This month, as nearly every country on earth continues to grapple with the challenges of COVID-19, many of us around the world paused, briefly, on May 9th to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, the day WWII ended in Europe.
I always appreciate these anniversaries as poignant reminders of our Greatest Generation’s heroism and selflessness. But this year, as I watched the black-and-white film clips and the laying of wreaths, I was also reminded of something more. I wasn’t just reminded of the challenges we humans have faced, endured, and overcome in the past. I was reminded of what it took to rebuild. It wasn’t just blind human resilience, courage, and grit. It also took bold leadership, and thoughtful planning.
In a recent article by David Michels and Luca Penna, of consulting firm Bain & Company, this point by looking at how Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin began planning the post-war recovery months before armistice was in sight anywhere. In other words, while overseeing the everyday urgencies of fighting the war, they managed to maintain visionary focus on the future. One point of their article is that, no matter how brutal things are in the moment, that moment will pass. The larger point, to me, is that great leaders don’t wait for the crisis to pass. They begin the crucial work of crafting a better future – during the crisis.
From a customer care and call center perspective, the article points to some of the troubling challenges faced by so many call center managers right now. For those who had to rapidly move their call center agents from on-site to at-home, there is a real sense of riding out the storm, then figuring out how to get folks back to the call center. For those were already running at-home teams – by investing in the systems, infrastructure, and processes necessary to make it work well – the future is far less daunting.
It’s a very good read. You can check it out here. And if you’d like to talk about how Skybridge Americas can help you plan for a better post-COVID call center, please reach out. We would love to talk.
Executives are starting to take actions today for a stronger future beyond coronavirus.
By David Michels and Luca Penna
When Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met in February 1945 in Yalta to plan for the postwar future, World War II was by no means over. Armistice did not come to the European front until May, and it did not come to the Asian front until September. These leaders knew, however, that the war would end. And while much is made of the Marshall Plan for European recovery enacted three years later, the foundational planning for a very much changed postwar world started much earlier, while the battle still raged.
Today, we are in the midst of another global crisis, Covid-19, the human toll of which is tragic and difficult to bear. Organizations around the world have sprung into action to deal with urgent and acute needs. Millions of people have switched to working virtually from home, seemingly overnight, and millions more are unemployed. There will be many difficult days ahead, with further disruption and more uncertainty.
But just as in early 1945, we need to start planning for the time beyond the crisis. Corporate leaders are scrambling to protect their businesses, working hard to ensure the safety of their people and the continuity of their companies. At the same time, many are beginning to lay the foundation to retool for a different future.
No one knows exactly how this will all play out, but it is clear that for many industries and companies, there will be no going back to how things were before. A retail bank in the first phase of the crisis may have had to shutter its branches and perform back- and middle-office activities remotely in order to protect employees and customers. Now, it must ask how many branches should reopen when the time comes and what services to provide when they do. In pharmaceuticals, how will sales reps who once visited physicians in person adjust to the fact that many doctors have largely adopted virtual? Will returning to physical sales visits, with all the associated logistical inefficiencies, still make sense?
As they begin to try to answer these long-term questions, leaders are first formulating a hypothesis on how their industry will evolve and then thinking through the implications for their own company. Asking questions such as: In that new world, how do we reestablish customer relevance? Reactivate our supply chains? Mobilize our people?
The pace can be blistering. What once took weeks or months, now seems to be measured in days. One global consumer products organization has reduced its SKUs by more than 50% and ramped up production on its key lines by more than 20%, all within just the past few weeks. Under normal circumstances, transformation of this magnitude would have taken months, if not years.
While challenging, these changes can also help companies accelerate toward a different—and potentially even better—future. To determine what that future looks like and the best way to get there, executive teams are beginning to look at the problem through three lenses: reevaluate, realign and redesign.
Reevaluate what will create value
Imagine what the future will look like and how your company can best participate in it.
As a result of the pandemic, many existing strategic priorities will take on new urgency; others will shift. Nowhere is that clearer than in Italy, hard-hit by the coronavirus and locked down now for more than a month. Even as they grapple with tremendous immediate challenges, leading Italian companies are beginning to plan for the post-pandemic future as well.
For many industries, that future looks quite changed. In Italy, where people have been leaving home only for urgent necessities such as food and medicine, bank customers are using online banking and call centers to do things for which they usually would visit a branch. One major Italian bank would like this digital migration to continue when the crisis abates, and its leadership team is already thinking about how to make these changes permanent—what its new distribution model should be, what tasks should be done in branches (and what can be done more efficiently elsewhere), and how many branches it will need to reopen.
Studying his team’s rapid adaptation to the crisis, the bank’s CEO is gathering clues regarding how to mobilize the organization around remote banking and other urgent priorities once Covid-19 has abated. Today, they are working to keep the business strong by taking steps to reinforce its credit operations, improve its call centers as they handle skyrocketing volume, help those working from home be productive, manage costs and prioritize IT spending. At the same time, the bank is also planning for the post–Covid-19 future. This includes not only supporting customers’ digital migration but also thinking through potential new products and services for evolving customer behavior and economic conditions.
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
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