Crisis Management: How to Get It Right
COVID-19 Crisis Management for Your Hotel: How to Get It Right
When you think of Crisis Management, the first thing that comes to mind may be ‘short term’ or ‘company-specific’ and whilst these are indeed types of crisis, they aren’t the only ones.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every industry and country in the world, and for a lot of businesses, long-term crisis management has been something they were ill-equipped to deal with.
In this blog we discuss what is a crisis management strategy, why do you need one, and how you to operate it.
What Hotels Need in a Crisis Management Strategy
A hotel crisis management plan can take many forms and encompasses a variety of departments, ideas and individuals. It may represent what a hotel’s staff/management do during the crisis, how they prepare for the future and what they do to protect themselves as a business throughout. Or it could be each hotel’s digital marketing campaign and strategy. Rather than assigning their marketing budget to other things or giving up due to being closed for a period of time, instead, a hotel could focus on the future. What can be done to entice customers to visit once social isolation measures are relaxed?
As we’ve spoken about in our regular coronavirus briefings, the current situation may have caused our industry to come to a standstill, but the successful hotelier knows that this downtime represents an opportunity. Yes, beds may be empty, and coffers are running dry, but what can be done during this time that we couldn’t do before? What did we struggle to find the time to do? Upskilling and training staff for example or reviewing our marketing strategy. While we have a captive audience at home self-isolating, what reputation management tools can we employ to stay relevant and seen?
The businesses could set up a hotel crisis management team, comprised of various individuals across different departments who all have different allocated tasks in the wake of a crisis such as coronavirus. Where plenty of hotels have had a hotel crisis management plan already in place before the pandemic, others are only now understanding the need and are applying these changes now.
Prioritise safety under any circumstances
This is what needs to come first, over everything else. For many hotels coronavirus won’t be a concern, it’s something you simply need to be aware of. Hopefully, it will pass us by as the contagion winds down. But if not then safety needs to become paramount over profit. If this isn’t the case, then short-term damage could become long-term damage. It’s not worth the risk.
Adapt and repurpose
If you are affected by the virus in any way and have put safety first, you may be feeling helpless and concerned about your business during this crisis. Even if the worst happens i.e. you’ve had to close for a period of time, or if bookings slump as a result of the virus, there’s always something productive you can do. Take the opportunity to do a deep clean or come up with some fresh marketing strategies. Your hotel will outlast the coronavirus.
Keep communications open and honest
If the virus impacts your hotel in any way make sure to communicate openly and honestly with your guests. Don’t try to sweep issues under the carpet. This is especially true during times like this. If your hotel is affected by the virus, and there is a present danger to your guests, then don’t try to contain it in secrecy. Be transparent and help your guests steer clear of the virus. Do this immediately to reduce the risk of contagion. Not doing so could lead to disaster.
How to Keep Customers Informed and Healthy
Of course, what to do with customers depends on where your hotel is and the proximity to affected areas. If coronavirus breaks out in your hotel then the first thing you need to do is seek advice from medical services.
They may advise you to send guests home or affected guests and non-affected guests may need to commit to self-isolation for their protection and the protection of others. Read more about this here.
Short Term vs Long Term Crisis Management
The hospitality industry has never faced a crisis quite like the one in 2020. Within a relatively short space of time trade for hotels and restaurants came to a standstill. Only those that adapted quickly and effectively remained unscathed but even then, survival hasn’t been guaranteed.
What worldwide disasters or ‘crisis moments’ do demonstrate though is that a crisis management plan is now absolutely essential. The truth is that they always have been. But until the most recent crisis moment many businesses had never considered implementing crisis management strategies or crisis management training for those they employ.
The Difference Between Short and Long-term Crisis
A short-term crisis is the most commonly seen and easiest to recover from. They can be spontaneous and are therefore difficult to predict, but from a risk analysis point of view, they should never be underestimated. A short-term crisis can become a long-term crisis if the scenario is question hasn’t been adequality covered by a crisis management plan.
An example of a short-term crisis could be a brief PR disaster. Businesses are expected to plan for these and identify potential crisis scenarios ahead of time, but what sets a business ahead of its peers is one that monitors, assesses and responds to the situation in a way that resolves it quickly. A business then must identify the key takeaways from this crisis, analyse its own handling and update its internal crisis management plan with this new data.
A long-term crisis is any scenario that will undoubtedly cause lasting damage to a business. It may be exclusive to that company such as bankruptcy, a high-profile PR disaster that makes national news or a competitor gaining a significant advantage in the market. Or it could be a global disaster that takes a toll on a specific industry. Examples include pandemic, recession or a scandal that shakes the public’s trust in the sector.
The difference between short-term and long-term crises is that long-term problems will continue to have an impact well after the initial crisis hits. The effects could be felt for years and unless a crisis management plan is in place, such an issue can eventually result in that company’s demise.
However, one advantage is that a long-term crisis can usually be anticipated before it arrives. Financial woes often build steadily, allowing diligent businesses the opportunity to act. Global events like pandemics are widely reported and tracked, allowing an organisation to lessen the blow should it impact them. This allows them to prepare adequate crisis management training and have the required strategies in place.
When Does a Short-Term Crisis Need to be Reassessed?
A thorough and comprehensive crisis management plan should ideally include any scenarios that could realistically happen before they do. This isn’t to suggest that every business should constantly prepare for a worst-case scenario, but no company is to situations beyond their control. A short-term crisis will eventually strike at some point, therefore those that seem the most likely should be examined periodically and plans routinely updated as required
Some short-term crisis moments are unique and preparation for them would have been impossible. In this case; a business should follow whichever strategies are most appropriate for resolving it. Planning is an essential aspect of crisis management, but there are issues that can’t be predicted, but even these can be prepared for to some extent. Although even spontaneous events that could not be predicted can be monitored and assessed, allowing the company to respond accordingly. Then once the issue has been contained, measures can be reviewed and assessed, then the overall strategy can be updated to include such events should they happen again.
