We are all reeling from the impact of the coronavirus.
The new normal isn’t what anyone wants—or probably could have even envisioned. What worked a few weeks ago—in our personal lives and our businesses—likely won’t work now. As I discussed in this post, all companies need to figure out how to best preserve their business and brand in a world that’s gone sideways.
With that in mind, I recently talked to Xero and learned about how it is rethinking and resetting customer engagement and experience to maintain trust and confidence in its brand. Xero’s approach offers other businesses, large and small, ideas about how they can adjust their own plans during this crisis.
Xero Business Continuity Hub
Xero has established a dedicated Business Continuity Hub on Xero Central to provide critical information from government agencies in regions in which the company operates, including Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Africa,
The hub offers tools and educational resources to support customers during this tough time. Resources provide customers with information on how to get support from advisors and government portals, help in understanding government small business relief, and applications and education for these programs.
The hub also provides educational webinars and advice on topics such as how to run your business remotely, how to look after yourself and your teams, and resources for topics such as business continuity planning and keeping track of cash flow.
The hub is a work in progress—Xero is asking its customers for input so it can keep the page updated with relevant content.
Cash Flow Tools and Initiatives
Cash flow is always a big concern for small businesses, but now, this problem is severely exacerbated. To help address this, Xero is looking at a number of measures it can take to expedite its own product features to assist in this area.
This week the company is rolling out new invoicing features that help customers view and set credit limits for their contacts. Using this feature, when a Xero customer creates an invoice for a contact with a credit limit, the Xero customer will get an alert if the credit limit is reached for that contact. Later this year, the feature will expand to block invoices, where users will be prevented from sending an invoice if it exceeds the credit limit for that contact.
Xero has also launched a pilot for some of its advisors, which offers basic forecasting feature that shows them their clients’ projected bank balance 30 days into the future, enabling them to see the impact of bills and invoices if they’re paid on time. The vendor is looking to expand this further later in the year.
For all businesses, Xero’s App Marketplace provides apps that businesses can use to help with short-to-medium and long-term cash flow forecasting. Xero has also created a playbook to help accountants and bookkeepers advise clients on the best apps for small business situations.
Speeding Up Small Business Supplier Payment Terms
Many big companies have net-60 or even net-90-day payment policies, which are hard enough for small businesses in good times, let alone in a crisis.
Xero has strongly and publicly advocated for big companies to pay their small business suppliers more quickly for several years. Now, it is taking another step to speed up cash flow to these businesses. Beginning April 1, the company aims to pay its own small business suppliers globally within 10 business days when its standard supplier process is followed.
Pausing a Planned Price Rise—and Providing Hubdoc at No Extra Charge
A while back, Xero had notified customers in several regions about an upcoming price increase on 18 March. It has now delayed the increase until July 1, 2020. Xero has also provided customers with Hubdoc, which helps save time by automating data entry and simplifying bank reconciliation, in the Xero Business Edition plans at no extra cost.
As with many public companies, Xero actively lobbies and works with governments to promote the small business economy. As governments start offering economic stimulus packages, Xero is ramping up efforts to influence government agendas and support for small businesses.
Dedicated Customer Response Team
For customers needing support, Xero has set up a dedicated customer response team. Customers can contact the team through Xero Central for personalized assistance.
There is no playbook for what we’re going through. What’s doable, relevant and meaningful for one company will vary greatly from one company to the next.
The specifics of what Xero is doing may not be right for your company. But its approach underscores some basic tenets that should stand any company in good stead: Tune in to the new concerns your customers have, offer them added flexibility, and provide them with tools to help them navigate through this crisis—and position your own brand for success after the crisis subsides.
© SMB Group, 2020