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The Best Software Features To Manage Your Small Business In This Economy

It’s no secret our post-COVID economy is troubled, and this growing uncertainty in the marketplace may feel like huge dark waves threatening to overtake the ship of your small business. Fortunately, there is a light in the dark: a rich array of business management software platforms designed to help you organize every facet of your small business, filled with advanced productivity features designed to herd the many cats that make up your business. But which software to pick?

Any business management software has a dizzying host of capabilities such as finance management, scheduling tools, remote work solutions, and a sweep of data analytics to assist your daily decision-making process. However, only the best business software can synergize and optimize its features into something you and your employees can work with day in and day out. We’ll take a quick glance at some of these features to explain why your business needs them. 

Small Business Management Software Features To Look For

Money, Money, Money

Business revenue, expenses, and cash flow need continuous oversight, and you need software tools that have your back in those areas. To date, the majority of small businesses still trust their accounting to Intuit’s QuickBooks accounting software. It’s no secret that QuickBooks enjoys the lion’s share of the accounting software market among small businesses across all industries. As a result of that dominance, the evolution of Intuit’s software development has become “one size fits most,” which means you must adjust your accounting processes—and reporting requirements—to fit their framework, regardless of your own business’ growth requirements.

Now, a thought about cash flow. No matter the size of your business, or which accounting software you employ, EVERY business will benefit from a speedier collection of its receivables. (Thank you, Captain Obvious!) One of the best tools out there is a customer payment portal. Think of this as an immediate, 24/7 window into your system that’s available anywhere, on any device. This level of accessibility makes it more timely for customers to receive, approve, and pay invoices.

Custom(er) Relationship Management

Customers are the lifeblood of any business, and you naturally want to keep the client-facing side of your business organized and professional. Customer Relationship Management software is more than just a spreadsheet database of your customers. Today’s CRM is the cornerstone of integrated business management software that allows you to make more informed decisions throughout the entire lead generation, sales, and customer retention pipeline.

Look for services that help streamline quoting and billing to better facilitate the customer’s and/or vendor’s experience with your company. By connecting sales and accounting data, you’ll streamline your back-end processes and get all team members on the same page. Utilize sales marketing tools like automated email workflows to create opportunities and increase your response rate.

A Better Customer Experience

I don’t know about you, but I’ve come to have low expectations of today’s customer service experience. So many large businesses have outsourced their customer service overseas. Credit cards, telecomm, broadband providers—it’s a big list. I have learned to expect long wait times, sub-par language skills, and infuriating dropped calls. Lackluster customer service has become the “new normal.”

It’s said there are only two things that employees may be struggling with: (#1) change, and (#2) the way things are. So, once you’ve resolved that your business will benefit from business management software, please exercise your due diligence with respect to the total cost of the solution. Perhaps you’ll find (as I did) that many ERP software vendors charge an additional fee for implementation. Many have a separate fee structure for subsequent support. Some, like NetSuite, Microsoft, and Salesforce, have outsourced implementation and support to independent, 3rd-party implementation specialists. Do you see a pattern here?

All Together, Now

Finally, and most importantly, you’ll want to look for integrated business management software that combines all of your business operations requirements into a single, easy-to-manage platform. Using outdated, unconnected, or limited software inhibits your growth, decision-making ability, and workforce productivity. If you’re looking for a remarkably useful list of signs that your business needs integrated business management software, look no further than checking out this comprehensive breakdown.

Whatever your industry, business elements such as Accounting, CRM, HR, Operations, Task Management, Reporting, Inventory, Supply Chain Management, and Remote Work Productivity—every aspect of your business—are vital and require equal oversight. Ideally, look for software that balances a universe of features and digital options with something that helps you cater to the specifics of what your business needs

Continue to shape your precise vision of how you want your business to operate, while at the same time making it easy for yourself and your employees. 

Zoho CRM: Is It The Solution Your Business Needs?

