As the faces of culture, technology and business continue their radical transformations, offices are often overwhelmed by what to do to prepare for the future. Fortunately, there are a few critical, identifiable areas where businesses can take steps to support their current efforts and still be ready for whatever comes along next.
Transparency is a term that has gotten a lot of traction in business circles over the last few years. While transparency with customers can earn a business some goodwill, it’s transparency with employees that will help you prepare for the future. The shape of that transparency should minimally include employees understanding company goals and how their work aligns with those goals. Employees should also be privy to a realistic view of when, how and how likely they are to receive promotions. Opening up communications channels and sharing information can foster internal goodwill, increase productivity and improve morale.
Businesses collect staggering amounts of information about customers, supply chains, and inventory. Managing and protecting all of that data, let alone making sense of it, requires a robust IT infrastructure. This typically means workstations, routers, and servers, as well as licensed software and cloud-based services. Just as critical as the hardware and software is having professionals on-site or under a service contract who can handle repairing and upgrading the IT infrastructure.
The Internet is now as irrevocably entwined with business as electricity. Companies that manage to thrive without it are the exception and grow rarer by the year. In order to compete, you need a professionally crafted website that explains who you are, what you sell, where to buy it and how to contact you. You also need a serious, well-managed presence on the major social media sites to interact directly with existing and potential customers.
Most businesses can explain what they sell, be it products or services, in excruciating detail. Yet, many businesses are flummoxed by questions about branding. Branding is, essentially, your story. Why are you in this business? What do you stand for that your competitors don’t? A good branding story should explain your values to both your customers and your employees. It’s a metaphorical handle that people can grab onto. Just as importantly, it doesn’t need to be a complicated story. Consider the following. “My father taught me that honest, hard work never needs to justify itself. So, that’s what I promise. Honest, hard work that doesn’t require justifications.” It conveys everything a customer or employee needs to know about the company’s values.
Many people might ask, “Shouldn’t this be obvious?” Yet, based on the relentless customer service horror stories on social media, it isn’t at all obvious to some companies. As consumers become ever more reliant on the web and turn to social media for recommendations, even one or two bad customer service incidents can haunt a business indefinitely. Staying focused on good customer service positions your office for sustained future growth.
The future is always an uncertain proposition for any office. By focusing some of your efforts on areas that improve internal performance, such as transparency and IT infrastructure, you create an environment for success. Investing some effort in customer-facing areas — customer service, branding and digital presence — you improve the chances of retaining existing customers and drawing in new markets.
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Faxage a leading company that provides Internet fax service for individuals and businesses.