An Australian business leader believes that businesses need to use this time – ahead of post-lockdown – to re-strategise and plan for the bounce back to capitalise on opportunities that arise when they can trade more freely.

Tom Walley is the general manager of Corporate Traveller Australia, the SME business travel division of Flight Centre Travel Group. With nearly two decades’ experience in leadership and sales across the UK and Australia, Walley has an in-depth understanding of the SME business sector and what is needed to drive growth and profitability.

“At Corporate Traveller, despite the lockdowns and the short-term downturn in the travel industry, we’ve continued innovating, releasing new capabilities to improve the customer experience now and into the future,” he said.

“Likewise, other industries can expect demand for their products and services to return and shouldn’t shy away from using this unprecedented time to take stock and make decisions to re-invent parts of their business to better serve their customers.”

Walley has shared his seven ideas for businesses to put in place now to help them recover quickly after lockdown:

  1. Have a marketing and sales strategy ready to launch post-lockdown

Businesses often cut marketing budgets during economic downturns. However, marketing helps to not only build your future customer base but is also a critical function for retaining customers with brand touch points and retention offers. Look to drive operational effectiveness through the existing technology to automate the sales and marketing process and it might be an opportunity to bolster marketing capability with less BDM and develop a more optimised post-lockdown strategy.

2. Innovate through your existing technology to differentiate your brand

It is critical for your innovation to be laser focused, to meet changing customer needs, leverage existing technology, and be supported by a culture of innovation to empower your front-line employees. At Corporate Traveller, we enhanced our travel booking platform SAVI with improved traveller safety capabilities with greater policy control, a Clean Hotels Indicator and SAVI Credits to provide visibility and utilisation of unused ticket credits.

3. Create a cashflow positive strategy

Now is the time to negotiate better terms with suppliers and revise any processes and systems preventing you from managing cashflow. For example, if you have a monthly invoicing model, consider sending invoices as you complete certain work to encourage consistent cashflow. Reviewing the pricing of your products or services could also help.

4. Strengthen your customer service function to retain customers

Customer service should ultimately be human-centred, with technology as a support. If your budget allows, consider investing in AI (such as a chat function) to improve efficiencies and address smaller issues, while retaining customer service people for higher level support. Customers want to be able to speak to a person and know their issue or feedback has been heard. Now is the time to focus on training customer service staff to ensure they are educated on your products or services, are well-trained to resolve issues, communicate professionally and empathetically, and respond well to disgruntled customers.

5. Improve your business reporting

This is the time where your pre-COVID business models weaknesses and or strengths will be amplified, it’s critical that what you measured pre-COVID is still applicable now, if not, re-establish your new baseline.Creating these reports now will enable your team to find and address the issues, and the opportunities, that will place your business in a better position post-lockdown.

6. Involve your human resources professional

Human resources direct every living resource of your business and is responsible for cultivating a healthy and productive environment. However, HR can also be used strategically. Empower HR to use available data to ask and answer strategic questions about the future of your business, providing crucial information on outsourcing and cost management to better control your finances and direct growth. Ensuring your HR department knows where the business is heading also ensures they can recruit and train employees effectively.

7. Update your business’s travel and expense policy

Businesstravel will need to be considered in your business strategy and will require robust policies and procedures. Having said that, maintaining travel – when it is safe to do so – makes good business sense. Companies that travel know that doing business face-to-face helps them to develop relationships and secure sales more effectively than in a virtual meeting. Take the opportunity of lockdown to update travel policies and procedures – with an emphasis on health and safety, flexibility, and budget.