For all the current and former Boy Scouts around the world, you know the Scout Motto is “Be Prepared.” What the motto means is to be prepared in body and mind to always do the right thing at the right time.
For all the business owners and executives around the world, your motto should also be “Be Prepared.” It is part of your responsibilities to know what you should be prepared for.
If you have a brick and mortar store or office, you have one set of circumstances to be prepared for. If you work online or out of your home, a different set of circumstances. It’s up to you and your team to analyze your situation and come up with answers to problems that may or may not happen.
Many of you know I come from the Hospitality-Travel-Cruise industry and worked onboard some of the largest and most luxurious cruise ships in the world. The largest ships today carry more than 6,000 guests, with over 2,000 crewmembers who are working very hard to make sure that their vacation exceeds all expectations. And sometimes we don’t even know what those expectations might be!
So we have over 8,000 people from all over the world, floating in a metal box in the middle of the ocean.
What could possibly go wrong?
Sometimes the passengers are upset before they even get to the ship. Something might have gone wrong with their reservation, or their flight (or luggage) or their choice of who is sharing the room with them.
(Okay, that was meant as a joke!)
So, trying to exceed expectations starting from a negative point can be difficult. But we need to be prepared.
Did we order enough food? Are there enough linens and towels? Do we have spare parts for the engines if something happens?
All legitimate concerns if something goes wrong in the middle of the ocean. We can’t go run out and get what’s needed. But we have to differentiate between what is a real emergency situation (running a-ground, medical emergency, fire) and just a situation that can be corrected (A/C stopped working, not enough towels, no more bacon onboard. What? No more bacon? That would cause a riot. That needs to go in the real emergency group)
The same applies to your business. What are some of the things that could go wrong that you need to be prepared for just in case?
If your computers crashed, would you be okay? Is your data backed up?
What if a key employee (or you) got sick and was out for a while. Are other people trained to handle those responsibilities? What if you ran out of bacon? (Sorry, just had breakfast.)
It is up to you and your team to discuss various aspects of your business to see in what areas you need to be prepared. It’s impossible to be ready for every circumstance, but it’s important to review at least yearly how you would handle certain situations.
For the customer service/customer experience aspect of your business, you need to start by putting yourself in the shoes of your customers.
Would you be happy to do business with you?
Are you easy to work with, is your website easy to navigate, do you return phone calls or answer emails?
Are you out front when there’s a problem or are you hiding in the back?
Do you show compassion and empathy, or are you distant and uncaring?
Are you prepared if something goes wrong? What happens if the product or service is delayed?
To help get you prepared, here are some things to consider:
- Get your team involved. Especially if they are on the front line dealing directly with customers. They are an invaluable resource and see situations you may not know about. It helps them to feel part of the solution and keeps them engaged.
- Know your strength and weaknesses. No one can do everything all the time. Know what you’re good at and bring in the experts to get help in other areas.
- Get your technology up to date. While you don’t need the latest upgrades every year, you should not be running Windows 98 on your computer or using floppy disks for storage.
- Do you have a security plan for any emergencies? Don’t wait for an actual emergency to happen before thinking this through. If the fire alarm goes off or you lose power, do you know what to do? What about weather emergencies such as tornados or flooding in your area? Is your insurance adequate and up-to-date?
- Can you weather a recession or downturn in the economy? Do you have enough in reserves? Invoices are paid much slower in a recession.
- Make sure you have a communication plan in place. Getting in touch with your key people will be invaluable in times of emergencies. Make sure everyone is informed.
Get with your team to discuss, analyze and prepare for emergencies, both big and small. How detailed you are will help determine how fast you can recover from any potential negative situation. As you learn and grow, document all new situations and the response involved. Keep a “lessons learned” file for future reference, and make sure to review every year.
Then you truly will “be prepared!”