Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is often a topic of discussion for business circles as well as for broader audience. This topic is particularly important today when the world is united against one common challenge- fight against Covid-19.
Clearly, governments are obliged to do their best to fight against pandemic, to save lives and keep economy going. This is their core responsibility. However, as demonstrated by this process, effort of officials is not enough to tackle the situation. While #stayhome campaign requires responsibility of each citizen, it is interesting what is the role of business in fight against Covid-19?! What does companies, as parts of our society do for common good? Or what can they do better?
According to webpage created for the purpose of preventing spread of Coronavirus in Georgia – Stopcov.ge, 170 companies operating in Georgia already demonstrated high social responsibility in the process of fighting against the pandemic. Amount of money transferred to special foundation created for the purpose of Coronavirus prevention already exceeds 131 million GEL. This clearly is something to appreciate but Georgian companies did not express their social responsibility only in this form. There were quite many companies engaging other activities under social responsibility – including profile activities (e.g. providing doctors with food or fuel; restructuration of loans, etc.) and activities out of their profile. It is a pity that in some cases, due to insufficient communication, socially responsible steps of these companies could not reach consumers and took away the opportunity of establishing positive reputation based on reciprocal usefulness.
In addition, it is worth mentioning that Georgian society, including consumers of specific brands are quite critical towards social responsibility exercised by large companies, intensiveness of charity activities carried out by them. To put it in other words, consumers set much higher standards of civil sense to businesses than a large portion of companies imagine.
We often talk to consumers to evaluate image of leader companies in various fields and their work in general through focus groups, telephone or face-to-face inquiries (note: this form of inquiry was completely replaced with telephone method in ACT due to new agenda set by Covid-19) and here is what they tell us:
,,I try to be and cooperate with companies which have high social responsibility and does at least something to help Georgians, tries to help and make improvement”. [Woman, 26 years old]
„Commercial organizations do not feel certain idea. Their main idea clearly is to earn as much as possible, get more profit, but we should not forget social responsibility”. [Man, 37 years old]
Together with meeting basic steps of social responsibility, important component of brand’s reputation is believed to be other benefits brought to broader society.
Basic steps of social responsibility include:
Upper levels of CSR impose broader, more global responsibilities to companies, as integral parts of our society. Such approach is called civil sense of business or corporate citizenship which implies effort to improve economic, environmental and social situation of the community where business was founded and/or is in interaction considering other factors. In Georgian reality, due to smaller area of activity, this community implies entire country and its residents. Respectively, business is challenged to offer types of activities which will be vivid and at the same time, useful for entire Georgian society or any group of it.
It is also worth mentioning that consumers’ memory on the projects implemented by Georgian companies under CSR is quite scarce and is mostly limited to charity projects. Furthermore, there is perceived severe social condition of the country and thus, desirable directions of CSR ultimately imply charity and more specifically, sensitive fields such as funding for cancer patients, allowance for socially vulnerable families or children. Considering high sensitivity of society and urgent need, we can also include monetary transfers made to Coronavirus prevention fund under this category.
However, respondents separately mention need of campaigns with long-term effect in the fields which will bring broader benefit to the country and society. These fields are perceived to be education, investments in technology and economic development. In Georgian reality, tourism and agriculture are particularly sensitive fields of economy.
It is important activities implemented or planned under CSR to comply with three main criteria defined by final evaluators – consumers:
Considering inevitable regress of our economy due to fight against Covid-19, we can clearly say that preserving country’s economic health is no less important challenge than coping with a virus. Regardless the steps made by the government and international donors, business initiatives in this field may act as important boosters of economy. This can become the position business should pick in order to more effectively manage utilizing its potential under this crisis to benefit the society.
