For many, it might feel like the end of 2020 can’t come fast enough as they eagerly anticipate the arrival of 2021. Although for others, the (dare we use the word again?) unprecedented nature of this year’s events will naturally create trepidation, particularly for business owners and strategists looking ahead to 2021 forecasts, budgets and plans.
You could argue that most businesses didn’t know the true meaning of flexibility until 2020 came along and tore up everybody’s plans and yet, there have been some admirable success stories of those that came out fighting. So, what can we learn from the year that no one saw coming and how can we use this to strengthen strategies going forward?
One key lesson is the need for businesses to reinforce their preparedness for changes in market conditions and customer behaviours, as discussed in our recent piece on customer experience in the post-COVID-19 world. The Association for Project Management lists the core principles of agile working as customer collaboration, teamwork and open communication, responsiveness to change and continuous improvement. By responding first and foremost to your customers’ needs and expectations and by focusing on incremental improvements within sprint-like delivery windows rather than a single rigid plan, resources and teams are able to adjust faster to changing situations and new opportunities.
Systems and processes that don’t necessarily require substantial effort or investment may significantly increase a business’s ability to change tack during unforeseen or difficult times. For example, by maintaining up-to-date, mobile-first websites; solid contactless payment solutions; strong community links or a fluid approach to decision-making, organisations can increase their ability to pivot quickly and adapt in challenging circumstances.
Of course, this is easier for businesses that have maintained investment in technology and one big learning from 2020 is that slow movers can no longer avoid digital transformation. With so many organisations facing remote or hybrid working models for the foreseeable future, technology is key to ensuring employees can work effectively, securely and remain connected and engaged with the rest of the business, as well as the customer base.
A recent survey by Cisco found that not only did 68% of its respondents agreed that the pandemic had accelerated their adoption of cloud-based technology, over half also indicated that it forced them to recognise and use technology that had been previously available to them, but otherwise ignored. In the move to a new normal of working, communicating and purchasing, the pandemic has brought about dramatic shifts in organisational culture.
It cannot be denied that the coronavirus stopped everyone in their tracks. Shock gave way to a period of reflection during which business owners and leaders, colleagues and consumers alike had a rare opportunity to rethink their priorities and adjust behaviour accordingly.
For individuals, this has been more of a value-led shift, such as deciding to support independent or local brands or to re-assess what they need from where they live and how they spend their spare time. On the other hand, businesses have had a valuable window to review what’s working for them, what isn’t and, hopefully, have taken the time to engage with stakeholders to fill in the gaps and make positive change. Whilst life isn’t likely to resume at the pace we knew before any time soon, assigning time to take stock of your business priorities and objectives is a lesson that organisations of all sectors and sizes can take forward.
Staying true to values
Remote and socially-distanced life for many has led to an influx of emails, news alerts and ping notifications, as brands have clamoured to stay visible. There has been a fine line between expressing empathy sincerely and appearing inauthentic; some messaging has missed the mark, leaving many generic ‘We’re here for you’ emails in the deleted items folder.
Other organisations stayed true to their values and consistent in their employee and customer interactions, communicating with genuine empathy, rather than going into overdrive with excessively emotive ‘COVID-related’ messaging. Yes, awareness and compassion are key components in building trust and loyalty but engagement must be grounded in a true understanding of customer needs and a genuine effort to address those needs. Rather than grand words, individuals might value simple gestures such as financial services providers making courtesy calls to discuss concerns, help individuals transition to new digital systems or provide access to priority helplines for those facing financial uncertainty.
How can we help?
If you need support to pivot your proposition, reach out to new market segments or just keep pace with your existing customers’ needs in 2021, we’d love to talk about how we can help. We offer a wide range of flexible phone-based services, from high-quality customer and market insight, responsive inbound call handling to high-performance demand generation and remote sales. Get in touch to find out more.
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