Lockdown measures imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19 upended entrenched operating models and exposed the cracks in business continuity plans.
However, pockets of competence also emerged across industry verticals. Thanks to a combination of technology, agile business practices, and an entrenched culture of innovation and strong leadership, various businesses were able to pivot operations in response to the disruption.
These capabilities not only maintained business continuity through the crisis to ensure companies survived but also helped many to thrive amid the unprecedented trading environment.
We take a closer look at the business continuity best practices and strategies that reimagined the customer experience and supported organizations during the global pandemic.
Retailers faced a multitude of challenges as lockdown restrictions and physical/social distancing requirements reduced or eliminated in-store footfall. Panic buying and supply chain disruptions added additional layers of complexity in an already challenging trading environment.
The solution? Digital payments, contactless drive-through click and collect shopping and a large-scale ramp up in e-commerce delivery services.
For example, South African and Australian retailers Woolworths launched a contactless drive-through service that allows shoppers to order online and collect without leaving their car, as did multinational IKEA.
Domino’s Pizza in the US was able to add 10,000 jobs to the local economy at a time when unemployment reached record numbers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The restaurant brand, which already had a strong digital channel that generates 65% of its US sales, is filling positions from delivery personnel and pizza makers to managers and customer service representatives as stores face an overwhelming rise in delivery orders. The company also introduced contactless deliveries in the US to meet guidelines and customer expectations in response to the pandemic.
The pandemic forced basic and higher education institutions to close to protect students and teachers.
These closures were implemented at a critical period for learners in the Northern Hemisphere, who were concluding their academic year, while Southern Hemisphere institutions continued to grapple with the constraints of extended lockdowns.
To keep the academic year on track, the sector has turned to and increasingly relies on digital platform technology and cloud-based services and solutions to maintain scholastic continuity and teacher-student engagement.
Numerous tech providers have helped to ease the challenges posed by transitioning from physical classrooms to remote learning.
For example, video recording and sharing service Loom made Loom Pro free for teachers and students at K-12 schools, universities, and educational institutions. The company also removed the recording limit on free plans and has cut the price for Loom Pro in half to help organizations navigate the crisis.
Educor, the largest private education supplier in Southern Africa, leveraged an existing Voice over IP (VoIP) and hosted on demand multi-channel contact centre and engagement platform to maintain contact with students and administrative continuity throughout the crisis amid some of the most stringent government-mandate lockdown regulations globally.
The slump in consumer demand for new vehicles and reduced capacity at production facilities to meet physical/social distancing regulations affected automotive companies globally. But this did not deter their desire to assist the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous car makers pivoted their operations to support doctors, care facilities and refugees around the world.
For example, the Volkswagen Group provided doctors, nursing homes and hospitals across Germany with medical equipment including breathing masks, disinfectant, gloves, thermometers, protective goggles and suits. The equipment was worth around €40 million, in addition to a €1 million donation for refugees threatened by the coronavirus pandemic.
The German motor manufacturer is also using its facilities to produce medical equipment such as 3D printing mountings for face shields for areas in need. Similarly, Spanish brand SEAT has converted an assembly line for the production of respiratory aids.
Organizations across the value chain are also combining capabilities to assist the front-line response to the pandemic in various countries.
For instance, three companies in South Africa joined forces to improve hygiene at public hospitals.
Chemicals and energy company Sasol partnered with gold mining company AngloGold Ashanti and logistics provider Imperial Group to supply hospitals in the Gauteng province – the epicenter of the country’s outbreak – with bulk supplies of hand sanitizer to help protect medical staff and patients.
In a shared cost initiative, Sasol has ramped up production of hand sanitizer, AngloGold Ashanti provides the specially built bulk-storage tanks for the product and the Imperial Group transports the sanitizer tanks to the hospitals.