The past two weeks have been very stressful for employees and employers because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. With our personal and work life upended, those of us lucky enough to work for large corporations with deep pockets, or for start-ups born in the cloud, have been able to transition to working remotely and continue to communicate, collaborate and congregate (albeit virtually for happy hours) with our colleagues and customers.
However, that is not the case for millions of small businesses being left behind because they have no remote working capabilities to support their workforce. Majority of these small businesses have been around a long time, and in the words of a dear friend: "they mean well and deserve to thrive..." during these trying times. Their predicament is the sole reason I wrote this blog, and I’ve put together a “minimum viable toolset” needed to get them back to servicing their customers with little upfront cost.
At a minimum, every small business that’s structured to service customers remotely will need the ability to keep their team connected (virtually) so they can be productive. Below are tools that will allow your team to communicate, collaborate, and be productive.
The ability to meet with your team and customers virtually is crucial, particularly now that in-person meetings are no longer practical. Thankfully, voice and video conferencing solutions are aplenty on the market that are free or inexpensive to choose from - Try a few and see what works best for you. I’m partial to Microsoft Teams, but there’s also Google Meet, and Zoom to name a few.
Too many meetings and phone calls can lead to a less productive workforce. So, having a collaboration tool that support 1-on-1 or group chat, task management, and file sharing, in real-time is crucial. My favorites are: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Basecamp and Trello.
Most small businesses still rely on POTS phone lines connected to a standard analog telephone, or on-premise PBX phone system not designed to support a remote workforce. For business phone capabilities (i.e., auto attendant, intelligent call routing, mobile apps, etc.), look no further than cloud-based phone systems. Cloud-based phone systems are cheap and easy to set up—you can even port your existing numbers over in a matter of days. Checkout RingCentral, NetFortris, or Google Voice (G Suite customers) to name just a few.