Staffs are worried, and payment execs need to hear them out

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We are living in unprecedented times. We see and hear that phrase so often, I fear we may have become desensitized to its power.

I spoke with a colleague who has worked in the entertainment insurance industry for three decades. Every year she and her clients perform an exhaustive exercise of brainstorming every possible potential threat to the continuation of normal operating procedures.

A worldwide pandemic that would simultaneously shut down every industry on multiple continents and across dozens of countries at once never occurred to them.

If risk professionals didn’t see this threat coming, why should we expect business owners to have predicted its arrival?

The time for regret is over. Now is the time for bold, compassionate leadership. Employees and customers are looking to business leaders to lead.

Honesty is the always the best policy. If you aren’t transparent, your employees will know it. Eventually there will be a trickle-down effect that will result in lost revenue as discouraged employees communicate with customers out of frustration and fear. Don’t hide the truth from your workforce, but be mindful of how you position it.

If you are scared, it’s OK to admit it, but don’t linger on your fears and don’t communicate out of them. Remind your people that you have a plan and you will execute on it. Let them know that while you don’t have a crystal ball, you promise to be forthright with them and work diligently to guide the business through this time of uncertainty.

Communicate from a place of confidence. Reinforce your confidence in your people, your community and your country.

Convey your belief in and trust of your people. Doing so will give them the motivation and security they need to keep working diligently and innovatively. Remind them (and yourself) that as a financial institution or a payment company, you are a key ingredient in someone else’s dream. By working smart and hard, you will provide the opportunity others need to move forward.

Financial institutions tend to have traditional, top-down cultures. While this structure is excellent for stability, it’s not always helpful in times when agility and quick pivoting to new products and services are necessary for survival.

We can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend nothing’s going on.

Not only are we all in the same boat, none of us is as smart alone as we are collectively. Talk with your peers about how they’re navigating the pandemic. What strategic changes are they making? What’s working for them? What isn’t?

Survey your customers and employees. Find out what people are concerned about. Learn their needs. Then, design a strategy to meet them. Be open to changing the way you work, and your entire culture if you need to, in order to effectively implement your strategy.

Expand employee roles. Emphasize that everyone needs to own sales, and customer service. Stress their role in keeping the business going. Try a new approach to marketing and packaging your products and services. Be nimble and flexible and never discount the value of your employees. Every single person, from a teller to the CEO, has a perspective that could help you not just weather the pandemic, but emerge from it stronger than you were before it began.

Each one of them has a huge impact on the value of your brand, so engaging them is critical not just for today, but for the future. Brand value resides in the mind of your customers and members, and that value is defined by the experience they have with your brand. It’s time to move into a "Marketing 3.0" mindset, where two conversations happen, personalization matters and where an almost empathic experience occurs consistently.

See this crisis, not as a nail in your corporate coffin, but as an opportunity to move your team and members forward.

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Coronavirus Financial institutions Credit unions Payment processing Risk Crisis Management