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It’s no exaggeration to say this has been one of the most difficult and painful years we’ve ever experienced. And it’s first and foremost a human tragedy. However, we mustn’t forget that from an economic perspective, SMBs are on the front line. Too often, it’s smaller businesses that bear the brunt of serious disruption when it occurs. That’s certainly been the case this year.
I’m proud of the fact that Microsoft technology is playing a major role in helping SMBs to adapt, recover and build resilience. Which is why I want to share some of the advice I’ve been sharing over the last few month
I always try to inspire customers with stories of SMBs thinking differently. One that sticks out in my mind is a Swiss bicycle shop.
Up until recently, the shop relied purely on walk-in business. A customer would decide their bike needs repairing, and they’d wheel it into the shop and join the queue.
Once Switzerland went into lockdown this became impossible. So the owners re-looked at their market and quickly adopted Microsoft Bookings. That meant customers could easily schedule appointments and the shop could manage them online. So they were able to provide their usual service while keeping the shop closed and maintaining zero-contact with customers.
This is a key point I always stress with SMBs. They need a partner who can help make sure they have the right technology and training.
In fact, training is a vital point, because whenever businesses have extra downtime, I’ll always advise them to make the most of it. It’s a golden opportunity to upskill staff. In my experience, most people have an innate eagerness to learn.
Some businesses think that every communication with customers should be to sell them something. They’re wrong. Research shows that companies actually do better when they communicate with customers more regularly. Except they mix the salesmanship with information that customers may find simply interesting, relevant or useful.
Teams is a great platform for this. The ability to connect 1:1 in a virtual space has allowed teachers and doctors to continue working. But the power to manage all communications through a single hub makes Teams ideal, not only for keeping in touch with customers, but suppliers and partners too.
As we begin taking small steps back to normality, I believe the SMBs who’ll recover fastest are those that engage their ingenuity. I know I’ve shared an example of this already, but let me finish by sharing one more.
In normal times, the Ciacci Piccolomini D’Aragona winery in Tuscany would host retailers and distributors at promotional events and old-style tastings. But since the country went into lockdown, the usual routines became impossible. Rather than simply accepting this, the winemakers came up with a plan to sidestep the problem. They’ve started couriering their products to buyers across the world and inviting them to connect on Teams, where they can act as a virtual sommelier. The result: business remains buoyant.