Then Covid-19 hit, many growing businesses weren’t prepared for the digital transformation required to keep the doors open. Overnight, they had to become experts at video conferencing, messaging platforms and collaborating online with colleagues and clients alike.
Not all were able to make the adjustment. Data gathered by the World Economic Forum highlights that as of April 2021, more than a third of America’s small businesses were still closed due to Covid-19.
For those businesses that were able to survive, many hoped that the year following the pandemic lockdown would bring a return to normalcy. We would stop collaborating with clients via just video conferencing and have in-person meetings again. We would no longer 100% communicate internally via messaging and video platforms. In short, we would start to go back to the way things were pre-pandemic.
The reality was different. Instead, Covid has lingered like a bad houseguest, and we’ve had to redefine what “normal” is. Now that we’re close to two years into this new way of working with no end in sight, it’s an ideal time to re-examine how your business operates — what works, what needs improvement — and determine if you’re ready for the future — whatever that looks like.
Here are three things to do right now to future-proof your business.
1. Ensure the (digital) customer experience is superlative
When was the last time you evaluated your business through the eyes of your customer? Your customers are also consumers of other products, which means that they are used to the seamless, hyper-user-friendly experience of shopping on places like Amazon. Do you have systems in place that make it as easy as possible for your customers to do business with you? For example, what is your contract-signing process like? Do your clients have to print out a document to sign it and then scan it to be able to send it to you? Or are they able to electronically sign the document on their phone?
Your customers are becoming increasingly at ease with interacting with machines. A recent Verizon study of 5,601 people found that 56% of respondents are comfortable with fully automated interactions while just 16% expressed discomfort. Almost half of the respondents (47%) have grown more positive about such interactions in the past two years.
While your customers’ needs might evolve over the next few years, make sure you consider how their changing views and preferences will impact their digital experience. What problems aren’t being addressed; what are your customers’ pain points? Are these likely to change over the next few years? Implement a CRM system to track customer behavior to help you recognize patterns and trends and predict any changes.
2. Get the most out of your technology investments
With the onset of the pandemic, many of us learned the importance of technology and virtual processes in real time. Now it’s time to take stock of the digital technology and processes you’ve implemented and how they’re performing for your company. Are you getting the most out of the technology you’ve adopted or is it just another expense that isn’t living up to its promise? Consider how you can make better use of these technologies to simplify manual processes you still employ daily.
Technology should enable your employees to perform at their best, so you need to set them up for success. Make sure the solutions you’re using do what you intended them to do, that they help your employees save time and become more efficient. Do they make your customer experience more enjoyable? Consider implementing an internal survey to learn which technology and solutions your employees need to help them do their jobs better.
3. Define your company culture and then make decisions accordingly
One of the biggest challenges for companies going forward will be maintaining their company culture in a remote or hybrid work environment. According to a study conducted by HR consultancy Robert Half, 73% of employees left their job due to poor company culture. With a record number of resignations in 2021, you want to create a company culture that is difficult to leave.
There’s no right or wrong company culture — it’s determined by what works best for your company when it comes to facilitating business objectives and growth and making sure your employees want to stick around. In general, employees are looking for transparency and well-defined roles and expectations. Some companies go all in on social outings, organizing happy hours, gaming nights and even company-wide virtual cooking classes.
However, to future-proof your business, you’ll want to foster a culture that embraces innovation and creates an environment where your employees feel that they’re free to offer suggestions. Your employees are on the front lines — whether it’s dealing with customers or struggling with a workflow problem, they’re often in the best position to recommend improvements, so a culture that values their input will lead to better practices or potentially even new products or services.
Are you ready for the future? Take the time to objectively evaluate what is required to ensure your company’s success. Embrace decision-making that helps you meet your goals and your employees perform to their highest level. Embrace innovation and advances in technology. We all need to be prepared to adapt to the changes that are sure to come.
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Original source: Entrepreneur