In just a few short months (though it has felt much longer) the workplace we were once so well accustomed to has changed dramatically. Adapting to this new normal has proven challenging to many organizations as they continue to find new solutions to alter their day-to-day operations. There still remains one particular challenge that extends past the workplace—the pause on business travel.
Long has business travel played a key role in promoting the growth of organizations. From visiting customers and suppliers, to attending conferences and tradeshows, business travel fosters a wide range of networking opportunities and revenue-generating activities.
In fact, a 2019 report sponsored by TripActions, stated that over 50 percent of travel managers noted “closing a deal” was the top reason for business travel while 46 percent of business travelers expressed their top reason for work trips was to “foster established business relationships.” Diving deeper, the report found that 80 percent of corporate travel decision-makers and business travelers agreed that “meeting in person is more effective than meeting virtually.”
The Pause on Business Travel
COVID-19 halted travel at a scale never before seen. Just in March 2019, Gartner reported that 97 percent of organizations had canceled work-related travel, and a month later in April 2019, PEW Research found that over 90 percent of the world’s population was under travel restrictions.
With travel having facilitated a large portion of revenue building pursuits, a world-wide travel pause leaves a discernible gap for enterprises to move their organizations forward. To continue delivering value to customers and elevate your business, organizations should consider adopting innovative solutions to syndicate the connection typically cultivated by traditional business travel.
Tips to Digitally Adapt
Already in the past two decades, advancements in digital technology have played a role in reducing the extent that businesses need to travel. From email exchanges and video conference calls to cloud-based management software and virtual demos, digital solutions have enhanced doing business long distance.
Now, with travel completely eliminated and an unknown future ahead, organizations are digitally transforming the way they do business. Here are some tips on how your organization can successfully maintain the benefits of business travel in the digital landscape:
1) Engage and Communicate Thoroughly
Without the typical face-to-face interactions you get with travel, keeping your audience engaged and informed should be top of mind. Harvard Business Review cited a study that found face-to-face requests were 34 times more effective than emailed ones—love it or hate it, video conferencing is a must right now.
To get the most from your digital face-to-face calls, you want those on the call to contribute and retain. Before and after calls provide both email briefs and debriefs to the participants—this will help them to stay on track during calls and catch what they may have missed after. To keep participants engaged during virtual meetings and events, encourage cameras to be on—this provides a sense of accountability in a similar effect to being in person.
Just as one might do in face-to-face meetings to encourage participation, getting participants to provide input and feedback is essential in virtual communications. By asking specific questions to your participants, you will be able to keep everyone actively engaged. You can take this further by asking follow up questions to probe for more details.
2) Encourage a Flexible Mindset and Level Set Expectations
Getting your business back on track with both your employees and customers is crucial right now, but remember that everyone is still adjusting to the new ways of doing things—hiccups are inevitable and therefore patience is pertinent. That being said, by setting expectations that can realistically be adhered to, you can set your organization and customer relationships up for success.
By adopting a flexible mindset, you always have options. Are you now hosting an all-day workshop remotely? Try breaking it up into one to two-hour blocks. Video conferencing can cause serious fatigue, and people need to take breaks in order to be fully present on calls. When using a new collaboration tool on a customer call, schedule additional time to work around the potential learning curve. Setting a flexible mindset for yourself and your organization will foster innovative solutions in how you digitally conduct your business.
3) Equip for Success
As your associates are adjusting to the inefficiencies that come with adapting to a new normal, so are your customers. When hosting conference calls, pitching to clients, or showcasing demos, you want to facilitate smooth interactions that build trust with your existing customers and gain momentum with potential new ones—equip them for success. Consider providing the following tools as software to promote efficiency for your associates:
Your associates’ wifi connections from their home offices can often be unreliable. Providing a mobile hotspot will give your employees an alternative option that ensures they stay connected.
Standard video conferencing apps won’t cut it for the collaborating that users typically get from face-to-face meetings. Utilize conferencing tools that allow for screen shares, downloadable recordings, and whiteboard capabilities.
From collaboration to project management, office suites cover all of your team’s bases in getting work done together digitally. Leverage a platform that allows for secure file sharing with external resources.
To facilitate secure sharing and storage across your organization, we recommend re-examining your current cloud capabilities to ensure you’re using a platform that performs well for a remote organization (think hybrid).
In the ongoing transition to the future of work, productivity is on the line. By providing up-to-date software and devices to promote efficiency for your associates, your customers will be able to continue relying on your organization for the support they need. In a time of uncertainty, with the right tools and equipment, your organization can stand out as a leader.