How to prevent cancellations during the Coronavirus crisis with Jessica Lorimer

Welcome to the show notes of the Boostly Podcast Season 8 Episode 4. This is a recap of my interview with Jessica Lorimer where we talked about how to prevent cancellations during the Coronavirus crisis.

Here’s the audio for this episode:

Here’s the video for this episode:

Timestamp

02:33 Jessica Lorimer and how she feels about the Coronavirus crisis
06:50 Jessica’s advice to property owners
15:50 March 20th press briefing
33:40 Last things from Jessica
39:00 Final Thank Yous

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Transcript from the Episode

Jessica thinks the hospitality industry is the only group that she genuinely had sympathy for. She wants to send a message to everyone that this is a tough time but she knows we will make it through it.

Jessica got into sales a long time ago. She got given her first sales job because she got fired from making coffee. She’s the only person in the world who can make a cold cup of coffee with a professional grade coffee machine. It turns out she’s terrible at coffee, but she’s great at coffee chat. She fell into sales about 16 years old and have been there ever since she had a successful b2b sales career. After 2014 that’s not her own business. She was diagnosed with a chronic illness and it didn’t work out with all the travel and all of the hours that she was having to put in. So she created her own business and for the last six years she has been teaching entrepreneurs how to sell their services and products, either to individuals, or b2b, which has become even more important as of today.

This week, Jessica spent a lot of time looking at the newsfeed looking at the amount of fear and panic and concern there is around. She thinks that probably the most important thing to say is that Coronavirus, as a health pandemic is incredibly serious, at this moment in time is absolutely imperative. If you are a business owner or just anybody else, you look after yourself, you self isolate, you follow government guidelines, and you do your best to support others at this time as well. And that you asked for support when you need it.

Jessica believes that cancellations are not the end of the world and retention is something that is possible. She believes that there are definitely ways that you can do this. She reminds everyone to remember this time that humans are a huge part of what we’re currently seeing. She thinks there has never been a better time in history that’s quite important to have been part of a community. This is a time in history where we’re going to experience more community feel than ever before. We’re seeing that reflected in the actions of the government. She says that there have been some things that they’ve done incredibly well over the last week and that will really benefit you guys in the hospitality industry and anyone else as well.

Jessica’s advice to property owners

First tip is don’t be a dick. Jessica believes it should always be an integral business rule, because there is nothing that will screw your business quicker. Even in a climate like we’re in at the moment, which is relatively unsteady and uncertain in terms of travel and things like that then behaving badly because what happens is that when business owners generate goodwill from customers, customers will be loyal, they will be patient, they will try and come to a negotiated resolution. When business owners behave like a bit of a pillock, what happens is customers walk away, and the average unhappy customer will tell 10 other people about a bad experience, but the average person who’s happy with an experience will probably tell between one and three. You’ve actually got a huge increase if you let yourself get super stressed out by the situation and whilst it’s normal to be stressed, in the current environment, cancellations, they don’t have to be a big deal.

If you’ve already got T’s and C’s, the key thing that we need to people to understand when we’re dealing with them as customers, is that we don’t want to be a dick in the situation. But we also want them to understand our point of view. And sales is a lot about what Jessica calls mutually beneficial relationships. If you’ve ever worked in sales, you will have heard that phrase so many times it’ll drive you crazy. But as human beings, we are programmed to try and generate mutually beneficial relationships based on reciprocity.

Jessica suggests to say to the customers is, “I completely understand the predicament you’re in and I completely understand why you would need to change this booking. ” The language here is really important, change as opposed to cancel because we are prepping them for what is to come.

The immediate thing to do is we empathize. “I completely understand why you would need to change this. I want to be transparent with you.” The terms and conditions that you signed that and be clear, what do they say? Is it no cancellation at all? Is it no refund is it prorated whatever that looks like, however, and this is the key bit where for the customer, it turns around and they feel like they’re going on the hero journey.

“However, because we are in the situation that we’re in, I’m more than happy to offer you either…”

This means that we’re in more control of the situation, if we give them an opportunity, and we tell them what we’re willing to offer them, it shows goodwill, it demonstrates that we’re willing to negotiate and it also sets out really clearly. “We have these terms and conditions, we’re willing to negotiate on the view, and this is what we’re willing to put out there. However, because of the situation that we’re currently in, I’m more than happy to either offer you a change of dates, including, some of our premium times or whatever or alternatively, a credit for X when you do come and use your stay. ” Or you could offer them a pro-rated refund, however you want to do that.

And then say to them, “I’m willing to work on a solution with you, it would be best in order for us to do that to me, either on Zoom, or on the phone. If one of these solutions does not meet your need, if it does, just hit reply, tell us which option you would prefer. And we’ll arrange that for you.”

That just makes it really clear. What are you willing to do? How are you willing to build the relationship with you them and save that relationship that you’ve already built with them? And if the offers that you make are preferable, then you’re willing to talk your way into some actual conversation about what can be done. When you get on that conversation on the phone. If it comes to that. The important thing to know is that they are also human, they’re going to be really stressed out. They’re going to be really hacked off that they might not get money back. People might not be insured. They might have other worries. A lot of people at the moment are very afraid. We know this because everyone’s stockpiling, toilet roll that you can’t even eat.

