We will not forget the year 2020 in a hurry. While the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the year in every way, ravaging the world and shaking our social fabric to the core, there were at least a few positives:
- It compelled humanity to be at its inventive best, adjusting to an unprecedented scenario
- Technology solutions were found for problems that had never been encountered before
- It led to the emergence of new technologies and processes, and novel ways of working
- It was a great phase for learning not just for humanity as a whole, but for businesses as well
Businesses had to literally transform overnight, equipping their teams to work remotely, setting up the required technology and embracing new ways of operating. Some have called it the year of the cloud, with cloud telephony helping to counter debilitating effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are 10 lessons that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us which businesses can apply in the future:
1. Remote work is here to stay
Many hoped that after the pandemic blew over, we would all go back to the way things were. This is, however, increasingly seeming unlikely. Not only is the pandemic taking longer than expected to abate, but businesses have also discovered that remote work makes sense, including financially. Employees too are happy to have seen the back of endless urban commutes and are reluctant to return to offices.
Meanwhile, cloud technology has made remote work a realistic possibility in the long run and not just a temporary reaction to a crisis. Working from home allows employees to work flexibly, on their own terms, besides keeping them safe. Some issues did crop up, like cybersecurity, keeping both customers and remote workers happy, and ensuring teams worked in sync, but solutions were eventually found. So don’t forget to leverage the power of cloud technology to make remote work a success.
2. The future is digital
There was once a time when digitisation was just another option for companies, for those who could not reach their target audience otherwise would go on to social media and market themselves and try to drive organic traffic to their sites. The COVID-19 pandemic changed it all. Everyone had to get on to the digital bandwagon for survival. Now, digitalisation is one of the most important mediums to communicate with customers.
Thankfully, cloud service providers like Servetel were at hand to ease the process with a variety of solutions like IVR, cloud call centre, virtual phone number, click-to-call, business automation, bulk SMS, etc. Using these tools, you never lose a lead or a customer. Omnichannel communication with your customer base is the future and digitisation enables you with just that.
3. Be crisis ready
The COVID-19 pandemic caught the world off-guard. Never had the world seen a devastating medical emergency of this scale. It crippled all human activity and brought the world economy to a standstill. The USP of cloud technology has always been its ability to ensure business continuity during a disruption. The way the pandemic shut down offices overnight made us all realise how important it is to create centralised access to information that is at the core of their functioning. When the next crisis comes along, be prepared. Instead of trying to figure out last-minute solutions, have the system in place before the crisis strikes.
4. Keep your team connected
The importance of easy communication between team members has never been more important than during the pandemic. Lockdowns, social distancing protocols and travel restrictions have all led to disruptions in the communication cycle. Cloud technology and hosted solutions help tie scattered teams together. Even in the near future, it looks likely that teams will continue to operate in a dispersed fashion, even if some kind of hybrid work model emerges where workers are alternating between working from home and reimagined offices with social distancing norms and deep sanitisation measures in place.
5. Data security is paramount
The COVID-19 pandemic came upon us all of a sudden. Companies didn’t really have time to figure everything out including security compliance before switching to remote work. IT companies, of course, had to revise their contracts with their clients because they required them to operate out of a specific location. Financial institutions had to take special care of data security. In future, it’s best to be prepared by considering your entire IT infrastructure. Keep the system crisis ready, with periodic security audits and patches, and you’re good to go.
6. There is high demand for customer service
The pandemic led to a surge in demand for service by live agents. Since the situation was new and evolving constantly, the response could not be automated and handed over to bots. Customers were looking for empathy and understanding, not just a cold solution to their problem. User experience became more important than mere performance and delivery.
Well-trained and experienced service agents are the need of the hour and a leading cloud telephony provider like Servetel can easily fulfil the same. For certain demographic of older age, picking up the phone and making a call is still the natural thing to do rather than navigate an app or website. An intuitive IVR can help them navigate to the right call agent. Good cloud technology platforms also enable companies to analyse and improve agent performance.
7. Always be available for your customers
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of us were assailed by a feeling of helplessness and isolation. At the time it was reassuring to know that a company had their back and service was just a phone call away. Going forward, this expectation has become imbibed in our psyches. Customers now expect companies to be available to them anywhere, anytime.
Cloud telephony makes this possible, by letting call agents access calls from their laptops, from home, a call centre or anywhere they may be. All they need is a stable WiFi connection. With cloud technology, you can also centralise customer information. This enables call agents to serve the customers better. After all, everyone wants a happy customer at the end of the day.
8. Staff well-being is important
Your remote working staff needs to be supported. One thing, of course, is to reassure them. The other is to provide them with unstinting tech support so there is one less thing for them to worry about, with all the stress of working remotely and a pandemic raging over their heads. You should also consider expanding the size of your tech service team so that remote staff always have access to support.
Cloud technology will come in handy to ensure they have uninterrupted access to this support. Depending on the requirement, other employees can be retrained and incorporated into the support team, if their regular role is no longer relevant.
9. Think out of the box
COVID-19 taught us that sometimes it’s good to ditch conventional work structures and systems to become flexible, especially when the working environment is suddenly so fluid. It is also important to allow information to flow easily between different departments in your company instead of following the usual chain of command. In a pandemic-like situation, this may be the best thing to do. Traditional hierarchies have an important role to play but in a crisis, they cease to be useful and can, in fact, hinder productivity. Of course, the data that is moving around your networks needs to be secured and authenticated.
10. Cloud technology can be key to your survival strategy
We cannot emphasise this point enough. For multi-location businesses, having workers on the move, cloud telephony is a boon. Cloud technology is also highly scalable and does not require any investment in physical infrastructure. It does not even incur maintenance costs, since the cloud technology company takes care of it. As stated in Forbes, the cloud enables us to do many things we would not be able to do otherwise. The COVID-19 pandemic brought that home to us in a very big way.
According to an International Finance Corporation study, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the rapid adoption of disruptive technology in emerging markets, although the scale has varied across specific markets. The report defined disruptive technologies as “emerging technologies that result in a step-change in the cost or access to products or services or that dramatically change how we gather information, make products, or interact.”
Some examples of such technologies cited in the report include “artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, robotics, 3D printing, genomics, and distributed power systems.” Some of the technologies that saw widespread adoption include “online health care; blockchain-based epidemic monitoring platforms; robots that deliver food and medications and that screen people’s temperatures; online education platforms and home-based working solutions; and robotics and 3D-printing technologies to manage social distancing in manufacturing plants.”
Governments too were not far behind, employing “digital platforms, big data analytics, and AI to provide social welfare programmes.”
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered massive demand for smart and cheap cloud-based communication solutions.
Guest article written by: Meenakshi Gupta is a tech enthusiast with specialisation in digital marketing. She is currently working at Servetel, a leading cloud telephony provider in India. Reading novels, travelling, researching new online marketing trends are some of her interest areas that keeps her rejuvenated.