Using communication as pivot for SMEs in difficult times

All businesses and organisations need to figure out how to stay afloat and also add value to their customers and audience during this new normal occasioned by the novel coronavirus. Recall that COVID-19 has caused major disruptions to your daily operations and business processes.  Effective business communication is one of the simple strategies to adopt to cushion the effect. It entails sharing information between employees within an organisation and also outside which particularly would involve the customers. Communication to consider can entail alterations of the process to deliver your product or service, developing a new product or product line, or targeting different market segments and so on.

Effective communication is the key to a successful business and can help greatly at this time. Kindly note that this can take the form of stakeholder engagements; talking to vendors or customers, even talking to colleagues face to face or within departments through the use of a computer, smartphone, or telephone. More importantly, regardless of the communication channel communicating accurately is essential.Whether the purpose is to update customers on new products or price differentials, to the traffic situation, to ensure safety, or to listen to the attitudes of employees, effective communication is an integral issue in effective management.

Occasionally, in the workplace communication can also include behavioral patterns, body language, and even facial expressions, rather than the plain exchange of words. In today’s competitive market and current realities, no matter the size of your business, proper business communication is critical to success and sustainability. It can also enhance organisational survival at this time of high business uncertainty. Undoubtedly, effective communication can establish good interpersonal, strong working relationships, and facilitate cooperation within the staff of an organisation, which can help to overcome difficulties.

In fact, communication plays a significant role in product development, product launching, changes in service orientation, changes in business offerings, marketing and employee management. In simple context, virtually every facet of business operation can be impacted either negatively or positively with communication.

Therefore, to be effective in a modern business environment post COVID-19, an effective communication process which should be two-way should be adopted. That is, effective communication should be complemented with active listening. Ordinarily, it should involve the exchange of information between two or more individuals at all organisational level. That said, when this communication is open and continuous amongst business stakeholders, customers and employees, it can help make and maintain business objectives, and keep potential workplace conflicts from getting out of hand.

Moreso, when organisational expectations and issues are regularly discussed and solutions proffered in both formal and informal settings, all members of staff will have a better understanding of the status of the working relationship, business objectives, and all necessary interests will also be protected. For instance, being attentive to customer feedbacks, shareholders’ expectations, employee issues, and concerns builds loyalty, trust and drives improved productivity. Therefore, do not make assumptions of experience and connection of customers to your business or organisation, simply talk to them. Ensure making honest conversations at all times to get meaningful feedback. It will be wrong to assume clients/customers already know the values, services your organization render. Take the time out to communicate and let clients know about your great services, changes in your organization and also the expectations during this new era where social distancing is germane on everyone’s mind due to the COVID-19 environment.

It is important to state that having effective communication can help businesses in so many ways, essentially for enterprise to achieve success. Surveyed businesses within Nigeria indicated that effective communication can boost employee morale, give workplace satisfaction, promote efficiency, improve growth in revenue, and increase customer engagement. In response to the recent survey, business operators also indicated that effective communication also help to lessen the chances of misunderstandings and potentially reduce grievances and even complaints or litigations in the business.

Ultimately, it can improve processes, procedures, and create greater efficiencies, and can reduce costs in the business. Conversely, a lack of it or ineffective communication is seen to lead to employee frustration, lower productivity, absenteeism, and increased employee turnover rate. It may also increase the chances for misinterpretations, tarnish business or organisation’s goodwill, damage relationships, break trust, and increase anger and hostility. Unlike everyday communications, business communication is vital and must be taken seriously by business operators and entrepreneurs.

Significantly, internal and external communication is important for any organisation to function effectively. Proficient internal communication is achieved when all employees, no matter the level of seniority, can engage in information sharing easily and also pass on information with one another. It should encompass formal and informal communication throughout an organisation, including communication with upper management. While external communication largely involves clients/customers, investors, shareholders and vendors.

Communication with them should involve effective interaction with them at all times or the business will suffer and die. Essentially, the customer is king and key to business survival. Consequently establishing a feedback mechanism can help business operators monitor service and product progress with customers,which can help with strategic adjustments to any anticipated change in the market, even with current realities. Accordingly, developing and encouraging effective communication internally and externally among staff, vendors, and customers/clients is an important skill that all business operators must leverage.

In business, therefore, communication can make the difference between success and failure. So, no form of communication in form of feedback, engagement, interactions, listening and business conversation should be ignored or avoided. Make it a desirable habit to acknowledge feedbacks especially on social media and email communications. With the multiple access and channels to communicate remotely, employees, business stakeholders, and customers can be encouraged to communicate on-the-go easily.Furthermore,  relevant responses to queries, feedback, and inquiries can be achieved instantaneously with the internet, cascading the information within the organization effortlessly.In the business place,this important information anddocuments should be easily accessible when required because information plays a critical role in how the business and employees interact.

In conclusion, communication is a crucial andsignificant element in any business set up. Therefore, business organisations should have comprehensive policies and strategies for communicating with customers, employees, and stakeholders as well as with the community at large. A business should leverage technology for integrated communication and every channel of communication should be considered effectively- social media, websites, internet, phone calls, adverts, letter writings, and so on.

Software like Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting, and other video/audio conferencing technology has made it easier for businesses to communicate with employees, vendors, and clients. Business operators and entrepreneurs should equally adopt a link between communication and strategic plan of the organisation, which can include the organisation’s mission, vision, and values to come up with a communication strategy for the business. If you are concerned about enhancing or on how to build an effective communication strategy in your business, you may need to urgently reach out to a professional for essential advice.

Dr. Olubiyi, a business coach and Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management expert, sent this piece via drtimiolubiyi@gmail.com

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