When you get on the phone, the important thing to know is that they all come in from a place of fear, and that they are just like you, they have the same fears, they are worried about money they’re worried about their families and about what’s going to happen. And it’s quite likely that they’ll have had bad customer experiences with other things. So other people will treat them badly. And you will now be expected to potentially bear the brunt of that come to the conversation knowing that it will make you much more empathetic,  and that’s what they want. They want to be heard. Ultimately, when we’re scared, afraid and frustrated. we need the opportunity to advance so when you come to that conversation, the important thing to say is “My job here is to find an amicable solution for both mutually beneficial resolution. So please, why don’t you tell me what’s going on with you, and what your ideal outcome would be”

Give them 5-10 minutes. They can just go off and they can talk about everything else that’s going on to them. And that’s okay. They’re not making it personal. It’s not you, they know that they just need that opportunity to vent at somebody. And right now, that is you, once they’ve done that, and you’ve heard what their ideal outcome is, you can decide, you know, is that ideal outcome, something I’m willing to give? And if it isn’t, you know, if they’re saying I want a full refund, and blah, blah, and it’s not fair, then again, you just have to reiterate, unfortunately, you know, transmissions that you signed, state that this now I’m willing to work with you on this, but this solution that you’ve suggested, isn’t going to be possible at this time. Would you be open to exploring other opportunities that are going to help you and that’s it and it sounds like a bit of a formal conversation and it is, it is a formal conversation because we have to take in emotion out of this. We want them to understand that we’re coming from this from a place of professionalism, that we’re coming at it from a place of goodwill, that we’re trying to build relationships but equally, that we’re not going to break down the call and stop crying because our businesses are under the pressure and because we’re frustrated, because that won’t make them any more sympathetic towards you. So be clear, be professional, outline, whether you’re prepared to do what they want, or whether you’re not and that you want to move forward to make that happen.

March 20th Press Briefing

Jessica thinks the plus side is that it seems that the next plan is to give us all the money, which we always like. The thing that she has been saying for the last week and a half is that and it’s been relatively controversial. She had quite a few messages from people telling her how awkwardly optimistic she is and how stupidly positive she is. And then she had the really nice messages, the one that also comment on how she looks when she’s delivering this kind of prediction,

The last couple of weeks have been a rocky ride. And there’s been some unexpected things happening. And people keep talking about the fact that this is an unprecedented situation. And what Jessica continued to reiterate to people is that unfortunately, this isn’t unprecedented in terms of the way that we view crisis in the UK and globally as a whole, certainly for the economy. This is not sadly new. The interesting thing about this is that the government in the UK at the moment are very, very determined to keep the economy going. And that’s possibly one of the most important things that has ever happened. Jessica is slightly impressed by their moves this week. It has been an impressive feat, and she thinks that they do deserve some kudos for that.

The thing that’s come out this week is that predictions are true, they are trying everything possible to make sure that the economy survived, and that we don’t have a recession, or that we don’t have the severity of recession we’ve had in previous years, like 2008. And the reason for that is that ultimately, if we go into recession at this point, and if we go into a severe recession at this point, not to be alarmist but it would not be good. Jessica is relentlessly positive. When she says something would not be good, what we mean is it would be absolutely dire. The reason for that is that hospitals need stay open, assets needs to be paid, supermarket needed, supermarket workers need to be paid, etc. What’s happened today is that the government has announced that they are going to pump money into UK specifically into company. He has said that there is no limit on the amount of money that they are going to pay and that they are going to be covering people’s corporate wages up to 2500 pounds per month, as they’re gonna be covering 80% of wages for companies who feel like they are unable to pay their staff at this time. They’re not setting limits on it. They’re not putting limits on sectors, etc.

Now, this is great for the hospitality industry in two ways. One, it’s really good because this is an unprecedented time where the UK Government has said, you will have a VAT extension. So that won’t be happening until June, you’ll get an extension on that. If you’re self employed, you’ll have other extensions from the Tax Service. And that means that actually from an individual perspective, for people who are running B&B, there are going to be people who want to start booking and can afford to start booking because they are still getting paid for next year. That’s the first thing to notice. People who are working in the corporate world are still going to get paid. There are going to be unfortunate exceptions, the whole zero contract thing stuff, we don’t know about yet.

The reality is that people who are in full time employment and currently working for organizations are going to be paid. And this is a great time to start acknowledging that fact and to start marketing. 2020 may not be the year you want to go on holiday. 2021 however, will be great. We’re in the roaring 20s. So far, we’re in the fire part of that, but next year, we’re going to be okay, next year, things are going to start looking up. And it’s really important to notice that the government’s looking at this as a long term problem. If we look at this from a health perspective, it’s quite likely that a vaccine is going to take quite a while to turn up and to be mass produced and all of that good stuff. Now, that’s not a bad thing. People are scared about that right now. And, and we’re operating from lots of panic right now because we haven’t been in this situation before in terms of the health side of things.

