The office will remain closed to visitors for the time being, all our staff are working from home and can be contacted in the usual way.

Go with the flow – focusing on adaptable planning for 2021

Tue 5th Jan 21

2020 was a year that started with great promise and very quickly turned into a very real test for business continuity everywhere. While we’re not altogether sure what 2021 will bring in terms of business prospects, we’ve gained new skills and foresight that will mean that we can build plans with more room for manoeuvre, and we know what we might need to move ahead in business.

With that in mind, our Executive Chair, Tim Ryan, has been reviewing what we might add into our arsenal to allow us to better ‘go with the flow’. Of course, every business is different and you’ll know far better than anyone what changes might lie ahead for your products and/or services but, with people – both internal and external – at the core of most businesses, there are some fundamentals that we can review together…

Customer service

While there may be times, during lockdowns or other enforced distancing, when you can’t operate a normal service, communication is key to making sure customers keep your business top of mind. Here are five things to review and ramp up for the year ahead:

Social media – you might already be getting this spot on, and we all understand that finding the right things to say in times of crisis isn’t easy, but keeping the channels open with regular useful advice can make a big difference to perceptions of your brand. Review the channels you’re using. For professional services, LinkedIn is a core social media channel, while for retail, Facebook and Instagram provide more visual platforms. Use Twitter to supplement with quickfire facts, signposting to your website for more detail.

For 2021, as well as ensuring your posts include a real-life look behind the scenes at your business (a bit like our Ryan’s working from home posts last year), consider adding influencers into your planning.

Website – it’s a good idea to add new content to your website regularly, but have you reviewed the journey your website takes your customers on. Pay a visit to your site putting yourself in the shoes of your customer and check if it’s easy to find the information you need, and to close the deal, in as few clicks as possible. You may also wish to add a sales element to your website, whether that’s to organise click and collect options, or a delivery service.

For 2021, remember, while it may seem easy to do this yourself, there are many proven resources that have already tested user experience that could make the job easier.

Customer reviews – If you already have a customer testimonial system set up, it may be a good time to review this to make sure it’s working for you. At Ryan’s we use Feefo, which offers customers a very visual guide and is also very easy for them to complete. Simplicity is the key. (You can find out more about the importance of customer reviews here.)

For 2021, ensure you also respond to your reviews – good and bad – thanking your customers and turning negative reviews into positive experiences.

Visual displays – If your business can remain open during lockdowns, you may already have invested in digital signage to communicate social distancing measures, allowing your staff and customers to be more confident in their surroundings.

For 2021, while this technology may seem like a costly short term measure, there are longer term benefits, as even after social distancing is a thing of the past, the screens can be used to show special offers and other marketing messages that will help you to boost business.

Supporting your people

All stakeholders in your business will have been impacted by the changes that have been made necessary by the pandemic and supporting your people through will have been one of the items at the top of your list last year. That support is less easy when you’re not face to face, but staying in touch with your employees’ needs is vital.

Strengthening internal communications – Of course, regular update emails and newsletters help but there’s nothing like picking up the phone and checking in on each person from time to time. For smaller businesses that is, of course, far easier than for organisations with many employees, but putting a plan together with your management team will ensure no one is missed.

For 2021, a regularly updated intranet may also be a good tool for sharing information, which can be developed with help from your IT provider.

Redevelop employee development – With so many businesses and their people working remotely, people development will need careful consideration. When building your development plans for each of your staff, consider the new skills that they need to work from home, and find online training providers or signpost regular reading matter that can help.

That also applies for businesses that are continuing to operate on site – social distancing will have brought new processes on board, and it’s important to ensure your training schedule takes these changes, together with mental wellbeing, into account.

For 2021, remember, even during more challenging times, investing in your people helps them to feel more engaged, more often than not enhancing customer service, too.

The future – a changing feast

As with 2020, this year is likely to be a constantly changing feast. Moving into the year with firm, but adaptable plans is key. Best wishes for the new year ahead.