It’s hard to know exactly what every customer wants. Some expect personalized service and attention on a near-daily basis, while others are content with being left alone until a crucial conversation is needed. Regardless of the type of customers that your business has, it’s important to have a way—scratch that, many ways—to reach them.

Scattered emails, customers that use various chat applications (not the chat app that your company supports), and phone calls to and from personal lines may have gotten the job done in the early days of your business, but these communication channels no longer cut the mustard as your business grows and expands.

One solution that businesses have enlisted is a part of the Zoho suite of software products: Zoho CRM.

Zoho CRM: What You Need To Know

Zoho CRM offers businesses a customer lifecycle management solution that allows prospects to be tracked through the sales funnel, with some automation to do some of the heavy lifting. Zoho CRM offers competitive customer relationship management capabilities, but does it offer everything that a full-bodied ERP software solution can?

Let’s look at the positives and negatives your business may face when choosing Zoho CRM, and how and why other alternatives may be a better fit for your business and its unique needs.

ERP business management software solutions

Pros Of Zoho CRM

Many businesses are familiar with the Zoho suite of products. Zoho has over 40 apps in total that perform a number of different functions. Zoho Desk, Zoho Recruit, and Zoho Meeting are just a few of the many products that Zoho offers. 

For Zoho CRM in particular, there are a few areas where it stands out among the competition. G2, a leading software review source, lists Zoho CRM’s data import & export tools among its top features. Also, its contact and account management functionality is one of the areas that it functions the best. 

As for the price of Zoho CRM, it’s affordable for businesses of any size. Zoho CRM offers a free trial, and its plans begin at $14/month per user. However, this base plan doesn’t come with all of the features that the enterprise plan offers. The Zoho CRM enterprise plan begins at $40/month per user. Some CRM bundle subscriptions go as high as $69/month per user.

Cons Of Zoho CRM

On its own, Zoho CRM is a powerful customer relationship management tool. From a brand with a worldwide presence, the tools it offers provide value to customers and its easy-to-use design feels comfortable for those who may not fashion themselves as inherently tech-savvy.

One of the most glaring downsides of Zoho CRM is not about Zoho CRM itself, but about the Zoho applications as a whole—while each individual module is powerful, functional, and affordable, getting the most out of Zoho requires using and paying for any number of the Zoho suite of applications. 

In other words, the price and complexity of juggling various software packages can really add up. For small and growing businesses that require multiple users on the system, this cost is often too high to justify. Instead of a single, all-in-one business management software platform that handles everything from accounting, projects, and time management in addition to CRM capabilities, Zoho has essentially split up these features among its 40-odd modules.

zoho crm alternative

While this is ideal for some larger organizations that only need one or two modules to accompany their existing, legacy software solutions, it is less than ideal for smaller organizations that are in need of a complete business management software solution.

Beyond the cost of deploying multiple software products, Zoho CRM falls short when it comes to customer support satisfaction. G2 reviewers have ranked Zoho CRM’s quality of support at 7.5/10, which is below the CRM industry average of 8.6/10. Capterra—another leading software review site—lists a 4 out of 5 rating for customer service.

Zoho CRM: Will It Work For You?

While Zoho CRM offers competitively priced and intuitive CRM tools, it falls short when it comes to offering other vital, non-CRM-centric features that provide immense value to small and growing businesses. For those that are extremely budget conscious and looking to get the most value out of their technology stack, there are some Zoho CRM alternatives that are worth looking into.

Further, many reviewers acknowledge that while Zoho CRM functions well, getting a hold of and receiving valuable help from the Zoho customer support team can often be difficult.

Striven – The All-In-One ERP Software

Projects, operations, tasks, and HR benefit from software solutions. And in today’s world, most companies need a software solution compatible with today’s landscape of working remotely. Having CRM software on its own just isn’t enough anymore, either.

The Zoho family of products contains modules and add-ons to accommodate all of your business needs. However, unlike other all-in-one business management software solutions such as Striven, expect to pay for each additional module and piece of functionality that you’ll need. With Striven, you have all of the tools you need to succeed in one place, together and simplified. No need to worry about paying for add-ons or bloated software that simply doesn’t fit your business needs. The best part? You can try it for free.

