A second wave of the coronavirus is here. And you need a clear, well-defined plan to prepare for a second business lockdown. The 5 steps in this article will ensure that your business has the communications it needs not only to survive, but to thrive in the coming months and beyond.
Many experts believe a second wave of the coronavirus may be longer than the first. Stats support this idea. Certain countries, such as Britain, France and Spain, were hit early and hard. When the numbers went down to less than 100 per day in June and July, we all breathed a sigh of relief. But then the cases spiked again.
As of early October, Spain, for example, is back up to over 10,000 new daily cases. If the rest of the world follows this pattern, many countries, including the US, Brazil and Russia, may not have seen the worst of it yet. In all likelihood, we’re soon going to see new restrictions again that go beyond hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. If not in the short term, at least in the medium term.
During the first lockdown, many companies barely got by. This was true of small businesses and large enterprises alike. Whether it was the disruption to the supply chain, or the sudden change to remote work, business leaders were caught off guard. It disrupted how businesses work, and limited cash flow. Many business models didn’t hold up. Economic downturn became inevitable.
The question is, how to prepare your business for a second – and potentially longer – lockdown. An in depth look points to one key item:
Communication during a business lockdown means more than scrambling to patch up holes as you find them. It means building a comprehensive solution that addresses the unique challenges of a lockdown, both for your clients and for your team. People need to be in touch. They need to talk to each other, share thoughts and see each other. It’s important to see facial expressions, read body language and build personal connections, even when you’re connecting online. There are business ramifications to this.
You can’t afford to get it wrong. But getting it right means your business will thrive during a second wave of the coronavirus, and well into the future.
Here are 5 steps your business needs to follow to prepare for the second lockdown.
1. Invest in communications
The truth is that if clients can get in touch easily, they will continue to do business. If your team can communicate effectively, they will continue to be productive. But before we discuss the details of these, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. Just providing different ways to get in touch is not enough.
To achieve business continuity, communications need to be professional, reliable and cost effective. Your system should offer the following:
- Integration: The channels of communication mentioned below should all be part of a single business phone system. During a call, team members should be able to switch to a video call and share screens with a few clicks. The experience for clients should be seamless.
- Quality & Security: If staff are using random apps, there’s no guarantee of quality or security. An integrated communication system can offer both.
- Scalability: As your business grows, the need for effective communications will also grow – even after the coronavirus outbreak. Your communication suite needs to grow with you, easily and affordably.
3CX brings all of these items together. Unified communications maintains your professional image, boosts quality and ensures security. It also means you are providing all the tools your team needs. So they’re not spending time finding free online tools, just to get through a second lockdown.
More importantly, it benefits clients. They’ll always know how to get in touch, and always get an answer. As a result, it keeps your business on the right trajectory. You’ll maintain productivity and professionalism – without a huge cost impact to your business.
2. Establish multi-channel communication for clients
What methods of contact do your clients prefer? Do they phone in? Visit your website? Your clients may already be in a local lockdown and have to adapt accordingly. Besides reliable phone availability, you should likely have the following options:
- Live Chat: Live chat gives customers an easy way to contact you from your website. With 3CX, they can easily elevate to a phone call or video chat.
- Business Text Messaging: SMS is quick and convenient. Many clients will prefer to send texts, and you need to be able to answer from anywhere, using your company’s phone number.
- Facebook Messenger: New clients especially will be finding your Facebook page and getting in touch there. You need online presence on the right social media platforms. But you also need engagement. Be sure to have a plan and the tools to answer in good time.
These should be integrated into your communication system. Integration will allow you to keep on top of your messages and answer clients on time. Without signing into different apps each time.
3CX brings these all together into the live chat feature. So any designated team member will see the messages as soon as they come in, and can reply on time.
