The pandemic upended all sectors, but small businesses were hit especially hard. In particular, smaller businesses in verticals such as retail and hospitality faced many restrictions and needed to react swiftly to make changes to survive and stay relevant during the two-year period of uncertainty. That included finding new ways to connect with customers and deliver services, while maintaining a workforce culture and more. Now small businesses face the next challenge, adapting to hybrid work and, once more, meeting employees’ and customers’ needs along the way.
Most small businesses want to emulate their larger counterparts when it comes to how they treat their employees and customers, but lack the same budget or internal resources. This makes it crucial to land on the right strategies and technologies to establish a great hybrid work environment, such as digital tools that can help meet the needs of a distributed workforce and aid in communication between employees and customers. But adoption of new tech can feel like a leap into the unknown.
With that in mind, let’s review the priorities small business decision makers should consider to better plan for operations in a hybrid world.
Meeting the needs of your customers through communication
Communication tools are essential for keeping customers happy in a timely manner. Pre-pandemic, many businesses used legacy on-premise communications solutions. To adapt and stay agile, companies needed to shift operations into a hybrid in-office and remote setup, which requires a different set of communication tools.
Consider a business with customers ranging from small to large businesses, professional services and even government agencies. To remain a top player in a crowded industry, a business needs to ensure it’s approaching customer communication in a way that acutely focuses on ensuring its employees take pride in their work, resulting in great customer service. A key feature to look for to support this is the ability to help employees to stay in touch with each other throughout the day across a range of different channels – from voice, video, to text – no matter where they’re working from, to keep up with business demands and customer inquiries.
Exceeding the expectations of employees through collaboration
Maintaining a close knit workforce is much harder in a hybrid environment than many businesses anticipated. 76% of HR leaders feel that hybrid work challenges employees’ connection to organizational culture, according to a recent Gartner study. Yet the same study showed culture remains imperative for employees to succeed — 76% of employees say culture is very or extremely important for them to be effective at their job.
A lot of culture is about connectedness. While a culture cannot be created or sustained by technology alone, when your workforce is distributed it certainly becomes an important factor. Communications tools can help employees maintain a connection with each other and to the work they do, without needing them to physically be in the office.
This is achievable by investing in and deploying cloud communications technologies. Organizations that had these solutions in place before the shift to remote work were able to continue providing the best quality service for their customers, and were able to keep up elite standards thanks to the ability to connect with customers and each other from any device. As hybrid work remains the preferred option for jobseekers around the world, it’s imperative that companies ensure they can make employees’ jobs easier by giving them customer history at their fingertips, and help them feel supported to provide the most exceptional customer experiences.
Fostering new business opportunities
Communications tools can also help small businesses explore ways to expand existing business relationships and develop new opportunities. As small businesses face staffing and recruitment challenges, the right communications tools can help businesses stay focused on growth.
When deciding which communications tools to prioritize with scaling in mind, consider that features like call forwarding are vital for when sales executives are on the road, making sure they don’t ever miss a new business opportunity. In addition, a virtual receptionist can handle mass quantities of the same inquiry type. This technology can lead to better staff productivity, sales success and improved customer experience – resulting in stronger loyalty.
Despite having different needs and goals, small businesses of all kinds can benefit from adopting the right communications tools. The key is to understand what you need to achieve, from employee connectedness to opening new revenue opportunities, and map solutions and features back to those goals.
It is becoming clear that hybrid work environments are here to stay and investing in the right communications tools will help small businesses continue to succeed and be prepared.
John Antanaitis is Vice President of Global Portfolio Marketing at Vonage, a global cloud communications leader helping businesses accelerate digital transformation. Vonage’s Communications Platform allows for the integration of communications APIs into existing products, workflows and systems. Vonage’s fully programmable unified communications, contact center and conversational commerce applications are built from the platform and empower companies to create meaningful engagements. For more information about how Vonage can help your small business communicate better, check out vonage.com/small-business/ or call 855-365-4903.