A Guide To Profitability In Professional Service Businesses

What are professional services? The answer to this question is far-reaching—a wide variety of service types and business models fall under the professional services umbrella. Sometimes it’s hard to encapsulate exactly what defines a professional services organization—oftentimes it has a subjective, “I know it when I see it” feel to it.  

While the definition of what professional services are is always shifting as our economy evolves, it’s much easier to define what professional services organizations do:

Professional service organizations provide support in the form of contracted advice and/or performing tertiary tasks and duties. 

Regardless of the specific product or service rendered, it’s common to see both B2C and B2B practices within the professional services industry. Some organizations focus on exclusively one or the other, but many practice in both. 

Clients come in all shapes and sizes, but the majority of clients that professional service organizations assist share a common perspective: it’s often savvy and efficient to hire an outside expert. 

Small business owners ranked “time management” as the third largest challenge they face. The first and second biggest challenges? Cash flow (obviously) and marketing/advertising (a professional service in its own right).

Spending additional time, energy, and resources on tasks that could be masterfully—and cost-effectively—tackled by a third-party professional is not a wise management strategy.

Types Of Professional Services

Products and services vary drastically by company and industry. However, the common ground among professional services providers lies within the logistics of how business is conducted.

small business management software

Communication, data management, scheduling, financial reporting, and payment processing are some of the processes universally shared by all professional services providers. 

Ideally, professional services providers use one system to manage their entire business to ensure work is profitable and delivered in a timely fashion. Sure, lawyers will have different needs than IT professionals, but the core pillars and processes of the professional services industry remain the same.

Below we’ll cover four of the core professional services and how each type of service provider can stay ahead of the competition in their respective lanes. 

Accounting

Breakdown: Accounting agencies and service providers exist for a reason—assigning a manager within your organization to handle your finances by way of using spreadsheets typically isn’t a prudent business practice. 

Tax management, expense tracking, and payroll considerations are just a few examples of what makes up the 9 to 5 of an accounting firm. 

professional service accounting software

How They Can Stay Ahead: Putting aside the day-to-day duties that accountants are bonafide experts at, accounting firms that want to stay a step ahead of the competition need to place an additional emphasis on a different aspect of their business: customer and vendor communications.

For accounting firms to act as premier professional servicers, they need to be equipped with the right tools. In this case, utilizing software equipped with customer and vendor management portals will benefit all parties involved. Streamlined communication channels, virtual invoice payments, and the ability to remotely view billing and transaction histories at any time will create satisfied clients—it may even prevent those dreaded 10:00 pm “ask” emails.

After all, accountants in particular have a special appreciation for accuracy, consistency, and transparency—it’s quite literally the foundation of what they do for a living. 

Consulting

Breakdown: Excluding the aberration of 2020, the global consulting industry has steadily increased in size every year for the last 10 years. Data collected by Glassdoor indicates that US-based consultants make (on average) around $89,000 annually—well higher than the overall US compensation average. 

professional services consulting software

Perhaps that’s in part to the diversity of specializations within the consulting industry. Strategy consultants, management consultants, operations consultants—the list goes on. I’m sure at least a few more will be added to the list before this blog is published. 

How They Can Stay Ahead: While the methodologies and specializations for consultants may vary, their goals remain uniform—to provide a premier, professional, and profitable experience for their clients.

The best way to do that? Be at the forefront of addressing the main challenges that businesses will be facing in the next 3 to 5 years. According to a survey of 1300 professional services consulting firms, the top five main challenges businesses will face, all have one thing in common: technology and its rapid rate of adoption within the industry. 

