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A general view of restaurants in Pavilion shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, following the implementation of the 14-day Movement Control Order. - NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS.
A general view of restaurants in Pavilion shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, following the implementation of the 14-day Movement Control Order. - NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS.

This last week has been very difficult for all Malaysians. The Covid-19 virus seems to have taken hold here.

Businesses around the nation have been severely affected. Small and medium sized enterprises especially are very vulnerable with changing customer preferences, altering moods with consumers, fear and uncertainties as far as our health is concerned.

The tourism industry has been tragically impacted all around Malaysia, and also around the globe.

When humanity is faced with such a calamity of global proportions, the true nature of people really comes to the fore. We've had incidences of bad behaviour in supermarkets, people clearing shelves, and fighting for toilet paper in shopping complexes. People disintegrate to base and rudimentary levels of existence, eschewing principles of common decency.

We have been advised by medical professionals to keep our distance from others. We have been told that we are the carriers of the disease, and that the best way to prevent further outbreaks is to isolate ourselves, and be distant from others.

Most people are taking this seriously, and doing as prescribed by the authorities.

This difficult time is also absolutely useful for all of us, especially those in workplaces that are affected by the virus, to decide what kind of environment we create and foster for our teams.

For example, while many businesses are being affected by the downturn in fortunes, there are also others that continue to survive even through tough times.

I have noticed that businesses that continue to thrive, have one very special feature. These businesses have an entrepreneurial mindset, or I would name it even simpler by calling it a service mindset.

A service mindset is focused on creating loyalty, trust, and customer value by providing great products and services, but going beyond expectations. It is about creating a positive and somewhat indelible imprint in the customers mind about your amazing services or even your products.

To really do this well, a business has to care about the experience that the customer has, and work continuously to improve and enhance it.

And most importantly, the service mindset includes your staff and team. One of the best ways that a customer will remember an interaction with your business is when they have a phenomenal experience with your people.

You must have a vision in your mind about how you'd like customers to remember you. That blueprint must have the service factor featured heavily. And this begins when you recruit and train your staff right from the start. Hire the right people, and train them really well. But above all, remember that you can only do this if you have a vision of where you want to be.

Successful companies will say their employees are their greatest asset. And training your team is crucial.

Companies spend so much of their revenue on staff salaries, which is the single largest outflow of cash every month. But so little money is spent on training and recalibrating staff. It is unbelievable that this is even happening in today’s competitive world.

There are many options for small and medium sized enterprises out there. You may not be able to hire a full-time trainer, but perhaps you can consider a part timer or even online learning and training modules. What is important is continuous improvement.

This can only happen when you are interested in training your team.

And finally, there are companies that have the wherewithal to overcome hardships that may arise, ranging from a force majeure, like a virus, to the economic fallout stemming from a crisis.

These are companies that focus on getting feedback, which is vital for their continued growth.

The organisations that successfully navigate complexities of any difficult times are the ones which are prepared, take feedback from their employees, and their customers.

These companies know what works or doesn't, and use appropriate information to continue to grow.

So, remember if you want to successfully survive any unexpected problems in your business, you must remember to have a service mindset, to develop a vision which is strong, from people who are trainable, and to have always taken the appropriate action to feedback.

If you've done all of that, you have nothing to fear even though times are tough.

I have friends like Dr. Rajesh Shah, a cardiologist at Gleneagles Medical Centre in Penang, or Dr Kuljit Singh from the Damansara Wellness Clinic, or Datuk Dr. Venugopal Balchand, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Pantai Medical Centre, or my dedicated team at The Fire Grill, who continue to do take-outs during the Movement Control Order.

These are men and women who have no time to be fearful, but to continue to serve their clients as best they can. These are people who don’t talk about conspiracy theories at times like this. They get on with being good citizens. Are you?

Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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