Evolution progresses in spiral way, which means that the mankind moves forward and development stages repeat themselves or are very similar to each other. In 21st century, on the background of growing technological and personal development achievements, equipped with personal computer and smartphone, human had to lock himself in “the cave” again and this way, we temporarily stopped and only on expense of intellectual resource, kept developing the idea of inhabiting parallel planet to live. People hope to get routine everyday life back where one has breakfast in the morning, then heads over to work, then goes to café for lunch, from work to market, from market to home, from home to a bar and then makes breakfast again in the morning. Humans have been building this simple life chain for centuries, eventually developed it and now nobody wants to start over. Pieces of the chain are tightly connected and are independently operational units, small, medium and large business fields the majority of which are now in waiting mode. We were interested to find out whether the perception of social responsibility has changed in the crisis or not. We conducted in-depth interviews with representatives of companies of different size operating in Georgia, based on which we created the following anthropological picture of perceptions:
1. In own cave
Sense of danger and unclear situation outside, made human find a shelter in the cave and return back there every time as he already knew the way. Having a roof as an opportunity to protect from natural conditions and hide from outside threat, brought a human the feeling of getting used to own place – one specific environment and he found more or less calmness in this environment. People left alone because of the pandemic headed over to their homes – their forever and well-known cave. Corporations are managed from homes, so in the beginning of the crisis, companies used one of the topical, practically inevitable form of social responsibility – to “transfer” employees to their homes and made sure they stayed there. According to inquired respondents, they made the decision of terminating their work in real regime and switching employees to remote mode alongside the recommendations issued in the country. Quality of social responsibility is determined based on when the business implemented the said – when the relevant recommendations were issued or when the pandemic was already severely spread. But for now when every corporation whose work can be done remotely at least partially, tries to manage remote work of their employees in a way not to lose the sense of team work neither to decrease the interest towards work. This form of corporate responsibility is ultimately based on caring for health of one person and has various forms in various corporations – this could be social package of unified insurance developed in the crisis or equipping employees with protective items at home or organizing special trainings so that when performing work (signing agreements in old form) their health is maximally protected. The least company can do to this regard is to provide licensed version of Zoom meetings absolutely necessary for remote work so that employees can easily work from home.
2. The scene of hunting mammoths
After getting known with the cave and settling down in it, man started using this cave as a mean of communication. First historically proven ancient drawings on cave walls depicted what man saw and did beyond the cave. Man used to scrap mammoths on cave walls for two reasons – in order to classify (in simple form) i.e. to distinct mammoth from tiger and in order to share it for others. Depicting actions helped human to better plan hunting, have better perspective of animal anatomy, simple ways of hunting them, to do its job properly. To become a “professional” and then share this plan and knowledge with others so that others could hunt better too. In this context, revaluation of social responsibility is defined with the motif to save yourself, to continue work in future and to save neighbor companies as hunting is better together, chances are higher to hunt bigger animal and survive if attacked. As believed by inquired representatives of businesses, influence of international B2B corporate responsibility is eventually taking its position in Georgia. The majority of respondents representing large businesses emphasize importance of supporting quick development and sharing specific advices in crisis, necessity of which drastically changes in narrative of small business representatives. Respondents confirm the assumption that in this context, small and medium size business are most vulnerable, this is why social responsibility of large business is to offer them support. From Georgian reality, so far these are only a few examples such as support in establishment of e-commerce platform or providing consulting on business matters. Launch of ACT business consulting platform served exactly this purpose – to share our knowledge and experience to those who are in desperate need of our support now to survive in long-term perspective and to turn into large companies commissioning us after this crisis so that we hunt down mammoth together.