  • Unpredictability in the marketplace
  • Changes in how buyers buy your services
  • Increased competition from new firms/competitors
  • The need for new skills
  • Automation/artificial intelligence

Challenges 2, 4, and 5 correlate directly with technological advancements—e-commerce is more prominent than ever, development-centric skill sets are dominating the global workforce, and technologies with a focus on automation and machine learning are continuing to grow in popularity and practicality. 

Challenges 1 and 3 may be age-old challenges, but they certainly have a new, technological twist to them. Moore’s Law would suggest that technological progress is advancing at a higher rate than ever before, leading to increased levels of uncertainty in how (and, in a lot of instances, when) technology will impact any given industry. As more and more businesses in all industries adopt more efficient and profitable technologies, competition will naturally increase. After all, technology tends to level the playing field.

IT Services

Breakdown: IT services encompass a wide variety of skills and disciplines. Web design, cybersecurity, software development, and database management—are all distinct from one another, yet fall under the same umbrella of “IT.”

professional services it services software

The diversity of what falls under the umbrella of “IT services” is part of the challenge businesses face. If an organization offers a single service (for example, web design) it may not generate enough of a client base to continuously extract revenue. Conversely, if an organization offers a staggering collection of services, it may fall into a “quantity over quality” conundrum which could eventually lead to revenue woes. 

Many businesses have found a sweet spot. For example, some companies may offer web design services while also managing digital marketing campaigns and social media efforts. And, low and behold, some companies are still intent on doing it all. And that’s ok—but with such a varied array of services, how can companies efficiently keep track of it all?

How They Can Stay Ahead: No matter the type of IT service a business offers, some things never change. Having real-time information available is always crucial, as is the ability to smartly manage projects.

Most of all, in an extremely skill-intensive industry like IT services, having the ability to quickly assess the skill sets, qualifications, and certifications of both existing team members and prospects in the pipeline will pay dividends down the road. 

The importance of cultural fit within an organization has not been understated as of late—hiring the right cultural fit within a company leads to less employee turnover, more productivity (especially in regard to remote work), and overall higher satisfaction. 

“Cultural fit” isn’t just an organizational-wide consideration—it’s important that every team and cluster of employees within an organization is able to mesh well together. 

Before worrying about the projects and tasks themselves, it’s important to consider how employees are placed together. By utilizing all of the tools available to accurately assess candidates and current employees alike, IT services teams will be able to tackle any task in front of them.

Breakdown: Of all of the professional services that we’ve discussed so far, I think it’s a fair assumption to say that legal services should be the last type of service that any business attempts to solve unaided. (Disclaimer: not legal advice.)

professional services legal services software

In America, everyone has their own opinion on certain laws, legal practices, and even lawyers themselves. The beautiful part about our legal system and its practice is that we have the unalienable right to maintain and voice opinions of all flavors and varieties. 

Though our nation’s legal practices and procedures don’t come without scrutiny, one thing is for certain—many of the societal advancements that we’ve benefitted from have come after tireless, tedious, and often thankless hours of legal work.

How They Can Stay Ahead: If there is a criticism to be made about the legal profession in America, it mainly revolves around its “pay-to-play” model. Yes, the 6th Amendment guarantees every citizen the right to counsel. However, every American knows the reality in which we live: the more you pay, the more you get.

This isn’t an issue that can be solved overnight, nor can it be solved by any single person or law firm. Most lawyers aren’t Cochrans and Shapiros—they’re public defenders, paralegals, and employees of smaller firms that don’t have the luxury of attracting clients with 8-figure net worths. 

Providing legal services is about doing right by your clients. One way to do that without a Hollywood-esqe budget is to utilize technology to its fullest. 

Document management, time and expense tracking, and client communication channels don’t have to be disconnected and burdensome to maintain. They can be managed in a single, easy-to-use platform. Technology should work for you—not the other way around.

Ensuring Professional Services Success

Vector Illustration of single light bulb with icons and shining fibers in a shape of Expertise, Reliability, Experience, Trust and Knowledge concept related words isolated on black background

On the surface, it may seem that lawyers and software developers don’t have much in common. If you ask them, they might even agree. 