3. Provide easy communication & collaboration for your team
Best practices suggest that staff should have a variety of communication tools for remote work, both to communicate with each other, and with clients. Here are some channels of communication you’ll want to have on hand:
- Web phones: A full-featured web phone is essential. This will allow remote employees to answer calls from clients, transfer them to colleagues and make outgoing calls. They will also be able to call other extensions and check their voicemail. It will keep all client contact information together in one place.
- Mobile Apps for Remote Work: Even when they are away from their computer, remote team members should be able to answer their office extension from their mobile devices. Not to mention video conferencing, texting and other business phone features.
- Video Calls and Conferencing: This allows staff to have virtual meetings with clients, or make a quick face-to-face call with a colleague. You may need to replace onsite training with online classes.
It seems likely we’ll be seeing full business lockdown measures in the medium term if not sooner. But even before that, your team will need to follow social distancing measures. A good communications system can help. Again, all of this should be built into your phone system, and available on a web browser.
4. Manage communications effectively
First, you want to provide the right forms of communication. Then, you will need to ensure they are working as needed. While some business processes will change, you can still ensure they’re achieving your goals. There are two main aspects aspects to this:
- Reports: Do you have access to the data showing the effectiveness of your communications? You should be able to get good overviews of extension activity, call lengths and SLA compliance, to name a few.
- Supervision: Your communications tools should enable managers to have remote daily status meetings, make one-on-one calls or send a quick note to a team member.
- Training: Training new call center agents during a business lockdown can be challenging. With 3CX’s call center features managers can whisper, barge in and take over agent conversations or chats. This will allow you to help new team members and ensure customer service is at its best.
5. Keep costs low – without cutting corners
Having a super-powered communications suite that your team can use from home sounds great. But as all business owners know, the cost can have a significant impact.
Here’s a surprise. You can actually save money while better preparing for the second wave of COVID 19. Here are the features you’ll want to look for:
- Annual flat rates: Monthly rates often look attractive on paper. But over the course of the year, the bill gets high pretty quickly. Even more so when your business grows. Annual flat rates can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
- Simultaneous call pricing: Paying by simultaneous call rather than per user provides significant savings. For example, if you need 50 extensions for your small business, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever use more than 5 lines at once, this pricing structure is far more appealing. You only pay for the usage you actually need.
- Straight forward choices: Some pricing structures are intentionally complex. The price looks good to begin with, but quickly increases as you choose all the add-ons you need. Simple editions to choose from with no extra fees will provide substantial savings when you compare the final numbers.
- Choice of SIP trunk: Choosing the SIP trunk that best suits your needs will save on long distance and international calls. It will also allow you to set up multiple local numbers at minimal costs. An open PBX system will give you the flexibility to choose.
Again, the best part is you’re not cutting corners or choosing between the features you need. On the contrary, you’re better equipping your business to deal with COVID.
Doing it right: what you have to win
The COVID-19 crisis is certainly a difficult time. But there are some wins in it for your business. The biggest one is that your clients will see your commitment to them.
Another is that a remote workforce actually has real, measurable benefits. Experts have identified the following benefits of having team members work from home:
- Cost savings: Analysts have estimated that employers save $22,000 per remote worker per year.
- Higher productivity: 65% of remote employees reported higher productivity at a remote job. About the same number of managers agree.
- Better for the environment: Reduced commuting & emissions.
- Better staff health and wellness: 55% of workers feel that not commuting reduces stress. 69% of full-time remote workers call in sick less often.
- Engaged employees: Remote working and the flexibility to work from home gives many employees a renewed passion for their job. It helps them take ownership and be more committed.
The length of a second lockdown period is not something you can control. But you can control the impact it has on your company.
COVID 19: Are You Prepared for the Second Wave?
The above considerations are growing in importance every day. Preparing for another business lockdown is becoming a reality. This may mean letting employees work from home during the second wave. Or it could mean a transition to a distributed team in different countries. In either case, you’ll do better to make it an opportunity rather than an obstacle.
by Jacob Wall, Technical Content Writer, October 8, 2020.