Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) faced constant challenges this year — from adjusting to remote work and figuring out new ways to get products and services to customers, to making sure employees and customers stayed safe and healthy.
In fact, recent Comcast Business research showed that 65 percent of SMB owners were stressed due to the impact of COVID-19 and 68 percent were losing at least one hour of sleep per night. Despite this, an overwhelming majority (87 percent) of SMB owners felt more prepared for what lies ahead.
As SMB owners look to the future, their inherent entrepreneurship and ambition – combined with support from technology – will help them to not only bounce back, but forward. Here are a few tips SMBs should consider in preparing for the New Year:
- Keep Employees Engaged: With the shift to online business, many interactions that were once held face-to-face have been replaced with virtual interactions. It’s important that SMBs identify ways to establish connection in real-time to keep employees engaged. Cloud-based communication, messaging and collaboration tools are solutions that can keep employees updated on changes and maintain open lines of communication to keep productivity on track. Whether employees are continuing to work from home or starting to make their way back to offices, stores or restaurants, regular communication can help provide ongoing clarity.
- Stay nimble: Shutdown regulations and recommendations have continued to change frequently and have varied across the Region. Federal, state and local governments have provided several resources for SMBs to navigate the many and ever-evolving regulations that businesses should follow. It’s also important that business owners do what makes sense for their employees and customers. For instance, businesses may choose for employees to continue to remain at home, or they may embrace more of a hybrid model where some stay at home while others are on site.
- Take advantage of technology: Many SMBs have had to embrace a more digital business model to safely stay connected to customers. As a result, 79 percent of SMB owners consider themselves more tech-savvy than ever, according to the Comcast Business survey. Even as restrictions continue to evolve, there likely will be an ongoing need to supplement in-person business with digital service. Take for instance the retail industry. Many brick and mortar stores have adopted online platforms and services in ways they may have never imagined.
As businesses continue to evolve in-store experiences, they may find they need more from their internet and WiFi to support a digital business model. A splash page when customers log onto the network offers businesses an opportunity to share valuable information, such as hours and new procedures. And having control and visibility into WiFi usage and settings from mobile devices also makes it easier to manage WiFi networks for both employees and customers. As things evolve, businesses can adjust bandwidth limits and turn networks on and off at scheduled times, based on usage.
- Rely on a technology partner: Many businesses have turned to technology partners for support and to determine the optimal technology and settings for their business. When looking for a technology partner, here are some things to consider:
- Quick and easy account access and the ability to retrieve or reset passwords, as needed.
- Remote management to remain in touch, regardless of location, and customize product features, adjust services or troubleshoot service remotely.
- Constant connection to stay in touch with customers and employees through important voice features like call forwarding, voicemail and one-touch conference calls.
- Establish Two-Way Communication with Customers: Making customers feel comfortable is typically a top priority for businesses. Social media continues to be a powerful channel for maintaining engagement and strengthening connection with customers. Paired with digital platforms that allow video streaming and conferencing, there are many ways to keep the lines of communication open. Beyond establishing these connection points, consider using these channels to inform customers about the latest business changes so they know what to expect and how best to engage. This is also a great way to get customer feedback. Ask customers if they are comfortable with in-person transactions or if they would prefer curbside pickups or video/phone chats. Gaining this feedback is helpful to understand the adjustments that need to be made to deliver a better customer experience.
Across the Region, small and medium-sized businesses have continued to reinvent themselves and prove their resiliency. As we look to the future, technology will continue to be critical in helping SMBs bounce forward.