But, what they share is their ability to provide a service that they’ve trained for—training that, in many cases, has encompassed the vast majority of their adult lives. Success comes in all shapes and sizes, especially when you’re talking about the professional services industry.

Servicing customers is never an easy task. There are a million tips and tricks out there on what to say, do, and act like in order to deliver the best results. Many of those pieces of advice are worthwhile. 

At the end of the day, it all boils down to the same thing—leveraging the tools and technology at your disposal in order to provide the best service possible. 

The Value Of A Software Support Team That “Gets” You

Your work is incredibly personal to you. Taking on the task of being your own boss doesn’t come without a personal, emotional, and absolute commitment to the work that you do.

You enjoy the challenge of taking things head-on. You and your employees have found ways to conjure up solutions where others have remained stuck in neutral. You take pride not just in the hard work you’ve done, but the “smart work,” too. 

When it comes to software—and technology in general—every business owner has a differing level of expertise. Some have been at the forefront of integration, others have stuck with older, seemingly tried-and-true methods. No matter where you land on that spectrum, two things are true:

  • The need for total technological immersion of your business grows larger every day. 
  • The software—and the software support specialists—helping to run your business need to work for you.

Not every step this process will be pain-free. There will be plenty of hiccups, blips, and glitches. But hey, that’s nothing new for someone who started their business from the ground up. Just as you’re there for your employees and their needs, you need a software support team that will be there for you and your business every step of the way.

Your Business Is Unique

At the root of high quality customer service is one basic principle: understanding. The support specialists you turn to need to have an intimate understanding of how your business runs. Remember, they are there to serve your needs.

Take this as an example of good customer service: the company you hire delivers a software package as promised. It seems to be functioning as expected. There’s instruction manuals, FAQs, and a 1-800 number to call in case—or, more likely, when—things go haywire. As you’re getting acclimated to the interface, you experience some minor difficulties with a specific functionality.

When you call the support hotline, you’re placed in a queue. When your turn arrives, you don’t speak to anyone you’ve been in contact with before. This person doesn’t necessarily seem like a software support specialist. You’re left with being told that your issue is being processed and that it will be resolved in a “timely manner.”

A couple of days go by, and you get a call from someone doing their best to help. You explain the issue yet again, and they were able to direct you to a solution that left you thinking “Well, that issue wasn’t too hard to fix. It would have done my business a lot of good to have that handled a few days ago. If someone showed me how, I probably could’ve done that myself.”

At the end of the day, you received good service. The issue was fixed, and life goes on. But is good service the standard you’re setting for your business? What happens when the issue is especially time sensitive, or if the issue is severe enough to result in lost revenue? Or both? Businesses like yours are facing more turbulent times than ever before. To navigate through the sea of uncertainty in 2020 and beyond, your business needs great service from top software support teams that you can rely on day in and day out. 

The Hallmarks of Great Customer Service

Software Supports Teams Catering To You

Now more than ever, a personal touch in the business world goes a long way. With so many businesses and families reeling in the wake of this period of economic turmoil, people are turning their attention—and wallets—towards companies that “get them.” In fact, 56% of customers stay loyal to brands that “get them.” 

What does it mean when a business “gets” you? Though the criteria is different for each business and each customer, personalized service is the key.

Smart businesses understand that each customer is unique in their demands and expectations, and will go above and beyond to ensure that each customer is satisfied in their own way. Your product functioning as promised is just the bare minimum, and only the beginning of the relationship. Brands that truly want to retain their customers will do their best to meet their human needs.

Personal Connection

In a study conducted by Forbes, 86% of customers say an emotional connection with a customer service agent would make them continue to do business with the company. This level of loyalty without mention of the product or service offered should underscore the value of quality customer service. For small business tech support services, this level of intimacy is vital.

One way to establish this connection is to be proactive in troubleshooting. Conventional wisdom might tell us that it wouldn’t be wise to alert the customer to a problem or flaw that they may not have known existed. But at the end of the day, transparency, compassion, and genuine commitment to delivering the best product and service reigns supreme. Having a live chat support software will enable real time communication and problem solving.

