To stay ahead, we can’t go back to the way things were. The steam engine, assembly lines, and the invention of personal computing each revolutionized the way industry operates. Now, we’re approaching a fourth industrial revolution. Rapid, system-wide innovations are bridging diverse fields of industry like never before. The widespread accessibility of technology, both in terms of speed and cost, is revolutionizing the way businesses operate.
Machines won’t replace people in all jobs or industries, but they will open up a huge range of new opportunities. In order to stay ahead in a rapidly changing world, companies need to consider a few key aspects of their operations. First and foremost, especially right now, you should be focusing on your company’s virtual presence, identity and operations.
Even before the spread of COVID-19, many companies were opening up to the possibilities of remote work. For most, however, in-person meetings and business travel seemed like a fundamental necessity. Now, we face the reality of at least 12-18 months before travel is a realistic option again and the new necessity of distancing in office spaces. Surprisingly, though, most companies have proven that remote work is a fully viable option.
It turns out that the Millennials may have been right – when given the option to work where and when they want, employees are still able to get their work done! Both Google and Facebook have begun to transition to a remote workforce, and many businesses are going 100% virtual. So an important question to consider is: does your company need an office space? If not, selling or leasing your building is a quick way to reduce overhead costs and channel funds into innovation.
If you do need a physical office space, the necessary changes for worker safety will likely fundamentally alter the way we work. The “new” office is going to look very different. Gone are the days of fully open office plans. Workers will need space, partitions and social distance. It wouldn’t be surprising if common areas stop being so common. As the environment changes, so will the office culture. The value of the office space and the way it facilitates the exchange of ideas should not be overlooked. It will, however, need to be drastically reimagined.
More than ever before, consumers are turning to online options to meet their shopping needs. This is true of business to business exchanges as well. With in-person demonstrations and sales pitches off the table for the foreseeable future, companies have to attend to their online presence. Having eCommerce available is no longer optional. A website that’s simply your brochure will no longer be sufficient.
No matter your product or your service, you have to find a way to meet and support your customers. A robust online presence and clear brand identity will set you apart from your competitors and keep you connected to your customer base.
Reach out to your existing customers and ask how you’re doing. Which needs are being well met? Are there gaps in services or in their customer experience as a result of the new normal? What suggestions do they have for improvement?
Beyond just transitioning to work-from-home, where appropriate, we’re entering a new era of digital transformation in how businesses operate. Virtual customer relationships are a new necessity, not simply a helpful add-on.
If you haven’t already, focusing on how to transition to and improve on your virtual sales presentations is a key step toward staying ahead of the curve. This can take the form of video demonstrations, virtual tours, guided walk-throughs, and more. Finding ways to showcase your product or service digitally can be as effective if not more effective than face-to-face sales.
Additionally, companies are increasingly exploring the possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline operations – and this isn’t just major corporations! Small to mid-sized business are staying ahead by using the AI tools that are already available. Numerous service providers offer AI options that can facilitate processes – such as customer service chatbots or scheduling assistants. You don’t have to do the development work to take advantage of innovative digital tools that can transform your operations. Regardless of company size, there are certainly ways to introduce or further expand your use of AI. Consider how AI applies to your company and how you can leverage it.
Taking the Lead
With all of these changes to daily living, how we work and new technological expectations of staff and customers, it’s imperative that as a leader, you continue to run your organization with business excellence top of mind. The focus can’t just be on putting out fires. Rather, strategic planning with the fourth industrial revolution in mind will set your company apart from the competition. Make choices today to ensure you keep your company running flawlessly – providing high quality, extreme customer experiences.