3. Shared bonfire
After discovering the fire, man started using it for different purposes. In order not to lose time for starting a fire every single time, he tried to have it on all the time. As together with people “making friends”, perimeter of the caves narrowed, fire appeared in the center of the caves and each member had the responsibility to keep the shared bonfire on. The most frequent and prevalent form of social responsibility is to contribute in this common bonfire, if we imagine that fire is country’s economy or common welfare, corporate responsibility of company is to support separate segments of the society around this common fire (to help vulnerable groups, to support sport or cultural activities). During Covid-19 crisis this had a form of creating unified platform of fight against pandemic and millions of GEL transferred to it. Corporations donated money for common welfare. In addition to this, in separate cases companies financially supported or if relevant to their field, provided their product (food, fuel) to National Center of Disease Control and Infectious Hospital as frontline units in fight against Coronavirus. As explained by companies selling construction and oil products, such purposeful use of money simplifies engagement in social responsibility activity and ensures them from making a mistake – define the most vulnerable group and its needs in this crisis. This form of CSR, similar to its symbolic face – fire, has an effect to spread, on one side, it sets an example for other corporations and motivates them to donate money to cope with the common enemy and on the other side, if we generalize on the example of the specific construction company, CSR can be implemented through such activities which could involve not only corporations but ordinary citizens while business would act as a mediator. For instance, if you purchase real estate under the promotion, part of the amount you pay will be transferred to Covid-19 fund.
4. Thigh bone
A student once asked famous American anthropologist Margaret Mead what she considered to be the first evidence of civilization. Among expected answers from scientific point of view student considered that Mead would say clay vessel, hunting tools or fire as a mean of communication, but anthropologist answered: a human thigh bone with a healed fracture found in an archeological site 15, 000 years old. This bone is the largest in human body, forms the hip joint which is absolutely necessary for a human to walk, if fractured, this bone needs averagely 4-6 months to heal. As explained by Mead, when animal breaks a leg in wild nature, he dies because he cannot hunt for food, cannot move to escape from the attack, is unable to find water. Mead points out that healed femur fracture tells us that someone spent time and resources, took care of the person in need, healed him, brought him food and water, protected or moved to safer place before he was healed. This is where civilization starts – with healed femur fracture – with care for others.
Revalued perception of corporate responsibility which changed from simple one-time charity to taking care of employees, sharing knowledge and experience with others, providing purposeful funding for activities oriented on common welfare, is eventually developing in Georgian reality, but we believe that first sign of civilization for social responsibility is corporate healed thigh bones – those employees whose jobs could be preserved and who will return to workplaces after the crisis is over because they were not abandoned in time of need and were taken care of; because exactly healed femur fractures will be counted after Coronavirus is over, this will be a measure of moral damage done by the pandemic beyond human lives and health and each of us will think about how many healed bones are on us.
Growth of informational technologies significantly affected human lifestyle who now daily performs operations in various directions by means of personal computer or telephone. It is important for us to have remote access to real time information and services – this simplifies movement, saves time, energy and money. Brands and companies try to respond to needs of consumer. In future strategies of companies their service or product definitely implies remote service too if not fully, but at least with physical sales as this acceleration makes business change communication algorithm with consumer, it is not enough anymore the consumer to go to the brand or vice versa, the brand to go to consumer with its offers, in compliance with modern challenges, when consumer moves, product he loves and needs moves along with him.
Remotely received service is eventually developing in Georgia. As we are getting used to standing in endless lines and checking quality of product or instructions on use at site, it is hard to adjust to psychological fact that in reality, companies are well-aware (based on current experience and observation) what to offer us, how to make amends or change our attitude if we are not satisfied. Main challenge companies face in terms of offering remote offer is the first try of consumer when he begins to realize benefits caused by saving time and receiving comfort, then the challenge is active involvement in his everyday life remotely. To this point, in our reality delivery companies and banking fields are the most successful in implementing this concept.
Daily renewable pace and needs of life results in increased requirements of the consumers towards banking field: convenience of working with the bank, quick access to bank service and promptness of service. In order to meet these requirements, bank needs to offer service and products in every single space where client expects it. Today, this is activation of remote service.
Imagine buying new shoes and leaving house in the morning thinking:
It is no longer enough for the client to receive this or that banking service – now clients are interested in the quality of terms of obtained service and most importantly time spent on receiving the said service. Nowadays banks offer quite a broad spectrum of remote services: internet and mobile banking, outdoor services (terminals, ATMs), telephone and video banking, you can use these services to pay bills, make necessary transfers, receive information on bank products or access to products such as deposit, loan, credit cards, etc. In order to perform each operation, you will need exactly that amount of time you can spare.