A Symbiotic Relationship

If you’re a hardened skeptic that believes benevolence doesn’t come without dollar signs attached, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. It is without a doubt in a businesses best interest—especially in the CRM software support industry—to retain your business. Acquiring a new customer is five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. This is what we like to call a “win-win.” Your business not only receives a good product, but an empathetic and helping hand every step of the way. 

Invest In People

Just as you place a premium on the value of teamwork and collaboration within your business, the organization behind the software you deploy should share the same ethos in its practices. 

The best thing that you can do for your business is to enlist the help of people who will make your business better—simple as that. Do your research into the people behind the software you’re purchasing. If you invest in the best remote tech support software backed by a team of dedicated, empathetic, and talented people that will unconditionally support you and your staff, your business will be prepared for anything. 

When Employees and Customers Don’t Want to Wear Masks

Polarization has become par for the course in the United States. It spreads across all facets of everyday life: social media, sports, politics, social justice, news, and even the virus itself. Very few aspects of our culture have been immune to the tidal wave of immoderation. 

family with masks safety that uses all in one business management software

Every business owner in America—and, for that matter, the world—has aggressively pivoted towards a safety-centric business model. While the health of your employees and patrons has been at the forefront of your agenda, your business stillhas a responsibility to maintain fiscal health, too. This requires (almost) never turning away a paying customer. 

With each American business confronting various degrees of noncompliance, disobedience, and outright irresponsible behavior from patrons—and sometimes employees—in regards to public health, business owners have been put squarely in the center of an unprecedented predicament without an obvious solution.

How do you assure your customers, employees, and even your own family that you are acting in the best interests of public health without completely alienating those with antithetical beliefs? Customers with whom you share fundamentally different ideologies are still your customers, and the same goes for your employees.

Health Comes First

When it comes down to it, your business’s commitment to upholding health and safety regulations is priority number one. Creating and maintaining an environment that is diligent in upholding safety protocols starts with you, but it takes a team to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Your employees can not afford to take a passive approach to combating COVID-19. In a survey done by Accenture, 82% of consumers were fearful for the health of others, as opposed to 64% that were fearful for their own health.

While brick-and-mortar establishments have the benefit of being able to heavily enforce safety rules and regulations, businesses that offer—or are exclusively limited to—field services have been forced to toe the line of overstepping boundaries. Your employees are required to wear masks when in a customer’s home, and you’ve required that customers reciprocate. But what happens when a customer does not oblige? 

After all, they’re in their own home. Does your employee feel obligated to continue servicing the customer, or have you afforded them the autonomy to refuse service? What happens when it’s not the customer, but your own employee ignoring protocols? While each customer and employee is unique in their methods and beliefs, your job is to lay out the ground rules for deeming what is acceptable while on the clock.  

Everyone has differing opinions on what they think is the “right thing” to do is right now. Disagreements will occur—it’s natural. But by doing our best to occasionally take a walk in someone else’s shoes, we can work together towards the common goal of safety. Including empathy in the core philosophy of your business plan isn’t just a suggestion anymore—it is imperative for you and your employees alike to understand that.

Remain Calm in Conflict

Everyone is subject to moments where stress gets the best of us—it’s a part of being human. Whether you have worked directly with customers or have simply been a bystander in a shopping centre, most people have encountered an unruly customer at some point. Before COVID, it was simply an annoyance. Customers—fairly or unfairly—would seemingly lose the ability to use their “inside voice” while hurling insults and vulgarity. Annoying, yes, but most likely not dangerous.

In today’s world, the routine rudeness towards those in customer service positions has escalated. With these professionals often tasked with policing the health and safety measures of their business, they are subject to the backlash coming from those who don’t feel as though public safety measures apply to them. The backlash becomes magnified when your employees have to police this behavior while in the confines of your customer’s home. 

