Small businesses have been through a lot this year. They have been faced with constant challenges like adjusting to remote work and figuring out new ways to get their products and services to their customers, all while making sure employees and customers stay safe and healthy.
Without a doubt, small business owners have a lot on their minds. In fact, recent Comcast Business research shows 65% of SMB owners are stressed due to the impact of COVID-19 and 68% are losing at least one hour of sleep per night. Despite this, an overwhelming majority (87%) of SMB owners feel more prepared for the future in general.
As small business owners look to the future, their inherent entrepreneurship and ambition, combined with support from technology, will help them to not just bounce back – but bounce forward. The following are a few tips small businesses should keep in mind to be successful as they prepare for the New Year:
- Keep Employees Engaged: With the shift to online business, many interactions that once were held face-to-face have been replaced with virtual interactions. It’s important that small businesses identify ways to establish connection in real-time to keep employees engaged. Cloud-based communication, messaging, and collaboration toolsare 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. The US Chamber of Commerce and the Allegheny Conference have provided several resources for small businesses to navigate the many and ever-evolving regulations that businesses should follow. It’s also important 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 small businesses have had to embrace a more digital business model to safely stay connected to customers. As a result, 79% of SMB owners consider themselves more tech savvy than ever, according to the Comcast Business survey. Even as restrictions continue to evolve, there will likely 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 also determine that 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 keep in mind:
- Easy and quick 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 businesses have continued to reinvent themselves and prove their resiliency. As we look to the future, technology will continue to be critical in helping small businesses bounce forward.