Many people see 2021 as holding a great deal of potential, with hopes that ‘normality’ resumes and society can begin to heal from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. While there’s no way of predicting where life — both personal and professional — shall take us all now, one thing is certain: now is the time for businesses to spring back into action, assess their industries and look afresh at their priorities, processes and problems.
Companies should use the emergence of the ‘new normal’ to ensure they are properly taking opportunities to engage customers, to listen to them and to focus their business around their customers in a way that’s beneficial for both parties. The COVID-19 crisis has already resulted in business casualties across all industries, and competition between those left is only increasing. Now, all companies must look to do better and really meet (and even exceed!) their customer’s expectations and desires.
With that all said, engagement and increased interactions with customers need not require vast business pivots nor heavy financial investment. If your company isn’t already on this path, consider adopting use of the following online business tools — often available free of charge — and see how productivity and focus increase as a result.
Many online tools come with a free option or free trial but may require paid-for upgrades for extra capacity or longevity. A quick Google search should help identify the different options most relevant to your business, and the most popular tools used by your competitors.
Social Media Monitoring Software
There are lots of online software tools available that allow social media managers to oversee all activity across channels on one dashboard. This helps ensure no customer comms are missed and that the overall ‘buzz’ can be monitored. Using such tools saves on time and in some cases allows for mass scheduling of content to collate everything and tailor as necessary for different audiences. There’s lots available for free, but larger enterprises that require multiple staff logons may need to upgrade to a paid plan.
Graphic and Video Design Tools
Beautiful graphics for content creation used to be the domain of only specialist graphic designers but now there’s numerous options online for amateurs to use. Drop-and-drag tools are increasingly popular and many allow for changes of images, colours and fonts so that everything is instantly recognisable as ‘your’ brand.
Project Management Dashboards
With more remote working happening now than ever, it’s easy to lose track of who’s doing what and how far they’re progressing. Project management dashboards sit online and are accessible by anyone with a URL, allowing writers to work on live documents, all the while tracking any amends or progress made. These can be managed simply as live documents on a shared folder or on a specific tracking dashboard.
Phone Locking Apps
A tool more for individuals than something corporately-endorsed, there are now several personal productivity apps specifically for smartphones. Although almost all devices now have locking systems of some kind, there are numerous apps that work to lock a phone for a set amount of time — some including the incentive of planting trees or making charity donations if the phone isn’t touched for that period. This can boost productivity in procrastinating staff members hugely by removing the temptation to scroll social media and other apps mindlessly. All can be unlocked in the case of emergencies, so there are no safety concerns.
A productivity timer is an online tool that runs as a stopwatch for workers to turn on and off as they choose. This allows for the monitoring of productivity through elapsed time, with many productivity timers [also having the option to allocate out time](https://blog.rescuetime.com/work-and-productivity-online-timers/) between projects so that priorities may be monitored. These timers work well for staff who otherwise struggle to hold concentration and can be used in conjunction with techniques such as The Pomodoro Method which sees workers focus for 25-mins, take a 5-min break, and then repeat.
It’s been a rough 12 months, and what people are seeking now perhaps more than ever is human connection. Keeping customer communications relatable, staff visible and channels of communications open and honest help build trust in a way that consumers will respect. The human touch can be easily injected into any business that’s not entirely run by computers — and as long as your customers are human, the pay-off will be worth it. It is always worth business leaders considering how they can demonstrate their real, authentic human side to customers, suppliers, staff and stakeholders — and being yourself is always free.
As we all find new ways of working following the disruption caused by the pandemic, what has become apparent is that technology really can be relied on to do a lot of the heavy lifting. Where online meetings may have only been familiar to a few, they are now ubiquitous throughout all office-based businesses. Who’s to say what other technological aids are already out there under our noses. One lesson the pandemic has taught us is that it really can be worth getting to grips with new technology and processes because they do have the potential to make life far easier — and businesses more profitable — in the long term.