Who knew that 2020 would the year that business changed forever? Across virtually every industry, there's been a seismic shift in how we work, when we work, and how we actually communicate to get the work done.

Truth is, we may not have been communicating all that well when left to our usual devices in the office. Now is the time to consider what's worked in both the past and the present—and then use these insights to better inform the future. Whatever challenges lie ahead, it's clear that remote work, hybrid workforces and virtual contact centers will be taking center stage.

We recently published a guide to help business owners prepare for the Now of Work. Here are a few key takeaways to start you thinking about what comes next.

For Best Results, Invest in the Right Tech

As Barry Moltz, motivational speaker, consultant, and author of Getting Small Business Unstuck explains, "Be prepared to invest in business tools and processes that can build a profitable business and an engaged company culture online. This should include business cloud applications that are available everywhere and a focus on effective online communication tools."

We're fortunate to be living in an age where colleagues and customers alike are just a few clicks away, whether it's on a face-to-face video call, via voice, or asynchronously in chat or SMS.

Taking full advantage of these technologies will help foster communication and collaboration for hybrid and remote workers. "Companies need to focus on chat rooms and videoconferencing applications for internal team members," says Moltz. "Leaders also must be able to check in with staff members using these tools daily since they will not "see them" in an office environment naturally."

Flexibility and adaptability are the watchwords for managing a remote or hybrid workforce. It's important for workers to have many methods of communicating and working together so they feel connected with each other and clear in their purpose.

Develop a Culture of Communication & Collaboration

As Bill Gates once pointed out, "Like a human being, a company has to have an internal communication mechanism, a "nervous system," to coordinate its actions." Communication has always been essential and should be at the centerpiece of your company's culture—whether a company works in a single office, offices across the globe, or an entire network of remote staff.

We have the technology to stay connected during these socially distant times—but how we use the technology matters. As CEO and Co-founder of CareerGig, Greg Kihlström, cautions, "Technology works best when we allow it to help us do things in new and efficient ways, not simply recreate the way things are done in real life."

One major example of this point is the tendency to replace every in-person meeting with a video call. Videoconferencing is a powerful tool, but these check-ins are still best used sparingly. As important as it is to replicate face-to-face time, even over screens if not in person, we also need to reserve space in the day to get work done.

In fact, "a lot of the fatigue that people are feeling is because the most natural reaction to a loss of face-to-face meetings in the office was to try to recreate them over video chat," says Kihlström. He adds that, "while videoconferencing can be effective in moderation, what companies should embrace is to utilize technology to make things even quicker and easier."

When someone needs to check in with a colleague to ask a quick question or simply be brought up to speed about a project—they can turn to plenty of other available channels. Email, phone calls, and chat messaging all work well.

Technically, these may be asynchronous, or not done in precise real time, but the comms will still be near-immediate.

Use Chat to Keep Up with Colleagues & Clients

Working from home can mean less face-to-face time with colleagues, and it can complicate relationships with customers as well. As industry analyst and Founder of CXOTalk Michael Krigsman explains, the traditional meet and greet "is foundational to sales, customer service, and ongoing relationships. If your business relies on in-person meetings, then you must change and adapt at once."

Businesses can best adapt by giving customers their choice of videoconferencing, phone calls, or chat communication options. Chat is a seamless way to interact with customers and colleagues alike. It is a perfect solution for a quick, real-time communication need—and even allows for the sharing of multimedia files like audio and video.

It's crucial that your business offer a simple and efficient method to interact. Per Krigsman, "customer experience means relationship building. Communicate clearly, always be empathetic, and let customers know you care deeply about them. Those attributes are universally respected, and your customers will respond in kind."

Asynchronous communication can also be automated for more efficiency, but it's important to keep the customer experience in mind. Author Marsha Collier says, "When deciding on technologies like a chatbot, be sure you have integrated an AI that addresses common problems your customers face so they don't get frustrated while responding. Then, use intelligent routing so that when the call is routed it is sent to the agent that best fits the query. Keep in mind that customers are more emotional these days and may become frustrated by small issues. Be where they are!"

The Future of Work is Now

Whether your staff is remote, in-office or a hybrid of the two, the coming year is sure to bring unique challenges. It's important to invest in technologies that help your team work together smoothly and seamlessly, enabling them to provide an excellent customer experience as well. But don't stop there: a culture of collaboration, support, and communication is essential to make the most of the technology.


For more expert advice, read our latest guide, The Now of Work >

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