Four Pillars of Small Business Technology Investment
The past two years proved unprecedented in so many ways for small businesses. Just when many of us thought a return to “normal”would appear, the Delta variant thrust the country back into confusion about a return to the office, balancing the pros and cons of working-from-home, childcare and a host of technology solutions that were implemented over the last 18 months to keep business operations running. As we approach the fourth quarter of 2021, there is still little clarity about what 2022 holds and the lasting changes that will come from the pandemic. Some things are certain however, business must continue, earning money is always a necessity and competition is never far away. As the saying goes, “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself”. No matter what the future holds, the businesses that adapt to the changing landscape will succeed and those that do not will surely suffer and maybe fail.
If you build it, they will come.
From a technology perspective, the last quarter of the year is usually the most practical time for many small businesses to evaluate the four corners of their technology investment. Even if Q4 is the busy season, there is a time in the year that works, and every small business should dedicate that time to examination of their technology foundation. 1. Cybersecurity 2. Employee Productivity 3. Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity 4. The Customer / Client Experience
Any business that does not appreciate the growing threat of cybercrime and adopt the necessary safeguards to protect their data, their customer’s data and the business reputation will soon find themselves spending much more money under pressure to pay fines, react to an incident after it occurred or secure legal help to manage lawsuits and negative publicity. For many businesses there is no perfect time to implement changes at the cost of convenience, but not doing so is not only irresponsible, but in many cases, against the law. If unfamiliar with local regulations, such as New York State’s SHEILD Act or Florida’s Information Protection Act (FIPA), then right now is the best time to understand the compliance regulations and adopt the safeguards that these laws mandate for small businesses.
By now, all businesses, large and small, adopted some form of a work-from-home scenario. And while many teams are still working from home at least part of the time, meeting the new needs of the business and customers likely required a significant alteration of business process. Perhaps staff was reduced, or they are working from distant locations, maybe they are forced to tackle new tasks that were never in their job description. In times of change or stability, successful businesses stay successful because they maximize the efficiency of the workday. In preparation for 2022, now is an ideal time to examine the productivity tools in place (if any) and decide what’s working, what’s not and streamline solutions to cut redundancy and cost. Small business should take advantage of broad selection of communication and collaboration tools, picking the “best of breed” for their unique needs. The best way to manage a virtual team is to invest in the solutions that now dominate the business landscape. They allow instant and effective communication, accountability and performance to help improve and measure individual employees' productivity. In addition to the ubiquitous Zoom, tools such as Slack, Asana, Google, Microsoft Teams and Trello allow a company to streamline communication through a central hub, easily share files, make edits in real time and collaborate more effectively over distances.
Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity
Disasters can take many forms. The financial cost of rebuilding after a disaster can prove overwhelming for a small business. If a business is not prepared for an emergency or disaster, there is good chance the business will not continue operations and never recover. Statistics say that 25% of businesses don’t open again after a disaster. Every business has unique vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Knowing the disaster scenarios that are most likely to occur and affect the business can help speed a return to operations (“RTO”) faster. A back-to-business self-assessment can help understand the risks for common hazards such as hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, or even cyberattacks. Once an assessment is made, it’s time to create a response plan based on the unique risks to the business. A response plan is a roadmap to recovery that is specific a business’s needs and operations. It addresses immediate priorities and accounts for contingency and timelines, which is important when managing client expectations. A small business should practice the response plan with the staff on a regular basis, at least once a year, to ensure everyone is ready when a disaster occurs.
The Customer/Client Experience
Technology not only enables more personalized interaction with customers, but also enhances the accessibility and consistency of the entire customer experience, or “CX”. Technology is no longer just a nice-to-have, but an integral part of creating an innovative customer experience that enables more efficient and effective service delivery. For any small business, from accounting to legal to a “Mom-and-Pop” store, the customer experience is critical toward reviews, “likes” and word-of-mouth referrals. Technology accounts for interaction, whether through email, chat, website, social media or telephone. If that interaction breaks down at any point, a customer or potential customer, will certainly go elsewhere. The customer experience is not a new concept, but it’s one that is growing in importance every day. As steeper competition for brand attention becomes the norm, the interaction a customer has with a business becomes more important. Q4 is a suitable time to examine the tools in place that contribute to the customer experience and decide if change is needed to maximize the benefit of technology. Some of the ways small businesses are successfully harnessing technology to support their customer’s experience are:
SUPPLYING A MULTI-CHANNEL EXPERIENCE
Communicate with consistency through multiple channels across multiple devices. Research indicates that customers react favorably to professionally designed digital channels that look and feel the same on desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile devices.
SAVE CUSTOMERS TIME WITH AUTOMATION
Automation can make all the difference. For instance, consider integrating a personalized chatbot into a mobile app or website to answer often-asked questions. Or implement an automated callback for hours so a customer doesn't need to wait on hold. Saving customers' time while satisfying their needs significantly improves loyalty.
LEVERAGE THE RIGHT ANALYTICS TOOLS
Technology allows small businesses to deliver a unique customer experience to everyone by analyzing behavior. There's a lot of information out there, which makes it crucial to use software capable of processing, interpreting and analyzing this data for actionable insights.
CREATE HOW-TO GUIDES AND VIDEOS
A visual guide that customers can reference makes an enormous difference in ease of use and retaining customers. The best part is the material only needs to publish once. A thorough guide on the services offered, specialties, distinction from competition and maybe pricing will save your company a ton of money and resources in the future.
ENGAGE IN SOCIAL LISTENING
Utilize software to monitor relevant social media channels for any customer feedback and direct mentions of your brand or discussions regarding industries, followed by an analysis to gain insights on channels frequented by your target market and create personalized content to increase engagement .
Chatbots are great when it comes to improving the customer experience. They answer the most common question first and allow a human to handle the more advanced ones..
Roark Tech Services is an expert in Proactive IT Monitoring. We are well positioned to make the best suggestions and recommendations for our clients when it comes to monitoring and staying ahead of issues. Always consult with us first. If you don’t have an IT Partner that you can trust to give you the right support and advice, we’d love to help. Give us a call.
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