Clients find it more and more important to minimize live interaction with banks, to avoid lines and communication with operators and at the same time, to increase opportunity of using the fastest and most reliable partner – yourself; as in the concept of modern bank service, consumers know best during what part of the day, how fast and how simply and usefully they can perform bank operation they need.
Remote service acts as an alternative of the value of so called tear of shoes. Consumers no longer need to visit the bank – spend money for commuting and wasting time because in the world of technologies time is equivalent to money and each minute wasted on standing in line or waiting for operator is lost GEL or USD for consumer.
Bank representatives try not to fall behind consumers’ thoughts and transform along the way in terms of remote service. Beyond consumers’ interests, switching to remote service is important for banks as geographical expansion of bank branches cannot be unlimited. Together with accelerated development of technologies, banks try to come closer to client on the expense of technological achievements which is managed through remote methods of specific bank services; furthermore, technological development and switching clients to self-service reduces costs of banks in terms of human resources, this enables them to invest this financial resource in improvement of the said technologies and fast development and walk one step ahead to competitors.
For those banks which already started development of remote services, created and improved remote products and defined further improvement of remote service as a priority in strategy of upcoming years, this current crisis will accelerate multi-year strategic plan and minimize it to months, consumer will have to better learn how to use remote services under force-majeure and bank will try to make this learning and testing process simpler and user-friendly, exactly actively involved consumer will accelerate the development process.
As for those banks for which switching to remote service was future perspective, this situation will become a huge challenge. For example, banks that have special segment (age or social segment) will have to do it altogether – manage quick technological development and ensure development of consumer too, teach clients use of remote channels, this is a double objective but manageable and considering future tendencies, this is what will bring benefit for everyone in the end – for bank and for consumer.
As estimated by analysts of Juniper Research[i], as of 2018, 2 billion consumers had access to bank service by means of various gadgets: smartphone, tablet, PC or smart watch. Human life with global ambitions was localized to the specific gadgets, from the agenda saved in smartphone to information on persons that are part of network, from the specialist of specific field to alter-banker. As quality/desire of remote engagement is this high and establishment and implementation of innovative products is done through people (bank employees/clients), companies have to start big things in a simple way – by caring about “shoes” of service personnel and consumer – time, energy, money.
Author: Nino Kalandia
Strategic Communications Manager
What kind of service does modern consumer want? - this is one of the most important questions everyone engaged in service field is concerned with. On highly competitive and mostly saturated market, high quality – consumer-favorite service may become company’s advantage.
After years and years of research done by our company and analyzing feedback provided by consumers of various fields, it turns out that according to modern consumer, formula of high quality service is as follows: being friendly + professionalism + attentiveness + hard work +speed.
Naturally, the said factors have different weights of importance in assessing service in various fields. For example, speed can be critically important in the field of fast food, retail trade, while the same consumer may consider professionalism as the most important factor in medical, insurance, banking fields.
Nowadays, service field representatives face quite a big challenge – how to improve quality of service to gain competitive advantage on the market. In order to tackle this challenge, we offer companies two strong instruments: quality service monitoring carried out through mystery shopper method and consumer satisfaction study. Assessments provided by Mystery Shopper enable us to show companies objective picture of strong and weak sides of processes and services in their company. As for the consumer satisfaction study, through face-to-face inquiry of visitors leaving the target location, it enables us to define the most important factors making influence on satisfaction of consumers of the specific field as well as to measure weight of their importance. By integrating these results with the results of service quality monitoring, we give additional opportunity to companies to always assess their service through real consumers’ eyes.
Consistent monitoring of the service quality provides the following opportunities:
Based on international experience, in companies where service quality monitoring is consistently carried out and necessary measures are actively made in compliance with obtained results, sales may boost by 30%.
Author: Eka Ejibadze
Portfolio Lead, Research