We Are More Social While We Keep Physically Distant
- Posted by GM, Digital Solutions
- On June 16, 2020
- Collaboration, COVID-19, Digital Business, Digital Solutions, Digital Transformation, Remote Working, Social, Virtualization
Navigating this global pandemic has forced change none of us ever imagined. Companies had hours to pivot entire workforces into remote work settings while maintaining business continuity. As devastating as it has, and continues to be, it has also forced those businesses that can remote work to rapidly develop new behaviors and that is what I want to talk about.
I think in business, we have become more digitally social whilst keeping physically distant—and based on the experience so far, it’s helped us adapt. Some may consider this to be “increased productivity,” but I think it’s bigger than that.
We may be apart, but we are engaging more than pre-COVID days. As knowledge workers, not only are we leveraging digital technology to facilitate business continuity, at the same time, we are also increasing our socialness to enhance our sense of connectedness.
I find that phone, chat and online video conferencing conversations are routinely prefaced with asking about peoples’ well being in these difficult times, and usually conclude with reminders to stay safe. I have been the recipient, and the sender, of many LinkedIn and Facebook messages to connect with people—colleagues, customers, partners, friends and acquaintances—to engage about work or just to check in.
The pandemic is driving a rise in digital social behavior on a global scale and—in combination with today’s digital technologies—in a matter of months, it is forcing transformative changes in how we do business.
What Makes This Work?
Increased socialness is key, but there is more to how it ties into business. The maturity and ease-of-use of digital tools like collaboration and CRM platforms facilitates how we can transform the office-based work culture into a complete online/virtual experience that works well for business. I still have as many meetings—ok, even more than before. Now I hop from bridge-to-bridge to connect, discuss, present, review…whatever. Video conferencing gives you the comfort of seeing someone eye-to-eye so the conversations are just as meaningful, and the quality of these digital business systems reliable so the experience is good.
If you follow the media and industry analysts, the majority of these platforms have seen a substantial increase in usage associated with the pandemic. The rationale for that continued growth comes back to these new behavior changes.
“Tom Eagle, senior research director at Gartner, believes that the COVID-19 crisis will be a ‘catalyst for transformative work cultures and practices that will be significantly characterized by remote work’, noting that video conferencing will become an indispensable tool for workforce collaboration and communication.”ComputerWorld, Pandemic Leads to Surge in Video Conferencing App Downloads, Apr 2020
Further affirming the movement, several Silicon Valley companies have already communicated to employees that the new remote digital business environment can be permanent. I believe this demonstrates we are actively adapting to scale digital business.
Digital Business = Continuing to Virtualize Customer Interactions
Meetings with colleagues are one thing, but closing business is another and perhaps the real measure of how sustainably our digital business environment is working. A leading industry analyst firm has reported that over three quarters of sales executives consider live product demontsrations as in the top 5 content experiences for B2B buying cycles.
In SaaS technology sales, the importance of demonstrations have been integral to successfully closing business and probably all of us have joined a hosted demo by an inside salesrep. A human being ushers you through the demo on a video conferencing platform connected to a CRM that tracks the progression of the sale.
But how can it be more autonomous? A large, well-respected virtualization company based in Silicon Valley has taken the demo environment to a whole new level by allowing technical customers to experience a virtualized plug-n-play environment for how integrations and services would work together. Designed to help the user learn and decide based on their individual configuration needs—the tool certainly helped accelerate the sales process and minimized the number of humans and meetings involved.
Since the pandemic began, customer engagement platforms have seen more than a 10-fold increase in user enrollment and more than a 4X increase in accessing the virtual product environment. Impressive growth in usage and speaks volumes about how a crisis such as this one can fuel the value of innovations that enable a customers’ ability to independently assess technology in their decision-making process — even from home.
Driving Transformative Change
A central tenet in the “digital transformation” discussion has always been about improving the customer experience—it’s the cornerstone theme that drives digital changes to all customer-facing touchpoints in a company and often affects internal digital operations priorities.
Looking again at what industry analysts suggest, companies using customer experience as the ‘North Star’ for operational transformations have the right approach, and those that are mature in the transformation process are actually changing whole markets as a consequence.
As much as we are currently changing our behaviors, I think we can—and will—do even more to further the customer experience, because now we must in order to continue to adapt how digital business evolves.