When Do you put your Long-Term plans into action?
Every business owner should treat a possible long-term crisis with the utmost importance. It depends on the nature of the crisis but if the early warning signs appear then a business needs to implement its crisis management plan as soon as possible. Then it becomes essential to monitor and assess the situation as time goes on. The sooner plans are in place, the less damage will be inflicted, and the company will have the best possible chance to weather that storm.
Using the restaurant industry during a global pandemic as an example, businesses who invested in and trained their staff to use new technology that enabled them to shift their business focus to takeaways instead of ‘sit-down dining’, were able to be ready when this became mandatory. Those that did not needed to hastily implement these changes during the crisis event. It’s equally important for a business in this situation to know when it’s safe to return to their previous approach too. Preparation is essential but so is adapting, ideally doing so in good time by anticipating the next stage of a crisis – be it positive or negative.
Digital Crisis Management
Innovation is often at its height during a time of crisis. This is a sad fact but it’s a fact, nonetheless. During periods of conflict, famine and contagion, human creativity seems to surge as minds come together to work on strategies that will allow them to overcome a common obstacle.
In 2020’s case it’s the world vs COVID-19. An enemy that has affected nearly everyone in some shape or form. Be it their health, earning potential or personal freedoms, the effects of coronavirus have been far-reaching and the developed world has not known a catastrophe of this magnitude since The Second World War.
But as people, businesses and other enterprises scramble to combat the virus in their own way, an extraordinary level of innovation has started to emerge. While selfishness and panic buying initially spiked during the early rumblings of the crisis, we’re now seeing attributes like communication, comradery and creativity rule the day.
From strangers helping those they’ve never met gain vital supplies, to legions of grateful people clapping our front-line health workers in their doorways, coronavirus has indeed united people against a common foe. And one that will be inevitably defeated.
During this crisis, we’ve seen some incredible acts of kindness and ingenuity from others. Such as the steps certain businesses have taken to not only protect themselves but their staff and customers too. As a company that exists within the hospitality sector; Virtual Solutions have seen first-hand what our industry is capable of when their backs are against the wall, and we are incredibly impressed. Especially considering how the hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit. Yet so many hoteliers have risen to this challenge by implementing innovative hotel crisis management strategies.
But we can’t say we’re surprised by their resolve. Hospitality is an industry centred around creating experiences for the benefit of others, and those who work within it were naturally equipped for this disaster before it struck. So it’s no wonder that so many have risen to the task with such determination. We’re talking about an industry that rushed to support health workers by using their own venues and workforce. Allowing them to walk into the proverbial trenches alongside them, as hotels are converted into makeshift hospitals and hotel staff leave the safety of their homes to make a difference.
This is just one example of the courage and brilliance we’ve witnessed since the pandemic began. But it’s not the only one. Hospitality business leaders all over the world have adapted to survive in so many different ways. Each of them using their own unique and creative strategies to manage this crisis and keep themselves in business, their staff in jobs and the public safe from infection.
Best Practice for Managing a Crisis
If you’ve been following our coronavirus briefings, then you’ll already have read much of the practical advice we’ve suggested throughout this pandemic. We’ve even shared some fantastic examples of how other hotels have implemented a crisis management plan and how this has enabled them to ride out the storm. But here is some updated advice from us on what a hotel can do right now. This can become part of your current hotel crisis management plan or it can form the basis of a new one.
First, do not worry about what you cannot control. We know that’s easier said than done, but your occupancy levels truly are beyond your ability to resolve at this present time. No amount of sales strategy or special offers will fill your rooms while lockdown is in effect. So focus your efforts elsewhere. Evaluate your hotel reputation management efforts for example. Remember how we treat our customers during this time will be remembered and we will be judged for it. Companies that do not appear supportive and magnanimous will be called out for this publicly at some point. Be understanding and empathic to customers who need to cancel their bookings and offer them a full refund. Their hands are tied just as much as your own.
This same level of understanding should also be applied to staff. Each will have their own individual set of circumstances. Some may be happy to take on tasks while they work from home or assist you with certain projects where some will be unable. While now may be the perfect time to put these wheels in motion, don’t expect every member of staff to take part. They may have their own battles outside of work, especially during a pandemic. Also, encourage staff to apply for any government aid they may be entitled to. Not only does this support them, but it makes them less reliant on you as an employer while this all unfolds.
Earlier we discussed the hotels that have been turned into overflow hospitals and the hospitality staff that have agreed to help keep them up and running. This is a great example as it means the hotel operating in some capacity, but it’s supporting the NHS and keeping its staff in work. What can you do, and can some similar strategy be incorporated into your hotel crisis management plan? Of course, the government’s rules need to be respected and obeyed for all of our sakes, but is there something similar you can provide on a local level? Not only will your good deeds be remembered, but such tactics could support your business and staff in the short-term.
Keep an eye on the news and what your competitors are doing too. Try and pinpoint which customer segments will be useable first. What facilities and services can kick into gear before you’re open in the usual sense? Also is there a way to give back to the community? Can you offer any support to NHS workers or those who care for the elderly?
While we talked about continuing to market throughout the pandemic it also pays to know how to do so. If you need help with your Crisis Management planning and implementation, we can offer consultancy and support services. Get in touch today!