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Keep in touch: Video and CRM apps to navigate the coronavirus crisis

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As I write this, things are going from bad to worse with the COVID-19 crisis. With the high level of anxiety that comes with a stressful situation, and the equally high level of uncertainty, it’s easy to get distracted. But the fact is that most of us are now working from home, and while this is unfamiliar to many, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even though the circumstances that necessitate it are frightening.

But the cliché “necessity is the mother of invention” was never truer than it is at this moment. While many of us have been using video conferencing applications for years, others are for the first time having to struggle with unfamiliar applications like Zoom, Skype, WebEx, other video platforms, and other ways to stay in touch and collaborate.

And while it’s easy to start feeling alienated, it’s important to remember that your staff and clients are experiencing similar feelings. Working from home is one thing. Being forced to do it is an entirely different experience. Even those of us used to remote work can start feeling overwhelmed.

As close as the nearest keyboard

I’ve been working from my home office on and off over the past several decades, so you think I’d be used to it. And, for the most part, the habits that I’ve developed are standing me well, at least at the moment. And because I’ve been working at home all those years, I’m used to working with clients and associates over the phone, by email, and over video. But right now, I still terribly miss those times where it was necessary to travel to a client, or meet over a meal.

One thing that stands out very clearly is that I’ve had to become proficient in a number of video platforms, as some of my clients and associates use Skype or Lync, some others use Cisco Webex, and more and more are using Zoom.

Zoho, as part of its Business One collection of apps, has both videoconferencing and collaboration software as part of its collection of applications, so if you have a number of clients who really feel uncomfortable with videoconferencing and inexperienced with online collaboration, it might pay to take a look at Zoho’s offerings as something that’s easy to use, and very affordable (or even free). And now is a good time to try and mix frugality with accessibility.

But more important than the platform you use is the need to put forth a concerted effort to let your staff and clients know that you are there for them. If you have expertise in financial planning, wealth management, IT or any other specialty, now is the time to make sure that your clients know that you are experienced with services you may not currently offer them, and that you’re available for consultation and advice. If at all possible, try and provide these new services at a very reasonable price, or even for free, as all of us are likely to suffer financial fallout before this crisis resolves.

Keeping in touch

While you have a lot on your mind (and on your plate) right now, if you aren’t already using a customer relationship management (CRM) application, now is definitely the right time to get started using one. If the vendor you use for your writeup and other client-facing applications offers CRM, that might be the easiest and quickest way to get up and running with CRM. And if your application supplier doesn’t offer CRM, there are plenty of vendors who do. Depending on your finances, you might want to be cautious about spending a lot of money right now, but vendors like Zoho and Xero offer excellent and affordable cloud-based CRM systems.

There are lots of resources targeted at CRM online. One that I can recommend is the CRM Playaz videocasts available on LinkedIn and Facebook. The CRM Playaz are a trio of consultants and analysts — Paul Greenburg (also known as the “Godfather of CRM”), Brent Leary, and Brian Solis. All of them are expert in CRM as well as CX, or customer experience, and have very successful consulting practices. This trio gets together online at least once a week, sometimes more frequently, and discusses various topics surrounding these areas of conducting business. They also frequently have high-level executives of relevant software companies such as Salesforce on their videocasts. Their videocasts are as far from dry and boring as possible, and in addition to being an enjoyable use of an hour or so, you’ll pick up some good advice you can use in your practice. Their videocasts are interactive, which makes them even more of an enjoyable experience.

The more things change

If there’s anything to be learned from this crisis, it’s that there is no such thing as “business as usual” any more. The way that we interact in business, and in our relationships, will hopefully trend toward the way it used to be as this crisis resolves. But it will never go exactly back to the way it was just a short time ago. Now that we know that it’s possible for things to go to pieces, we need to plan for the contingencies of something similar happening in the future. The pandemic took most of us by surprise, but it’s also forcing us to develop different ways for us to interact.

And one of these is that it’s going to continue to be a common practice for many of us to frequently work remotely and, hopefully, to have a greater appreciation of the relationships we have with staff, clients, associates and friends.

We’re also going to have to place greater reliance on the equipment and software we use day-to-day, so now may be a good time to take an inventory of what you have and what you think you might need in the future. With a greater reliance on connecting over the internet, you need to know that you’ll have the capability if your equipment and/or network fails. Having a spare PC or laptop, with a duplicate of the software you use, is a good strategy, as is upgrading your network equipment including switches and routers. Going to a higher speed internet service might not be possible in the high-demand circumstances we’re in at the present, but it probably should be on your checklist of things to take care of at the earliest possible time.

Having multiple backups has become more necessary than it’s ever been before. So, take a hard look at how and where you are performing them now, and build in as much redundancy as you can.

And, most of all, try and keep as positive an outlook as you can, and stay engaged with the people you know. Be there for them, but understand that they are as worried and isolated as you may feel, and reaching out, and staying in constant touch, is not only good business, but a good way to conduct your life.

Most of all, stay safe and healthy.

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Coronavirus Work from home CRM systems