The Coronavirus outbreak demonstrated how unprepared many businesses are for dramatic changes that impact the company and workers. Chatbots proved one of the digital stars of the outbreak, along with collaboration and meeting tools, helping companies keep their workers and customers up to date as part of continuity efforts.
The next big business outage could stem from any number of scenarios; from a major hack wiping out your cloud services (as with the Maersk case, a long but scary read). To physical damage from a natural or structural event, disrupting transport networks, warehouses or local essential facilities.
Whatever goes wrong, the ability to keep your customers informed is a key feature of business continuity plans. Something that every company will be updating as work and some normality is restored after the COVID virus. Chatbots have proved their worth among several technologies from video conferencing and collaboration tools to the digital signing of contracts and process automation tools.
The benefits from chatbots were demonstrated by the huge growth in use, from governments, major airlines like KLM and health providers, with large numbers of smaller businesses that could quickly deploy them to provide key information.
KLM focused on adding the most commonly asked questions to its Blue Bot, to ensure their service agents can focus on the more challenging cases. Statistics from the airline showed their chatbot handling 22% of cases, with the number of cases increasing by 10-times during the early months of the crisis.
Retooling your business and rewriting your plans for digital
Understand the problems you are trying to solve
Not all business leaders get or understand technology, and that’s fine. But having someone on the board, or just on-board, who does is essential to guide thinking and align what technology can do for the existing and planned business strategy.
For businesses of any size, map out the company objectives, align them to your current processes and plan how to adapt or adopt technology to make best use of it. For customer communications, bots can be deployed on websites or social media. For internal use, a bot can be used on the intranet to field the latest workforce queries and keep them informed, ideal for companies still working from home.
For collaboration and meeting tools, understand how your teams work now and see what products will best suit how they work. There are so many cloud tools for designing processes, drawing plans, building products/projects, let the teams try a few out and see what works best for them.
Let your IT team/people lead the way
Having chosen where to put your bots or what technology to adopt, let your IT teams have a final say and manage the migration or installation process. They will know, or should, about the security implications, compatibility issues. Is Zoom really a security threat?
They can also ensure tools are fit for purpose, handle team or customer feedback and ensure that marketing or other teams don’t rush off and start building unstable or unsuitable products. IT can also ensure the data from a bot or service is suitable for your analytics tools to manage metrics and for planning purposes.
Be ready for more change
The one constant on the horizon is that more change is coming, and plenty of it. It doesn’t matter if your business is related to plumbing, airlines, cloud software or road maintenance. The pace of change from technology, business disruption, and governmental overhauls in the post-virus era will be huge, from new global business reconstruction efforts to new environmental laws and so on.
Make your plans with change management in mind, to ensure your people and technology can work together, whatever the rules are. Develop or deploy software and services that are flexible and easy to integrate into others, and ensure security is top of the agenda with any provider you use.
Along the way, keep your customers informed. Don’t be like the Austrian Airline that shut it chatbot down when flight operations paused during the virus, totally missing the point of having a chatbot!
Let them know how and when you plan to change any part of your business that affects them, using appropriate messaging. A very easy way to lose customers is to change your service, or update a product overnight, and only tell them after the fact!
Whatever your business, bots and collaboration tools are a key part of working better together, but any change should be done with top-down support from the leadership and with bottom-up education and engagement of customers are workers alike.