The COVID-19 crisis is still not over and the economic impact is just emerging. Many companies have been significantly impacted by the governmental measure taken to save the lives of many. Many will not survive the impact.
One keywords that we need to examine closely in this context is resilience. Resilience describes a characteristic, that a company can recover fast from a critical incident or crisis. Even if the company was impacted badly during the crisis, it recovers quickly and without any serious loss of business.
This pandemic has been a real test of a company’s way of reacting to chaos leading to closure of usual channels for doing business. The digital transformation seems to be the tool that helps organizations to reduce the impact of the crisis by opening additional channels of business or supplementing existing channels with digital technologies.
Coming out of the pandemic we find certain categories of companies defined by their success or failure. We also find a segment of companies that supported the success of some of the survivors of the pandemic. The pandemic also gives us insights into some emerging areas of opportunity – especially when it comes to digital services or digitization of services.
In this blog post we would like to look at some businesses and how they managed to stay in business during the pandemic. Not surprising to notice the role of digital technologies or the degree of digital preparedness that helped some of these organizations survive or be successful.
First let us think of certain businesses that were already adopting digital technologies for providing services from a distance; some without any or limited physical infrastructure. A good example that comes to mind is the online education and training. Organizations that have invested heavily in online education and training to reach their employees from a distance were able to maintain their services. Online universities went around doing business as usual while traditional universities rushed to find ways to engage with students by putting hurriedly prepared material on the Internet.
The next category would be some retail businesses that added and adjusted the services to keep their customers and to keep a certain amount of sales. Some big retailers while following the guidelines for physical distancing and other things suddenly realised online sales accompanied by home deliveries or curb-side pick–up would help them maintain a certain level of sales. Hardware stores, grocery stores and some retail stores were able to stay in business by adding these additional services. Some of these other organizations did not have a web presence or did not allow for online ordering. However, they were quick to change and adapt. It is very much possible that these additional service packages may now stay. One could say that these would not come without a cost and I believe at a certain point the organizations will add a service fee to this kind of deliveries where a customer does not enter the store.
Another category of businesses relates to services. For example, consultants, legal services, doctors, etc. Being forced to communicate with their clients online, or through videoconferencing, or simply by telephone made all parties (service provider and customers) see that they can be more efficient with time. In the very recent past, if one had to discuss the lab results with the doctor, they had to go to the doctor’s office, wait for a while and then see the doctor for five minutes. By changing this process where the doctor gives the patient a call after having analysed the lab results, it saves everybody a lot of time. The doctor can deal with a few additional patients and not have to maintain a big reception area.
There are also businesses which require contact between the service provider and the customer. This sector probably suffered the most as there was no way to provide that service. Good examples of these are dentists, physiotherapist, barber shops, etc. Physiotherapists did improvise by providing advice through social-media but this was not the service a person in pain can depend on.
We could also talk about another category of organizations that survived because they had help from organizations that acted as a go-between between the customers and the organization. There is no better example than that of restaurants which suddenly saw the value in working with Uber eats, Skip the Dishes, Door Dash, etc. Another example would be companies like Zoom, Cisco, Microsoft, etc. that helped connect people while they worked remotely. I prefer to call these companies as “enablers.” While being enablers, they not only managed to grow their own businesses, but they helped other businesses mitigate the impact of the pandemic. One could dive deeper and start talking about the employment opportunities some of these organizations created when companies were laying-off employees.
These are just some random observations as we come out of the pandemic. It was about resilience, and who was prepared for such an unforeseen event. But one thing is also clear that businesses that were adopting digital technologies to enhance their services and business, found themselves in a better place than those that have not gone digital. It is also very obvious that companies who emerged because of digital networking were able to contribute positively in reducing the impact of the pandemic.
What next? I think it would be important for organizations to seriously consider adopting digital technologies do enhance their service and their reach into the marketplace. I forward looking company would continue with the services they introduced during the pandemic. It is not difficult to predict that companies that withdraw services will have less success in the future. The customers are now used to a new norm, which means having more options whether it be for groceries, professional services or hardware. The demand on companies like Amazon is not going to decrease.
Perhaps what we have seen is the digitalization of resilience or we have seen how resilience was possible because of digitalization. In the end, whatever way one looks at it, it seems resilience and digitalization go hand-in-hand from here onwards.