In every crisis, there’s opportunity to engage, innovate, and connect.

As people worldwide adjust to the sudden, drastic changes in life brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, companies are having to adjust, too.

Many reach out to their customers with emails containing general wishes for health and safety or offers of discounts. But many companies are instead embodying the spirit of the Chinese word for “crisis.” The word, 危机 (wéijī), is composed of two different words: “danger” and “opportunity.” Inside every crisis is danger, but also an opportunity for creativity, resilience, and connection.

If companies can see the opportunity in this crisis — to give back to their communities, to differentiate themselves, to strengthen relationships with customers — they can emerge stronger, more creative, and with a more loyal, engaged customer base.

Here are four ways to see the opportunity in the current crisis, and examples of companies embodying the wéijī spirit.

Care for your customers.
Recently, I visited a pharmacy to pick up a prescription. The pharmacy, run by Kaiser Permanente, took careful, thoughtful steps to alleviate the stress of shopping during a pandemic. An employee opened the door for each customer that entered and exited; another employee greeted me in the waiting room, checked my temperature, and asked if I was experiencing any symptoms; the prescription was filled quickly. They were respectful, courteous, and pleasant, and I felt very cared for.

Take care of your customers during times of crisis by putting their needs first. Put yourself in their shoes: What do they need to feel safe, at ease, and taken care of? Go the extra mile to meet and exceed their expectations. You will build customer loyalty beyond the crisis.

Meet your customer’s needs.
People’s needs shift during a crisis, and to embrace the opportunity, companies must identify and meet those needs. Airlines such as JetBlue are selling limited seats on flights, ensuring a safe distance between passengers. Grocery stores around the country, from major corporate chains to mom and pop shops, are instituting seniors-only hours. Restaurants are pivoting from sit-down service to takeout only.

In my city of San Diego, the caterer Paella Valenciana has started delivering meals to customer’s homes. Meeting your customers’ needs during a crisis not only strengthens your connection to them — it can result in discovering whole new lines of business.

Engage and connect with your community.
In an email to its customers, Seth Goldman, the CEO of online florist Urbanstems, acknowledged the hardships the company is facing. But, he also detailed how the company is connecting to the community. After delivering more than 100 free bouquets across New York, it started a weekly, nationwide “Stay Connected with Stems” program. Customers are encouraged to nominate heroes to receive a delivery of flowers. With this campaign, Urbanstems is inviting its customers to partner in its efforts to help the community. This leaves a lasting impression on customers — and creates new ones.

In times of crisis, think about how your business is uniquely suited to give back to the community. Reach out to your customers and ask them to join you by giving them tangible, simple ways to take action. Not only will your business make positive change, but you’ll also empower your customers to do the same.

Adopt innovative, cost-effective solutions without sacrificing experience.
In my own work as a leadership coach, I have had to adjust how I work with my clients. I have redesigned and converted in-person leadership programs to online webinars. And, rather than meet in person with my clients, all sessions now take place online. I did not enact these changes alone, however. I worked in partnership with my clients to help them navigate the new landscape and figure out solutions that would benefit us both. Our customers look to us for guidance. We take the lead, but we don’t do it alone.

Take proactive steps to understand customers’ pain points and partner with them to identify alternative ways to solve their problems without sacrificing quality. Use technology and resources available. In times of crisis, it is not business as usual. But it is a time to be creative, proactive, and resourceful.

The current crisis will one day come to an end, but the relationships we made with our communities and our customers will endure. Focus on caring, engaging, and adapting, and you will be able to see the opportunity in the danger.

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