“Oh! It’s Covid you know” – it’s time to stop blaming the pandemic

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We all know and accept that the pandemic has resulted in both short and long-term difficulties for businesses but the Covid excuse is wearing thin.

I was in a favourite local restaurant a couple of weeks ago. The experience was dreadful – the food, the customer service, the experience. It could have just been a bad day – these things happen. However, the default explanation from the staff echoed the now common, catch all, seemingly unarguable refrain: “Oh! It’s Covid you know!”. A brand built up over decades, dismissed by a pat phrase.

Not a new normal, just normal

We all know and accept that the pandemic has resulted in both short and long-term difficulties for businesses. However, nearly two years down the line, the Covid excuse is wearing thin. It’s not that as individuals we are unsympathetic, because one way or another we’re all impacted by it. However, as brand owners, we’ve got to think beyond it and to tell a different story. 
At the start of the pandemic, we heard a lot about the impending ‘new normal’. Well, the new normal has arrived. It’s been around for a few months, and hard as it may be, we’ve got to find a way of operating our brands both effectively and competitively within it. 
I am aware that depending on the position from which you’re reading this, it could sound rather harsh, but I don’t say this as a stroppy restaurant client heading swiftly towards TripAdvisor and hoping for a voucher for a free meal. I say this as a brand consultant who has always found that the most effective way to protect a successful brand in a tough time, is to find ways of taking control and stop focusing on the things you don’t have jurisdiction over.

If it is to be it is up to me 

You can continue to make excuses, or you can do something to protect your brand. “If it’s to be it’s up to me”. I have mentioned this little ten two-word mantra before. It’s one I have lived by throughout my career, and it sums up the importance of taking action to nurture your brand, protect it, and adapting to the needs of the world around you. 
There’s lots of things which make it is tricky to return to work, as individuals and as companies, and many of us are still adapting. Frankly, even fitting into a suit and getting used to the rigmarole of getting onto the London Underground every morning was a shock to the system.  However, adaptation is all part of it (it actually always was, but it’s a bit more obvious now). 
As new Covid variants arrive, we will need to continue to commit to that buzzword of the last five years ‘agility’. While we can never fully know the specifics of what is yet to unfold, we have always known that Covid isn’t just going to stop overnight. So, the prospect of a return to social distancing or even more lockdowns, needs to be actively considered and planned for within your business plan -from the way your employees interact with your customers, to the way you handle logistics in the wake of driver shortages and so forth. We need to steer a steady course and stay in charge.
For example:
  • When your employees answer the phone and hear someone complaining, do they default to ‘Oh! It’s Covid you know!’?
  • When the food in your restaurant arrives burned to a crisp or 45 minutes late, is the immediate defence position ‘Oh! It’s Covid you know!’?
  • Even when the problem really is Covid related, is conveying that to your customer going to make them sympathetic to the issue or help to solve the problem? Or is it just going to breed resentment or even worse disaffiliation from your brand?

What does your business stand for? 

Your brand’s value hinges almost entirely on what people think of you. Think of the Pound coin – its value doesn’t lie in the literal value of each one. It lies in the belief and the confidence that we collectively have in its worth and acceptance. If confidence is lost, its value drops to that of a bit of nickel-brass alloy. About four pence. The same goes for your brand. 
So, Covid or no Covid, you need to think about how you are going to regain, retain and regrow confidence in your business, not simply operate from a position of defence. Start making decisions and set a framework for your employees that reflects what you and your brand stands for. Consider your options when prices must go up because of supply shortages, and your plan for winning business back, attracting new customers and staff, and keeping existing ones.
Covid is dreadful, in every way, but taking control and having a plan wherever you can, will feel a lot better than passively giving control over to the vicissitudes of the pandemic.