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What Have We Learned? Business Lessons From COVID-19

Brian Wallace
Brian Wallace

Do the work now so your business will still be around later.

Running your business as smoothly as possible is crucial right now, as more companies seem to go out of business every day. It's time to pause and reflect, and then move forward with as much information as possible. You need to streamline your business while still knowing when it's time to ask for outside help.

In short, there's little room for error if you want your business to come out the other side, and there are a few things you should be doing to keep your business going.

1. Cybersecurity should be top of mind.

Because more people are working from home now, more personal devices are being used for business purposes than ever before. Companies that had work-from-home (WFH) and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies in place before the pandemic had an easy transition, but companies that never expected to allow this kind of flexibility have been thrust into it unprepared.

We've learned since the start of the pandemic that hacking and phishing attempts are way up. This is because hackers know more people are working from home using unsecured devices, but it's also because they understand human psychology enough to know that we aren't thinking very rationally right now.

Hacking activity increased 37% between February and March this year. In 2018, 81% of security incidents were tied to weak or stolen passwords, but a complete lack of security protocols due to the chaos of the pandemic is tied to the current rise.

As companies find their bearings, security protocols for WFH situations should be the first thing they work out. Ignacio De Marco gives these tips for businesses:

  • Consistently update and patch all your systems.
  • Make sure all sensitive data is encrypted.
  • Develop zero-trust networks in which employees only have access to what they need to do their jobs.
  • Develop a BYOD policy, and only extend the privilege to those who are willing and able to follow it.
  • Teach your employees about security practices to reduce human error.

Whether your company continues to allow WFH and BYOD after the pandemic or not, it's important to establish policies for the appropriate protocol, in case they become necessary again and because employees should always be mindful of security concerns.

2. Maintaining customer relationships is crucial right now.

Customer churn costs businesses $136 billion a year in the United States alone, and 34% of that churn is involuntary. It costs far more to secure new customers than it does to keep existing customers – and finding new customers during a pandemic and economic recession isn't what you should be resting your business hopes and dreams on.

There are many steps in reducing customer churn. Reducing involuntary customer churn may be as simple as figuring out why payments fail and trying to fix that. Most customers don't know their payment hasn't gone through until they have a lapse in service, so trying to recoup failed payments and reconnect with willing customers is the first step here.

When it comes to decreasing customer churn from dissatisfied customers, Ari Rabban has some tips:

  • Empower customer service representatives to ditch the script and engage meaningfully with customers.
  • Give customer service reps autonomy to make decisions.
  • Train employees to really know and understand the products they are selling.
  • Ask dissatisfied customers for feedback when they do leave so you know what to fix.

Preventing customers from leaving is crucial in the economic climate the pandemic has caused. Businesses need to keep their customer pipelines strong if they are going to make it out of this intact.

3. Your website and marketing should always be up to snuff.

Your business website is your lifeline right now. Customers are checking for changes in hours and procedures – even to see whether your business is still open or has gone under – long before they get into their cars and head your way (or order from you online). Websites are the new real estate now that there's little to no foot traffic to sustain businesses. It's more important than ever to make sure that your website loads, the information is accurate and up to date, and you have email marketing protocol to apprise customers of changes.

Best practices dictate that your website should load in three seconds or less; nine seconds more than that has been shown to cause a bounce rate of 123%. Your hosting provider is the foundation of your website, so if you aren't using the right hosting provider, it could be adversely affecting your loading speed.

You also need to keep your website up to date, complete with any changes in your hours or procedures. Having a way to disseminate that information to your customer base is equally crucial. This is where choosing an email marketing service comes into play.

Constant Contact and Mailchimp are pretty standard, but you have a lot of other options here. An email newsletter is a great way to let your customers know about not only changes in hours and procedures, but also your specials or events, which can be lifelines to struggling businesses right now. For every dollar spent on email marketing, the return is $45, which is an ROI of 4,400%. [If you don't yet have an email marketing platform or might want to switch, browse our picks for the best email marketing services.]

4. Sometimes, your website just needs a redesign.

If you've done the work and realize it's time for a website redesign, Andrei Klubnikin has some tips:

  • Look at your metrics to determine which content works best. Take that as a clue to what your customers want, and plan thoughtfully around that.
  • Study all feedback you've gotten about your brand and website, and rebrand accordingly.
  • Set goals, such as speeding up your load times, and then measure your progress as you work to improve.
  • Look at your competitors' sites for things you like and things they do better.

Especially if your entire business is online, it's paramount for your website to function properly, as that is your digital (and only) real estate. You can't afford poor load times or unhappy customers, especially right now when everyone is sitting at home, ordering things online.

James Warner notes some important points about business websites:

  • It takes 0.05 seconds for a customer to decide, based on their experience with your website, whether they will buy from you.
  • The amount of time a customer spends on your website is an important metric in determining whether your website is consumer-friendly.
  • Telling your company's story in depth adds authenticity, which is important when customers are deciding whether to shop at your business.
  • An optimized website is easier for customers to find and use.

Make sure your business is still here after the recession.

There is a lot of information out there for businesses that are struggling because of the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn. Not all of it is applicable to all businesses, but there are plenty of things you can do right now to ensure your business is still around when the pandemic passes.

Now is the time to do any redesigns or rebranding you need, and to remember and refocus on your business's core strengths. If you do the work now, your company will emerge from the chaos leaner and stronger than before, putting you in a good position to survive the next economic downturn or to thrive through the economic recovery (hopefully both).

Dig deep, get back to basics, and fix all the things you have been putting off. Your company's survival may depend on these steps for months or even years to come.

Image Credit: boggy22 / Getty Images
Brian Wallace
Brian Wallace,
business.com Writer
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Brian Wallace is the President of NowSourcing, one of the world's top infographic design agencies based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH. Brian also runs a local event to make the Louisville / Cincinnati corridor a more competitive region (#thinkbig) and has been named a 2017 Google Small Business Advisor.