The Corona Virus pandemic has changed the way we do business.
And while we can debate how and when things will return to "normal," it would be naive to think that the business environment post-COVI-19 pandemic will be like the one before it.
How will it change?
Dramatically. And Forever.
Here's why. Online meetings, chat, and collaboration technologies have been around for a long time. But their adoption outside of the tech sector has been relatively slow until now. The Safe at Home requirement enforced in most states forced us to change the way we do everything. In the process, we are all learning new, remote working skills. These skills will permanently change the way we shop and work. Indeed, the broadband revolution, previously driven mostly by entertainment demand, in the post-COVID-19 world, is forcing the adoption of work-from-home technologies.
Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, most white-collar workers -- from lawyers to reporters to accountants to salespeople to human resources professionals -- have had to learn how to use these technologies from home or stop working. And adopt they have. Dining room tables and spare bedrooms across the country have turned into impromptu offices. This trend will continue. Look for more and more remote work as employers and employees alike become more comfortable with these technologies. The costs of maintaining large offices become increasingly dangerous (and economically redundant.)
Call centers provide another example. Companies with call centers, especially those in high-cost metropolitan areas with good residential bandwidth, began leveraging Virtual Private Network (VPN) technologies nearly a decade ago. Pioneering employers developed the capability to manage telephone queues, route calls, monitor performance, and deliver all the technology available in the call center to employees working remotely. Implementation amounted to creating a platform to transfer the telephony, call routing, management oversight, and any call center desktop software into something that can work over a VPN, then training workers to use that technology from home in a "virtual call center" solution. This capability saved thousands of dollars in office costs for employers and provided great flexibility in disasters. It also made employees happy because they no longer had to commute to work! In places like Atlanta, New York, or Los Angeles, these initiatives were a home run. Now, this technology also makes those same employees safe from the virus and, increasingly, assures their employers' economic viability.
Grocers and other high volume retailers have grudgingly moved into online shopping services. For many, this was mostly a defensive measure in response to Amazon's competitive incursions, but in the post-COVID-19 competitive environment, this adjunct service is becoming essential. Look for customers to increasingly avail themselves of delivery services and drive further change in the retail sector. Look for workers to organize and gain power as they become increasingly important. And look for their employers to automate those jobs away in response.
In the manufacturing realm, in March 2020, Reuters reported, "A shortage of workers and restrictions on human contact because of the coronavirus pandemic is driving up demand for service robots in China." So it will go around the globe. Robots can't get sick, and their relatively high fixed cost becomes increasingly attractive as workers become scarce.
Small businesses are adapting too. A few examples:
You get the gist.
The bottom line? As you ponder your business and its economic future from home over the next few weeks (or months), business leaders think hard about how your company works, sells, and delivers services to people who aren't allowed to leave their homes. The time to improvise, invest, and the test is now.
How can you meet customer needs in this strange new world? The answer is your opportunity. It may even be the key to your business's economic survival.