I think it’s fair to say that 2020 didn’t quite pan out the way any of us expected and, for those of us running businesses, we’ve probably gained a few extra grey hairs, but positive change can result from unforeseen challenges.
Over the last eight months I’ve spoken to business clients in many different industries who have been keen to share how they have dealt with issues arising from the pandemic and to ask questions about how COVID has affected Beswicks.
With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to put together my top five things that COVID taught us:
1. Homeworking can work
We’ve always been a flexible employer encouraging people to work from home from time-to-time but it really has proved to be effective. A balance between a small team in the office and the remainder at home has increased our output without impacting the quality of service.
Of course, homeworking doesn’t suit everyone and the welfare and comfort of our employees is critical. For those who prefer to be office-based, they have the option to come into the office some or all of the time. The balance is working and the flexibility is benefiting both employees and the firm itself.
2. Accelerated the need for digital transformation
Digital transformation was already a key focus for us and we were well aware of the important role that digital plays in enabling us to provide clients with exceptional service levels. However, COVID enhanced the need for us to accelerate our digital transformation strategy.
We are looking at a number of projects such as taking our infrastructure to the cloud, digital onboarding with remote ID verification for our clients, collaborative tools that allow clients to have a personalised area for all documentation and communication, online payments and automated communication tools to update clients about events in real-time, to name just a few.
We are about to launch an app for residential property clients that enables us to securely share essential documents, provide notifications when certain stages in a purchase or sale have been reached and provide a convenient channel for clients to message their solicitor whenever they need to.
All of the above are examples of how we can use digital to provide clients with an experience that means working with us is seamless from the point they become a new client through to mid-matter and completion.
3. Communication is key
We pride ourselves on getting to know our clients. We are a people first business and It was a concern to us that reduced face-to-face contact and increased dependency on telephone, email and video calls might have an adverse impact on client experience.
The importance of continuing to build strong relationships with clients and staying connected to them was immediately apparent. In response we kept our office open to clients, while making even greater efforts to regularly communicate with them and keep them up-to-date with their matters by utilising video calls.
We have always actively encouraged our clients to visit the office and this has not changed, but having the option of Microsoft Teams, Zoom and other collaboration tools, has really boosted those lines of communication, keeping them open and ensuring the client experience remains five-star.
4. Maintaining culture is crucial
We have a brilliant team at Beswicks and when we’re all in the office, there’s a real buzz about the place. We have great team spirit, supporting each other professionally and enjoying each other’s company socially. But how do you recreate that with people working remotely?
It’s not easy. It takes time and effort, but during 2020 it has been all the more crucial to do this to prevent team members from feeling disconnected.
Microsoft Teams has been elevated from something hardly any of us bothered with, to being absolutely central to our daily communications. It enables us to talk as a whole firm, hold departmental meetings and, rather than simply speaking on the phone, to see and interact with colleagues. This is supplemented by monthly employee newsletters, keeping the whole team up-to-date with news and developments.
We’ve even managed to keep the Beswicks’ team spirit going with our annual Christmas jumper day competition (with selfies sent in, rather than in person), charity Christmas food and present collections and a small socially distanced Christmas tipple in the office. Where there’s a will, there is definitely a way!
5. Relationships matter
We miss seeing our contacts and friends. It’s as simple as that. Things that we previously took for granted – meetings, events, hospitality, coffee catch-ups – have been few and far between this year. Being at the heart of the business community and enjoying strong business relationships and networks, in many ways, is what makes us Beswicks. For that to be removed has felt like a real loss.
Newsletters and phone and video calls to contacts and friends are, in reality, a poor substitute for seeing people face-to-face. One thing is certain, when we come out the other side of the pandemic, we’ll be making up for lost time and catching up with as many people as possible!
So, they’re my five things that COVID taught us. I’m a strong believer in the business community coming together to support each other and share ideas. At Beswicks, we like to work as an extension of our clients’ businesses, so please do get in touch for a catch-up. Just email me at email@example.com or phone me on 07710 604422.