SMEs: Using communication as pivot in difficult times

September 29, 2020
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ALL businesses and organizations need to figure out how to stay afloat and also add value to their customers and audience during this new normal occasioned by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Recall, COVID-19 has caused major disruptions to your daily operations and business processes.  Effective business communication is one of the simple strategies to adopt to cushion the effect. It entails sharing information between employees within an organization and also outside which particularly would involve the customers. Communication to consider can entail alterations of the process to deliver your product or service, developing a new product or product line, or targeting different market segments and so on. Effective communication is the key to a successful business and can help greatly at this time. Kindly note that it could take the form of stakeholder engagements, talking to vendors or customers, even talking to colleagues face to face or within departments through the use of a computer, smartphone, or telephone. More importantly, regardless of the communication channel communicating accurately is essential. Whether the purpose is to update customers on new products or price differentials, to the traffic situation, to ensure safety, or to listen to the attitudes of employees, effective communication is an integral issue in effective management.  Occasionally, in the workplace communication can also include behavioral patterns, body language, and even facial expressions, rather than the plain exchange of words.

In today’s competitive market and current realities, no matter the size of your business, proper business communication is critical to success and sustainability. It can also enhance organizational survival at this time of high business uncertainty. Undoubtedly, effective communication can establish good interpersonal, strong working relationships, and facilitates cooperation within the staff of an organization, which can help to overcome difficulties. In fact, communication plays a significant role in product development, product launching, change in service orientation. change in business offerings, marketing, and employee management. In a simple context, virtually every facet of business operation can be impacted either negatively or positively with communication. Therefore, to be effective in a modern business environment and Post COVID-19, an effective communication process should be adopted,which should be two-way. That is effective communication should be complemented with active listening. Ordinarily, it should involve the exchange of information between two or more individuals at all organizational levels. That said, when this communication is open and continuous amongst business stakeholders, customers, and employees it can help make and maintain business objectives, and keep potential workplace conflicts from getting out of hand.

When organisational expectations and issues are regularly discussed and solutions proffered in both formal and informal settings, all members of staff will have a better understanding of the status of the working relationship, business objectives, and all necessary interests will also be protected. For instance, being attentive to customer feedbacks, shareholders’ expectations, employee issues, and concerns builds loyalty, trust and drives improved productivity. Therefore, do not make assumptions of experience and connection of customers to your business or organization, simply talk to them. Ensure making honest conversations at all times to get meaningful feedback. It will be wrong to assume clients/customers already know the values, services your organization render. Take the time out to communicate and let clients know about your great services, changes in your organization and also the expectations during this new era where social distancing is germane on everyone’s mind due to the COVID-19 environment.

It is important to state that having effective communication can help businesses in so many ways, essentially for enterprise to achieve success. Surveyed businesses within Nigeria indicated that effective communication can boost employee morale, give workplace satisfaction, promote efficiency, improve growth in revenue, and increase customer engagement. In response to the recent survey, business operators also indicated that effective communication also help to lessen the chances of misunderstandings and potentially reduce grievances and even complaints or litigations in the business. Ultimately, it can improve processes, procedures, and create greater efficiencies, and reduces costs in the business. Conversely, a lack of it or ineffective communication is seen to lead to employee frustration, lower productivity, absenteeism, and increased employee turnover rate. It may also increase the chances for misinterpretations, tarnish business or organization’s goodwill, damage relationships, break trust, and increase anger and hostility. Unlike everyday communications, business communication is vital and must be taken seriously by business operators and entrepreneurs.

Significantly, internal and external communication is important for any organization to function effectively. Proficient internal communication is achieved when all employees, no matter the level of seniority, can engage in information sharing easily and also pass on information with one another. It should encompass formal and informal communication throughout an organization, including communication with upper management. While external communication largely involves clients/customers, investors, shareholders,and vendors. Communication with them should involve effective interaction with them at all times or the business will suffer and die. Essentially, the customer is king and key to business survival. Consequently establishing a feedback mechanism can help business operators monitor service and product progress with customers,which can help with strategic adjustments to any anticipated change in the market, even with current realities. Accordingly, developing and encouraging effective communication internally and externally among staff, vendors, and customers/clients is an important skill that all business operators must leverage.

In business, therefore, communication can make the difference between success and failure. So, no form of communication in form of feedback, engagement, interaction, listening and business conversation should be ignored or avoided. Make it a desirable habit to acknowledge feedbacks especially on social media and email communications. With the multiple access and channels to communicate remotely, employees, business stakeholders, and customers can be encouraged to communicate on-the-go easily. Furthermore,  relevant responses to queries, feedback, and inquiries can be achieved instantaneously with the internet, cascading the information within the organization effortlessly. In the business place, this important information, and documents, should be easily accessible when required because information plays a critical role in how the business and employees interact. In conclusion, communication is a crucial and significant element in any business set up. Therefore, business organizations should have comprehensive policies and strategies for communicating with customers, employees, and stakeholders as well as with the community at large.

  • Dr. Olubiyi is an entrepreneurship and small business management expert

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