We’ve seen the economy fluctuate wildly over the last 10 years. But we haven’t been in this health side of things. And we haven’t had to isolate and quarantine to such a degree. However, what this does mean is that when the next set of fluctuations come up, when we next have to self isolate, or quarantine or anything happens, we’re prepared,  this isn’t going to be the death of your business, it doesn’t have to be. So start marketing 2021 to individuals now, because they are still going to get paid. And actually, they’re going to get paid to be at home, which is pretty cool. I’m going to be at home having to work. Some people are going to be at home watching Netflix and getting paid for that. I’m very jealous of all of those people.

The second thing that we have to notice is that obviously the changes from the transcript today mean that ultimately, companies are going to be having a lot of relief right now when it comes to their finances.

For those who are self employed or own a business, there may be opportunities there for yourself for small business loans and things like that from the government. Again, they’re not putting any limits on those. And it also means that corporate businesses who are gaining from that, who are, you know, not necessarily having to pay tons of salaries, who are making use of the extension on VAT returns and things like that, that actually you could be looking at them for, let’s say later in the year as well. And inviting them to make certain decisions about their conferences, about accommodation for those conferences, about things that they may be attending because the reality is that Coronavirus is going to happen, we know we’re going to have to self isolate for a prolonged period. It’s probably initially about three months that we’re going to be in this particular situation. But the reality is that q3 and q4, life is going to change. And it’s going to look hopefully, slightly more normal. And that means that people who’ve got events planned for q3 and q4, I probably not looking to cancel them yet. And that means for you as hospitality owners that actually you should be looking at lets during that time, short term accommodation, it might be even long term depending on how many conferences are going on in your area. And you can actually be looking at marketing that to businesses now, because they will be experiencing some kind of financial relief at some degree, depending on what they take up. And obviously, you know, later in the year, they just had this financial year and as well, which gives us an extra budget to play with. Especially this is great news for you guys that this is good news. It means that you may not have people in your properties right now. But there is no reason you can’t be marketing for later in the year to see success then and to be taking deposits now so that your cash flow is kept up and that you’re booking those spots for later in 2020.

jessica lorimer

Last things from Jessica

A lot of business owners who are not good business owners, they are going to be really, really heavily impacted by this. And it’s quite likely that we will not see certain people in 12 months time. However, it doesn’t need to be you. Hospitality is an industry that will always thrive, even in the most difficult of times, because right now when everybody’s on lockdown, and everybody’s on quarantine, and things like that, we’re looking on the internet, but what will we do when we get out? What will we do when things change? What will we visit? Who will we see how important is this? And even if you’re watching this international, and you’re thinking, Well, you know, how can I get people to come to me? Well, people have family, people have friends.

So you can email your list not just with, why don’t you come and stay, but also with how can we reward you for being loyal? Can we ask people to buy gift cards for the future? Because, let’s face it, we were in a period where goodwill is really high in humanity at the moment. So emailing your list and saying, hey, look, I want to be one of the businesses that is here that is welcoming you to our doors in 2021, when this crisis is over, or whenever that’s going to be and in order for me to do that, I would love to invite you to buy a gift card or to buy a stay for someone in your family or for somebody who’s found it really difficult. So they can come and stay next year or in q4 in q3 and have a really good time.

Jessica reminds everyone that not all of this needs to be negative. And if you are somebody who every day is on the Facebook feed and you’re reading the news, but generally it’s not right if you are putting your business in a position of desperation and you are losing your own control over the situation. We still have as business owners an awful lot of control about what we can do. Right now. We can do our marketing differently. We can spend more time looking at what we want to improve. We can sell differently. We can improve retention rates, we can reach out to every single customer we have for the rest of this year and just say look, Coronavirus, I hear you, I’m here. I’m being transparent. I’m going to communicate about it. I know that your booking is coming up and I don’t think that we’ve forgotten you. So here’s what we’re doing in the interim, and here’s what we’re prepared to do. So that you know early you can be doing all of these things you can be getting and generating goodwill from and you will be hearing years to come. But you have to remember this is about the long term game. There is no reason for your business there under just be very, very clear about what action you take.

It’s really important everyday your sales activity and a marketing activity, but it’s also important that you don’t buy into what Bob on the newsfeed is saying about Coronavirus because it’s quite likely the bubble in the newsfeed is that home with not a lot else better to do than share scary stuff on the internet that generates engagement and traction and boosted algorithm. Instead focus on your business and where you want it to be this time next year. So you can look back on Coronavirus and be like Oh, that was weird, but we made it through. Yeah, everyone has the ability to make it through Do not forget that. The choices that you make now will determine where you are in March 2021.

The key thing here is don’t panic, keep selling. And also keep investing in your business. If you need a marketing plan, which some of you may do you obviously, go and invest in that now because it will set you up for success later. The key thing we can all do as a global community is make sure that we are fueling the economy, both as buyers and sellers right now.

You can find more about Jessica Lorimer at https://smartleaderssell.com/

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