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Why does Covid-19 encourage SMEs to increase accessibility?

As working from home becomes the new norm, employer expectations have adapted as staff members transition into home environments, working from kitchen benches, dressing tables, spare rooms and renovated studios.

This home-working blends corporate culture into personal life, employee expectations, once confined to the office, have extended into homes.

As we reach the one-year mark since working from home was encouraged on a global scale, how businesses communicate with consumers and internal staff has adapted.

Working from home – is this the new normal?

Businesses are revisiting company operations, investing in IT infrastructure and bolster internal communications in light of Covid-19, and the spotlight is on SMEs to maintain a reliable service during the pandemic.

While face-to-face contact remains restricted as a result of Covid-19 measures, the onus lies on businesses to provide access through dependable communication platforms, allowing consumers to freely spark a conversation, issue a complaint or query.

Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to working hours to suit employees with additional commitments during the pandemic, so flexibility is required between both parties.

As educational institutions face closure and switch to virtual learning, employees may request working outside of the traditional 9-5 routine to split time between parenting and working life. As consumers in the same position may require access outside of usual trading hours as a result of the pandemic disruption, increasing accessibility could result in higher performance and increased consumer interaction rates.

What does accessibility mean for your sector?

Although this is largely industry-dependent, there are many ways accessibility can be achieved.

For example, as the hospitality industry is forced to terminate dine-in services due to Covid-19 restrictions, many are turning to offer a take-out service to cater to customers reliant on external catering.

To survive the pandemic and compensate for the loss in income, such businesses may choose to extend delivery services through on-demand food delivery apps, such as Uber Eats.

In response to overwhelming demand from shoppers, selected supermarkets are increasing their grocery collection slots, making essential produce easily accessible for vulnerable groups in society, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

As the coronavirus pandemic accelerates the shift to online shopping, providing a safer and efficient way of purchasing goods, the volume of customer enquiries is also expected to mirror this pattern.

If you are the owner of an online shopfront, you may choose to expand your communication platforms, allowing for customer support services to be offered around the clock.

The coronavirus pandemic disrupts supply chains, delivery timeframes and product availability, providing immediate, but support can help increase conversion rates, customer satisfaction and rectify company cash flow problems.

Incorporating the likes of a live chat facility can create a pathway to customer service advisors during working hours, switching to an automated service outside of working hours.

Live chat facilities also have features which allow you to capture consumer information when advisers are offline, making the data readily available for when callers resume operations.

As Covid-19 fast-tracks the use of intelligent technology and phone answering services, the pandemic has encouraged businesses to make better use of communication platforms.

By increasing accessibility and elevating customer experiences, SMEs can cement their position in the marketplace, despite unprecedented trading conditions and economic challenges. As the likes of remote working and social distancing measures create a chasm between colleagues, friends and families, technology can be used to reunite individuals and take the conversation online.

By adopting this in a B2B and B2C environment, you can give the appearance of transparency and accessibility, bumping you to the top of the food chain.

Keith Tully is a partner at Real Business Rescue – part of the Begbies Traynor Group – a company restructuring and liquidation specialist for company directors in financial distress, providing actionable advice to business owners disadvantaged by the coronavirus pandemic, promoting business recovery and turnaround.

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