Business Continuity in Tough Times: Empathy, Video and Rigor

Have your video conferences been getting more and more crowded lately, like the one in the photo? It’s cool to watch Microsoft Teams (or whichever video conference tool you use) stack up 4, 9, 15 or 25 different users in a single view, isn’t it? Plus more people on subsequent pages.

Nobody’s happy that the coronavirus pandemic has forced us into working from home this way. But it has opened up new ways to connect with one another. We’re finding that our customers are amenable to new vehicles for seeking out education and solutions. We’ve rolled out the red carpet for the surge in #WorkingFromHome with a landing page based on connecting, managing and securing a remote workforce for business continuity.

Even if you work from home, there is ample opportunity to continue engaging with your customers, with plenty of future potential for those who maintain relationships and keep the plates spinning.

My world and welcome to it

As vice president for Latin America and Emerging Markets at Quest®, I spend a lot of time looking at screens like the one in the photo.

My group looks after our channel partners in 151 countries across Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. As part of our sales team management, we’ve helped deal with economic turmoil in Venezuela, Argentina and South Africa; with political turmoil in Brazil; and with natural disaster in Haiti. We like to think we’re adept at navigating local crises in emerging markets and getting our customers whatever they may need — answers, technical support, financing options — to keep business going.

I see parallels between dealing with those environments and dealing with the obstacles that the coronavirus pandemic is throwing in front of us. That’s why I want to describe three important guidelines my group follows to support customers, even in a crisis.

1. A little empathy goes a long way.

What are people everywhere focused on right now, after the health of family and friends? They’re focused on the health of business: keeping the lights on, keeping employees on the payroll, keeping customers happy and preserving business continuity in general.

But not everybody can do that in the same way or to the same degree. The situation on the ground is tough for everybody, including us, and things aren’t the same all over the world — they can’t be. In some countries, big disruptions like a hurricane or a pandemic can stop business in its tracks for multiple weeks, months or quarters. It takes a lot more workarounds and local savvy for customers in those regions to get back to some kind of business as usual.

Recognizing that there are differences and deltas across regions, we’ve got to show empathy for the difficulties that our customers are going through now.

2. Video is the life-blood of working remotely.

I can’t tell you how important it has been for us to evangelize and use video with our customers at every opportunity. Even if it’s one-sided, with me running my camera and a customer in some distant time zone preferring audio, the benefits are real.

Want to know the rule of thumb we use in my group? Suppose it takes two face-to-face meetings to get something done, like getting a purchase order signed or obtaining a “yes” on a proof of concept. And suppose it takes 10 phone calls to reach the same result. Over video, it’s about five. It’s not as low as in-person or as high as phone, but it’s close to the middle because of the opportunity for interaction.

There’s a familiarity and intimacy to video that makes things stickier and more relationship-oriented. I’ve found that, once you put on a nice shirt, take off your baseball cap, comb your hair and switch on your camera, you’re ready to do business.

Nine out of ten people believe that working remotely over video makes meetings more efficient, according to one survey. So efficient, in fact, that 11 percent admit to taking video calls while driving, and three percent admit to participating while in the restroom (neither of which do I recommend).

Plus, it’s more difficult to become distracted during a video conference call than on an audio call. You know what you can expect your fellow participants are doing on audio conference calls? Here’s what another survey reveals:

  • 65% work on other tasks, including email
  • 55% eat or prepare food
  • 27% sleep
  • 21% shop online
  • 9% work out

To get back to my rule of thumb about 2 meetings = 10 phone calls = 5 video conferences, video helps get you to 5 because you’ve gotten rid of some of the distractions. People feel rushed on the phone, but not so rushed when you’re with them in person. And video is somewhere in the middle.

3. Rigor in the pandemic — even when working from home

I described the importance of empathy in #1. But it’s equally important to be rigorous when working toward business continuity.

I’m not brushing aside the difficulties you face, but when you’re working from home and arranging your to-do list each day, everything should contribute to business continuity. That can’t go out the window just because of the pandemic.

For example, during every IT staff call in the world this month, an admin is going to offer some variation of, “I can’t finish the migration/upgrade the server/get our users on board because of coronavirus.” That may be true, but it’s not very satisfying to hear. And if you’re rigorous about business continuity, it’s still true that you need to work toward normal progress in all your projects. For example, is your migration project still OK from the point of view of money, decision, authorization to start, readiness of managers and all the other factors going into it?

So when my sales teams get on a forecast call and I hear, “We’re having x-problem because of coronavirus,” I ask, “What is x? Is it that the previous contact is sick now? Is she not yet set up to work from home?” In your own status calls, drill into that x-problem — it usually has to do with somebody having to work differently now — and get a specific description of what’s holding up the project. Work on the cause first, and the excuse will go away.

Even in this crazy environment, the fundamentals of business continuity demand the rigor of taking that one extra step, instead of just saying coronavirus will delay all your work.

Next step

As organizations work to provide secure remote access to employees in the lockdown phase of COVID-19, we’ve pulled together a business continuity page that aligns Quest products with the most urgent #WorkingFromHome tasks:

  • Secure multi-factor remote access
  • Remote endpoint systems management
  • At-home database availability
  • Remote database management and performance monitoring
  • Cybersecurity resilience
  • Secure use of Microsoft Office 365 and Teams
  • Patch management
  • Backup and recovery

Use it to ensure nothing is falling through the cracks in your efforts to keep your business going amid this pandemic.

What are you hearing from your users and fellow admins? What are you hearing from customers? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo credit: Todd Werner

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