In the last few months, the world has changed beyond recognition. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) right across the globe have felt the economic impacts of the worst pandemic in a century.
A myriad of sudden shifts – in government regulations, consumer behaviour, financial support options, and more – have forced companies to rethink their processes and market offerings. And one crucial way they have been doing this is by leveraging virtual business tools.
In this post, we’re going to look at five essential apps that you can use to adapt to a tumultuous and challenging business landscape.
1. Automated customer support
As more and more people have moved online since the beginning of the pandemic, the demand for customer service has also increased. This shift in behaviour has been driven by a number of factors, including government lockdowns, forced shop closures, fears around health and safety, and a proliferation of online offers.
Offering dedicated customer service is beyond the scope of most SMBs. They don’t have access to call centre teams and often can’t afford expensive outsourcing packages. One feasible solution, however, is automated customer support software. Automation solutions interact with customers via live chat, social media, and email, directing them to the appropriate online documentation and forwarding important issues to customer representatives.
2. Social listening and brand tracking
Most SMBs were unfamiliar with the terms “social listening” and “brand tracking” until only a few years ago. The core idea is that companies can track brand mentions on social media and other parts of the internet, like review aggregators, news sites, SEO results, and so on, with a view to understanding the needs and dislikes of their customers.
Brand listening can give you valuable insights into your market. What’s more, the best social listening solutions automate the entire monitoring and analysis process. You simply need to login, configure your preferences, and download the relevant report.
Small business owners worried that tracking service software will be prohibitively costly should keep in mind that there are many inexpensive solutions available. What’s more, upcoming Black Friday offers provide a chance to purchase app subscriptions at a significant discount.
3. Project management
A lot of smaller organizations make a big mistake when it comes to project management software. Instead of opting for a solution designed specifically for the needs of small and medium-sized businesses, they’ll purchase a subscription to an enterprise-level app that requires long periods of staff training and extensive configuration. In the vast majority of cases, most of the features on these advanced platforms will go unused.
Project management software is essential if you’re going to manage your team smoothly during COVID. By choosing a platform and package built for SMBs, you can take advantage of streamlined, easy-to-use workflows, dedicated customer support, and integrations with other small business apps.
4. (Premium) video conferencing
Video conferencing software has proved indispensable through the pandemic. Popular platforms like Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and others have enabled companies to stay in touch with clients and remote teams to maintain regular face-to-face contact. It is likely that companies will continue to rely on these apps, with remote working practices expected to continue well into the future.
If you haven’t already, consider upgrading to a premium plan. By doing so, you’ll have access to several time-saving features such as unrestricted group meetings, recording functionality (so that staff members can replay parts of a meeting), and premium customer support.
5. Automation and app integration
“Automation” is a big word. It is commonly viewed as the exclusive domain of large companies with huge sums of money to spend on complex tech infrastructure. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
A whole host of tools focused on helping SMBs integrate and automate their software-related processes have entered the market in the past few years. Zapier is the market leader in the space, but there are also others.
These platforms are easy to use and streamline what would otherwise be a very technical and complex task. They enable the near-instant flow of information between different apps, completely removing the need for time-consuming manual data entry. Building a fully integrated “tech stack”, which will cover areas like accounting, project management, customer relationship management, document storage, and more, can save hours of employee time every single week.
Often, individual solutions will provide native integrations. Third-party dedicated tools fill the gaps where “plug and play” functionality isn’t offered.
If you’re worried about the future of your business, you’re not alone. Organizations of all shapes and sizes, from mom-and-pop independent stores to multinational enterprises, have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. And there is a large amount of uncertainty about the future of the economy and global markets.
It is likely, however, that the businesses that weather the storm will all rely on one vital trait: a willingness to adapt. And modern software solutions provide an inexpensive, efficient way of changing to the shifting corporate and consumer landscape.
Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the apps outlined above and consider how they might fit into your organisation. When the world returns to a semblance of normality, you’ll be glad that you did.