Don’t forget—just because your employees are in charge of enforcing health and safety regulations does not mean they are perfect actors themselves. Be aware and in control of your employees behavior. Their nonchalance about mask-wearing will foster an unsafe environment, and it facilitates further unsafe behavior from the customers who are following their lead. It is up to you to ensure your employees are setting a good example.

This is all uncharted territory. Before 2020, the customer was always right, no matter what. But what happens when the customer is threatening the health of those around them rather than simply being argumentative about returning a pair of shoes? What happens when it’s your trusted employee of 10 years that is neglecting safety protocols?

  • Be empathetic. Most people that are lashing out at you about safety protocols are handling their own frustrations and anxieties about the pandemic in a poor fashion. Oftentimes, they just want to feel heard. Reiterate that you value their business—or their contributions to your business—and simply want them to take part in safety measures for the betterment of everyone. Even when you don’t agree, express understanding.
  • Keep Things Professional. While it is important to be assertive and firm, communicate in a manner that doesn’t resort to raised voices, personal insults, or otherwise unprofessional behavior. Sometimes, people are just seeking conflict for conflict’s sake—don’t indulge them.
  • Work As A Team. As the owner or primary authority on staff, it may be in your best interest to step in during a confrontation with an unruly customer. While your employees should always be encouraged to ask for help, they may be less likely to do so in a situation like this. 

    Give your employees room to resolve the conflict themselves, but if the customer continues to unreasonably escalate the situation, it’s time for you to step in. If there is a scenario where a customer is attempting to hold an employee accountable to following safety standards, take time to pull them aside, address the issue, and reiterate what they can do better next time.
men shaking hands talking about all in one business management software
  • Offer Solutions. During an altercation, it doesn’t always seem possible to find a reasonable solution. But when you’re able to focus the attention on the future rather than the initial problem, people are more likely to participate in the de-escalation process. Whether it’s providing a free mask or offering personalized attention, find ways to progress the conversation. 
  • It’s Their Home, But It’s Your Health. If your business offers field services, your employees may feel a bit uncomfortable enforcing rules in someone’s home. It is important that you address this with both your employee and the customer in advance—laying out the ground rules will remove the ambiguity and awkwardness.

    Your employees and customers need to know when, and if, it is acceptable to refuse service. If your customer reports unsafe employee behavior, take immediate steps to confront that employee so that further issues do not arise.  
  • Know When To Draw The Line. Just because you do everything right doesn’t always mean the other person will follow suit. If someone is endangering the health of you, your staff, and other customers, it may be time to remove them from the premises. This is a last resort saved for only the worst of the worst offenders. That being said, it’s important to know when this option must be utilized.

    While you’ll tolerate some heated vocabulary and minor non-safety related rule violations, the line is crossed when this person repeatedly refuses to wear a mask, social distance, or otherwise not follow public safety protocols.

Put The Situation In Perspective

It can be easy to let personal sentiments trickle into your professional life—especially when it relates to dealing with particularly difficult customers. The manner in which your employees respond to these challenges begins with you. As a business owner, your job is to cultivate an atmosphere that upholds a professional standard of service to every customer regardless of any personal disagreements that may exist. That being said, it is also important that you teach your employees where “the line” is, and what to do when a customer crosses it.

It can be awkward—at the very least—to address these issues with an uncooperative employee as opposed to a customer. Regardless if you’ve known them for 20 years or 2 months, they are people capable of spreading COVID-19 just like you and me. No one is exempt from the responsibility of maintaining public health, and it’s your job to have those uncomfortable conversations to ensure this stays true. 

In our increasingly polarized world, we encounter many people whose words leave us with nothing but an exasperated “Really? C’mon.” Being the bigger person is hard. But when your business—and public health—is at stake, being the bigger person is the only option there is.

