the same persons work together, so in the event someone becomes ill only one crew is impacted.

With the situation constantly changing, and decisions being made as information becomes available, it’s essential for employees to have an internal toolbox / directory available – a one-stop-shop of resources and information on the Coronavirus, including what programmes or activities your organisation has implemented to address employees and customers’ needs. That way employees have an avenue to find answers to common questions they may have, or responses for consumers.

Beyond focusing on employees and customers, some companies have widened their scope to include assisting the wider community and providing support to community-based organisations that specifically assist those most affected i.e. the elderly, persons with compromised respiratory systems and essential workers in healthcare, police and retail workers. The Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC) in the Cayman Islands is a prime example; the CUC surprised seniors by paying for all grocery bills over a two-day period, during the first hour dedicated for senior shopping. CUC is also supporting ARK (Acts of Random Kindness) a local organisation that assists those in crisis, through acts of kindness and service.

A show of support for small business owners is also essential at this time. Providing lunches to essential workers can be a way to support those on the front line while also keeping local restaurants in business. For instance, JPS has partnered with JUTA Tours to assist with the transportation of health workers to and from four major hospitals in the South East Regional Health areas in Jamaica. New Fortress Energy has also supported those on the front line by donating care packages to healthcare workers at the Spanish Town Hospital in St. Catherine and the May Pen Hospital in Clarendon in Jamaica.

Keep in mind that your customers want to help too. Provide an avenue where they can contribute or show their support for essential workers. Creating a fund where employees, customers and shareholders can contribute toward supporting persons impacted by COVID-19 and those hard at work on the frontlines.

In addition to having business continuity exposure protocols in place, identify and communicate with employees the action that would be taken if an employee were to become infected with the Coronavirus.  For employees and contractors who need to be on-site, ensure a system of wellness checks that can include taking temperature, and a short questionnaire to determine risk of infection. This way employees feel secure in knowing the steps that are being taken to safeguard their health and that of their co-workers.

Keeping a database or using software to track employee illnesses either confirmed COVID-19 cases, symptoms or instances of family exposure may help your organisation keep abreast of the situation, track the status of your work fleet and the contacts they may have had in order to facilitate any necessary contact-tracing. This system enables your organisation to monitor employee health and offer support when needed.

This is a vulnerable time for all, and some hackers may take advantage of this unprecedented time to wreak havoc. Be ever vigilant of virtual or cyber-attacks. This is not a time to lessen surveillance.

This is an opportune time to plan for business post-COVID-19.  Knowing your marketplace, customers and consumer needs is always the best way to meet market demands and win—but what you knew before may not serve you well in an altered tomorrow. Smart companies will adopt a proactive approach to understand what changes will occur and be ready to adjust their products, services and strategies quickly to meet current and future customer needs. Plan for tomorrow’s success today.

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