Here at Red 5 Interactive, we have a passion for digital. We spend most of our time focused on bringing value to clients by helping them develop digital strategies and then executing those strategies. It has never been more clear than in this COVID-19 crisis we are all facing how truly valuable a strong digital strategy is. Employees working from home, social distancing and lockdowns preventing direct customer interactions are just some of the challenges facing businesses during this pandemic. Some companies are weathering this crisis better than others and certainly, one of the reasons is they invested wisely in digital channels to facilitate business continuation. In this article, we’ll cover a more high-level overview of some of the advantages healthy digital channels can provide businesses in times like these.
One of the biggest impacts this pandemic has had is the massive population of employees being forced from their offices and working from home. For those businesses uninitiated to this practice having to immediately deal with staff working from their homes is daunting. Sure, most if not all companies utilize email and there are those who might think this would be enough. Unfortunately, to truly be productive employees need broader lines of communication and workflow solutions when working remotely.
One thing often overlooked is a phone system in your office that can handle ‘following’ a remote worker. Older phone systems often lack seamless ways to forward calls to employee offices directly to their cell phone - and some that do lack privacy options that hide the employee cell number which they might want to keep to themselves. Virtual phone systems like Grasshopper offer extremely easy and effective solutions for this. Transitioning for a smaller or mid-sized business to a virtual phone system can be done in a matter of a few days. So, even if your firm is challenged by this you can still quickly get a solution in place.
Email can be a great tool, but it lacks in several areas - inboxes are cluttered, it’s not real-time, it isn’t secure, and it really is pretty lousy as a file management system. This is where team collaboration tools come in extremely handy. At Red 5 we have used products like Basecamp and for the last few years, we’ve been using Teamwork. We’ve seen quite a few clients adopting Microsoft Teams and Slack as well. Each platform has its own pluses and minuses so you’ll need to weigh the features against your business priorities. At their core, they’re all collaboration platforms that keep project information, files (often integrating with cloud storage you may already be using like Google Drive, etc.), timelines, messaging, etc. all in one place for easy reference. Some of these platforms include instant messaging and even video conferencing options. While this is great for internal communications with your team, they often don’t work well with outside clients.
For messaging and video communications, there are so many options it’s impossible to suggest or review any here. That said, it’s worth pointing out that the best of these platforms can offer you the ability to be a speaker and have lots of viewers (and a chat tool for participation), have a team collaboration mode where each camera can be seen, offer screen sharing capabilities, and offer things like phone line integration for doing audio via phone in the case someone’s computer isn’t set up for two-way communication.
Networking and security are also paramount in all of this. Most cloud-based solutions are pretty safe these days but it’s worth doing your homework and checking out their record before you pull the trigger on any contracts. But it’s also a good time to do a health check on your overall security protocols. Make sure you’re not using shared passwords, make sure employees are using secure passwords, make use of VPN, and overall just be sure sensitive information for your company isn’t exposed from a weak spot while everyone works remotely.
Some of the above rings true for how you can keep lines of communication open with customers. In this non-contact pandemic, we’re in, it's more important now than ever to have digital lines of communication open for your clients to reach you and vice versa.
Email, again, is great but suffers the continual problem of overloaded inboxes and lack of real-time communication. Having SMS, instant messaging, video conferencing, and a phone system that can follow you and your employees so you can be easily reached is hugely important right now.
Having an active social media ecosystem for your company is a huge advantage right now as well. If you’ve built an audience it’s a great way to stay in touch with them and convey important messages about your operations. It’s also a great way to continue to offer a channel for service to your customers.
Finally, those companies who invested in quick and easy ways for customers to place orders online are very happy they did so given our current environment. If you’re a restaurant you could be making it easy for your customers to place to-go orders and pick them up at the door - including paying for it in advance to further protect everyone. If you’re a small or medium-sized business you could take orders online and be fulfilling them while your retail brick and mortar are not operating.
The Bottom Line - TL;DR
This pandemic has made it crystal clear that being a digitally fit company is extremely important. Having seamless communications channels open for employees, vendors, and customers is a must-have now, and that may not have been so evident as it is at this moment. While many companies have already adapted remote workers and have protocols in place, there are so many who this is entirely new to. If Red 5 can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out.