Data Security Just Became Everyone’s Job

Gone are the days when your tech support team was just down the hall, ready to diagnose any dilemma ailing your devices. Even if you don’t have an IT professional on-premise, every office has their de facto “tech expert”. Maybe that person is you, maybe it’s an intern, accountant, whomever. But now that your employees are scattered, what is the proper protocol for handling complex technical difficulties? Or, more importantly, what is the proper protocol for proactively deterring these issues? Google is always ready and willing to answer your questions, but sometimes your employees will require more than a search query.

Cyber Security

Technical malfunctions are an issue in more ways than one. In the midst of the most abrupt shift businesses—and, frankly, modern society—have ever seen, hackers, scammers, and delinquents across the world are digging their seedy fingers into any vulnerability they can detect.

Protecting your business against threats starts with investing in the proper technology, but it goes far beyond that. Your employees need to understand the importance of protecting your business’s data, and need to be aware of the dangers that often lie in plain sight. With the persistent and continued entanglement of personal and business information comes increased responsibility on behalf of you and your employees.

Time Is Money

If your business has never been exposed to a data breach, then consider yourself lucky. Cybercrime has consistently been on the rise for years now, but the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to even more attacks across the globe. With an unprecedented amount of people working from unsecured workstations, it has been a proverbial field day for cybercriminals.

Now, you may be thinking “Why would someone hack my small business? We’re not Apple or Amazon with trillions in the bank.” It’s a fair point, but put yourself in the shoes of the criminals for a minute. Would you feel more apt to launch an attack on an organization with arguably more money, power, and cybersecurity systems than most world governments or on a small to medium sized business with (relatively) less money, power, or cybersecurity infrastructure?

From the eyes of the criminal, it seems wise to steal $1000 from 100 different uber-vulnerable small businesses rather than heist $100,000 from a Fortune 500 company. Insidious as these criminals are, they are savvy enough not to pick fights they cannot win. 

According to a study published on Vox.com, 1 in 5 small businesses have fallen victim to a cyberattack. Of those, 60% go out of business within 6 months. Considering that—according to IBM—the average time from identification to containment of a security breach is 280 days, your business simply can’t afford not to take preventive measures against cybercrime. 

Securing The Workstation

Many businesses have been fortunate enough to be able to give employees the hardware they need to continue operating remotely. For others, they’ve had to rely on their employees’ personal computers to get the job done. By now, in either case, you’ve probably read up on standard security measures to take. You’ve mandated VPN software, ensuring passwords don’t actually contain the word “password”, and educated your employees on the dangers of phishing emails.

Even if you put all of these procedures in place, sometimes they are simply not enough. No business is unique—true cybersecurity can’t be achieved with a “one-size-fits-all” approach. By using software that can mold to the contour of your business’s specific needs, you’ll be able to have the peace of mind knowing that your data is safe.  

With all of your employees operating, communicating, and sharing documents under the same umbrella of security, you’ll be able to better handle any issues that arise. More importantly, you’ll be able to prevent them from even happening in the first place.

People, Not Computers, Make Choices

As a business owner, your job is not only to put proper security protocols in place, but to ensure they are actually being followed. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link—it only takes one less-than-diligent employee to compromise your data. How can you make sure security measures are consistently being adhered to without disrupting the atmosphere of trust that has become so crucial to remote work?

Online Trust

The answer is proper training. Whether that is coming directly from you, your IT department, or an outside agency enlisted to help your business, it is critical that your employees know what’s at stake. Cybercriminals are cunning, heartless, and unrelenting—they will always be pursuing new tactics of subversion. When your employees are properly educated and trained on how to best hinder the actions of malevolent actors, they will better understand the gravity of the situation.

Act Early, Remain Diligent

Not all problems can be avoided, especially during a time like this. But if you find your business playing catch-up when it comes to a security breach, it may already be too late. By taking tangible, preventative steps to install the proper systems you can rest assured that you’re doing everything in your power to keep your business afloat.

Keep your employees in the loop—their understanding of the critical role they play in data security is paramount. Cybercrime will never truly cease to exist, but when it comes to your business, your fate doesn’t have to be determined by anyone but you.