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Just as operators have had to shift how they manage their businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, technology providers have also changed how they work with operators. Joe Hessling, founder and CEO of 365 Retail Markets, shares how his company adjusted to working from home while maintaining top-notch service and support for operators and their clients. Hessling also advises operators on how they can work with their clients during this crisis while preparing for the future.
Q: How has 365 navigated the coronavirus pandemic?
A: We took a logical approach: The first priority was the health of our staff. We decided to immediately pull everyone to work from home and banned all travel to keep everyone safe.The second priority for us was serving customers. Less than 10% of our locations — and we have 30,000+ locations worldwide — were actually closed. They were still being used, even if staff was reduced, so we still had a big obligation to our customers to be able to provide support. We couldn’t close, but we had to figure out a new way since we closed our office. The next step we took was to offer financial assistance to our operators. As soon as the reduction in staffing in businesses across the U.S. started to affect our customers, we put out some basic incentives, reductions and payment terms. Finally, we looked inward and said, for us to be able to survive and continue to do these things, we have to reduce our costs. So, we are making sure we’re in the strongest position possible to survive this downturn and be able to serve customers and offer financial assistance to our operators. We’ve focused on that for the first month and a half, and I think we’ve got that covered. Now, we’re looking toward what a post-coronavirus world looks like, how we fit into it and how we can be of value.
Q: Have you had to implement any changes in order to work with operators as they manage their businesses through this crisis?
A: Only 10% of our locations actually closed, which is not a lot when you imagine the 30,000+ locations in the world that we service. Our first response was to let people simply close their locations and not have to worry about costs, but we quickly found that there were skeleton crews and people in buildings who still needed service; they just didn’t have the same level of volume as before. So, closing down wasn’t the right answer. It was simply reducing the amount of fees that would go along with that we do.Our software powers these locations and their ability to service them and also allows people to make purchases at work. So, we had to find a certain mix so it’s not a burden on our operators and keep it so they’re still able to provide service to their customers. We had some good suggestions from people in the field on how to accomplish that. We took that feedback and created a program, and we had that out within seven days.
Q: Could you share a story of your employees who have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 crisis?
A: Our whole team has gone above and beyond and deserves to be applauded for many reasons. We have a fully staffed, 260-people office, and within a week everyone that could, was working remotely. This caused changes in how people do their jobs and adjusting to working conditions at home. Our technical, production and logistics teams have had to adapt and continue to come into the office to fulfill new orders, ship replacement parts and new hardware that need to get to customers each day. Our IT team, HR team and finance team all had to be creative in how to operate and take care of the rest of the team during the transition.Our technical team, along with our product team, has spent a lot of time building products that fit the marketplace. What we’ve found is that their workload has increased by 25-50% because the demand for self-service products has skyrocketed. People aren’t necessarily buying anything right now, but they’re certainly saying that they have to have this when people come back to work.Our technology team has had to work for weeks straight at times to be able to meet deadlines and release products that will fit that need. Nearly every customer in every channel is looking at ways to implement a product of ours and we’re getting ready for when the world is ready to open back up. The technical team has really stepped up.The market is looking for cashless, touchless, contactless — anything that allows them to carry out services with as few people as possible in the middle. Luckily for us, our technology enables that. Luckily for operators, they’re in the middle of that too. It’s tough now, but operators have the ability to come out of this by being a real help to their customers.
Q: What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with operators at this time?
A: I don’t want to underestimate what some operators are going through right now. For most that I’ve spoken with, sales are down 50% plus, with no real timeline of when they’ll return to normal.My advice to those operators is this: Do not let a crisis go to waste. Use any downtime to connect with customers, offer new products, services and assistance. Take the time to get to know them as human beings without trying to sell them something. Listen to their needs and try to help them, even if it’s connecting them with another company. The goodwill you provide now will pay off in the long run.Cut costs and trim fat that really shouldn’t have been there in the first place — that’s the gift that keeps on giving, long-term. And, finally, do the things that you never got around to but said you would do someday. The time is now; it’s cleanup time. It’s hard to think that way when business is down and you’re under pressure and stressed, but I’ve been through these things in the past: 9/11, the dot-com boom, financial crises. Things get better. You just have to weather the storm and be strong enough to do that.
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