2020 was an incredibly difficult year for most businesses. It also put a strain at the individual level for all the employees of an organisation. It’s becoming clear that the pandemic’s impact will be long-lasting, and the problems caused for businesses will diminish only gradually. Businesses worldwide are left to plan for the ‘new world’ in which the disruptions of COVID-19 remain a probability.
There are five strategies that business leaders must adopt: innovation, customer centricity, employee engagement, customer growth and outsourcing support functions.
Major companies like Apple are investing large amounts of money into innovation programmes and education. These are seen as a way of reducing costs, increasing productivity, and reaching long-term objectives. For many smaller firms, increased competition and consumer demand have made a strong focus on innovation essential. Startups with disruptive business models are also frequently born into the innovative mindset, while despite extra investment and commitment, large corporations are often slowed by the scale of operations.
Innovation is essential to all organisations attempting to make it through the pandemic’s worst challenges and then succeed in our modern environment. Instead of responding to difficulties as they occur, businesses should continually identify improvements to support and deliver growth. Innovative approaches can keep struggling businesses to become more competitive, agile, and productive during an economic downturn.
Consider your customers
Most sectors have seen a decline in spending during the pandemic. Many shops and restaurants in London were unable to pay rent, and others forced to permanently close down. Those businesses that relied on customers arriving in person every day have been driven to innovate. Many now offer options for delivery under social distancing measures. Businesses have been forced to adapt and quickly learn a new set of skills.
The regulations imposed by the UK government have been notoriously inconsistent and are subject to change at any time. Businesses have worked hard to redefine the customer experience. Although it’s necessary to work around restrictions and still meet your customer’s needs, there is always a way of achieving this. While this means keeping up with the most recent restrictions and having contingency plans for every scenario, this level of adaptability is crucial in the post-COVID world.
Offer flexibility and support to employees
2020 saw many major tech companies like Twitter, Google, and Microsoft allow their employees to work remotely for extended periods. In some cases, such as for Twitter employees, this is a permanent arrangement, while others impose some limits.
There are various health concerns and social distancing measures that prevent employees from visiting their normal places of work. Employers also need to be sensitive to the additional pressures that the pandemic conditions have caused.
The adversity that individuals face can be quite varied and may include financial difficulties, childcare, or isolation. The Centre for Mental Health found that 10 million people in England need mental health support due to COVID-19. This is not surprising given the hardships we have all been through, which employers need to recognise.
They can do this by offering employees the flexibility they need to reduce the pressure on their working lives and allowing leave when needed. Employers can also increase communications with employees and introduce ‘check-ins’. Employers can ask questions about how staff are doing? What they need to make things easier? Pay attention to employees’ needs! Employees need to know that their contribution is valued and that other people are interested in their well-being. These may seem like small efforts, but studies have shown that they reduce the chances of mental health problems.
Expand your customer base
No one would be surprised to hear that the average time spent online increased enormously throughout the pandemic. At some points, it was more than 70% higher than pre-pandemic levels. Where many businesses have lost their face-to-face contact with customers, extra time should move to internet devices.
Businesses can make the most of this by engaging their customer and potential customers in a virtual space. Facebook pledged one hundred million dollars to help small businesses with the support, tools, and resources for their advertising and digital marketing efforts. Facebook has also enabled functionality for finding local businesses more easily through the platform and the use of gift cards through Instagram.
Small to medium-sized businesses should make every effort to engage their customers in a virtual space. An investment in social media marketing can be an extension of all previous marketing efforts. It is a good idea to build up your email database to inform customers about product updates or offer discounts and promotions. This can also be used as a way of funnelling customers into the eCommerce system.
Staying connected with customers at all times is now an important part of building customer loyalty and brand awareness in a world where e-commerce has rapidly expanded.
Outsource support functions
If your organization has not already streamlined operations by outsourcing key support functions, then now could be the ideal opportunity to do this. Securing reliable and flexible IT support, such as EC-MSP, is an excellent way of receiving critical tech assistance when you need it the most. Other areas to consider outsourcing are payroll, HR and accounting.
There is still no end in sight for the ongoing challenges that COVID-19 presents to small and medium-sized businesses. But the sooner decision-makers can account for the potential roadblocks and losses – then adjust to the changing environment – the sooner we will accept an altered normality where we can achieve new objectives. The worst is not over yet, but we can still build towards a brighter future for our businesses.
An award-winning support provider dedicated to first class customer service, EC-MSP provides exceptional IT support services for companies in the Greater London area and the South East of England. Founded in 2002 by MD Roy Castleman, the company now serves dozens of small and medium sized businesses, predominantly in the City of London.