By Andreas Knürr, CEO of TIMIFY (www.timify.com)
The coronavirus pandemic has hit economies across Europe hard. Here in the UK, the economy shrunk by 20% in April alone and the country is officially in a recession for the first time in 11 years.The sit- uation has been tough, but there is finally a light at the end of the tun- nel and as the government continues to ease restrictions, companies across the region are opening their doors once more.
However, getting businesses back up and running post lockdown isn’t as simple as just rolling up the shutters – there are now strict coron- avirus measures to adhere to.These processes are in place to protect employees and customers but can be frustrating for business owners who want to get back to being fully operational as quickly as possible. Luckily, we live in an ever-increasing digital society and the tools to smooth these processes are at the tip of our fingertips.
SAVING OUR SMES:TECHNOLOGY TO THE RES- CUE
For both the economy and business owners, it’s imperative that small businesses – from hotels to opticians – get back on their feet.The new measures introduced for the hospitality sector such as VAT cuts and the Eat Out To Help Out scheme are a good way to get people spending, however, in order to be resilient, and for organisations in different industries like health and wellness, businesses need to embrace technology in the face of the new normal.
In particular, it’s essential that independent operators and SMEs – who are the backbone of the UK economy but are often resistant to invest in technology – adopt the right tools to help navigate social distancing rules whilst managing an influx of customers. In the past, small businesses have typically found investing in technology daunting, especially as unlike multi-chain and corporate businesses, SMEs do not necessarily have a head office and, therefore, no dedicated team to deal with technology supply and training. But the truth is, digital tools today are easy to use, and onboarding is as simple as watching a video.
Advanced bookings, queue management, online payments and staff rotas are proving more important than ever as they ensure a smooth operation, no overcrowding and contactless services. Everyday, more companies are turning to digital tools to help them get back up and running.Those who fail to do so risk being left behind.
WHAT COULD DIGITAL TOOLS IN ACTION LOOK LIKE?
Let’s look at a case in point for using technology. Imagine a small, popular family-owned hotel spa. Ordinarily, people would gather around the pool for long periods of time, and they might queue at reception to book treatments on the day, however, this makes social distancing hard to maintain and can make customers feel uncomfortable (the opposite of how you want to feel at a spa!). Instead, the spa enables clients to reserve 2- hour time slots to use the pool and book treatments in advance. As the number of people is controlled, social distancing is possible.What’s more, advanced booking means staggered appointments are easy to implement, meaning employees can take time to sanitise and clean the rooms and facilities between people.
What’s more, the booking system can also be used to provide the latest information on measures being taken. Internally, the company uses digital staff rotas to ensure there’s the perfect number of employees on- hand.When it comes to paying, contactless payments or even paying via an app are possible). Customers have come into little contact with others and everyone is left feeling safe.
THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT
Despite the turmoil of the past six months, small businesses have largely remained resilient, which is no mean feat.To ensure success continues, digital tools can be used to enhance employee and customer experience to ensure people keep coming back.
Beyond the pandemic, technology will continue to be beneficial to all businesses from restaurants to beauty salons – in particular, SMEs who need to stay ahead of their competitors. Ultimately, digital tools are not some- thing to shy away from, but rather embrace.Technology is the key to keeping Britain thriving.