Small businesses across the spectrum are upping their digital game. When small businesses understand how digital transformation works harmoniously with their staff and business plan, it can pay off — big time.

But in order to make a successful digital shift, it’s critical to consider your people first, then focus on choosing and using the technology, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM or CXM) tools or creating a more robust online presence management strategy.

Technology Isn’t a Plan

Raise your hand if your business is bombarded with advertisements telling you why you need technology. Before you pull the trigger, understand that technology, by itself, is not a business strategy.

Often when the implementation of new digital processes is a flop, it’s not due to a flaw within the product. Rather, it is due to an oversight in understanding the needs of the business.

61% of business leaders say they struggle to bridge the gap between strategy and implementation. Why is that? It’s because it’s difficult to pass on a software product that promises to streamline your operations or level up your marketing.

Unfortunately, without a well-thought-out business strategy, technology won’t be the magic wand you’re hoping for.

As a business owner, you should analyze your companies’ mission and goals, both short- and long-term. Identify key areas where automation or organization is needed. And understand what you need for execution, including education, training and support.

Here’s a startling statistic, only 15% of small business owners have recorded their full plans in the past year. Plus, a solid 27% are winging it without documenting any part of their business strategy. We hate to sound like a broken record, but technology cannot fix a lack of planning.

On the other hand, one study found that entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability. By combining a strong, strategic business plan with the digital transformation, you are setting your business up for success.

Examine the Employee Experience

You wouldn’t purchase a puppy without talking to your partner first … at least we hope not. They may be allergic, could refuse to take it on walks or, even worse, say the pup can’t sleep in the bed.

Likewise, you shouldn’t purchase a CXM or other technology without discussing it with your team first. Instead of presenting technology to team members as if it’s a gift they should be thankful for, consult with them prior to making a purchase.

Your employees have intimate knowledge of what happens within your organization on a day-to-day basis. Ask them where technology could help improve their workflows. Consider the following:

  • What do they need to do their jobs better or more efficiently?
  • Where are there holes or weaknesses within the customer journey?
  • What tasks are time-consuming or could be taken off of your employees’ plate?
  • Who can own this technology implementation and ensure the team is properly trained?

In addition to gathering your teams’ insights on how technology can improve their workflows, empower your personnel with the knowledge of why you are looking to purchase new technology.

Explain the goals and benefits and how it aligns with your business strategy. Help your team understand why and how a digital transformation can positively impact both the company and their specific role or department.

Acknowledge the Fear of Being Replaced

Digitization can empower your employees but, it can also be an unsettling announcement. Team members may fear their job is being replaced by simple software. This can make them hesitant to embrace the change. Anxiety surrounding unemployment and digitization isn’t new, but COVID-19 has heightened those fears.

Adding digital capabilities to your small business should be an opportunity for your employees. Rolling out new technology is a lot of work and requires all hands on deck.

Identify parts of the process that your current staff can own. Reframe the shift as an opportunity for them to add new skills to their resume.

As mentioned in the previous section, engage with your employees to help them understand how a digital transformation can have a positive impact on their day-to-day and even their career, long-term.

Consult with Your Customers

The customer experience is a part of your business that you simply cannot ignore. As we all know, customers are the key to a successful business.

Requesting feedback from your patrons can provide a detailed guide to understanding where technology can be used to improve the experience. We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, negative reviews can be an opportunity in disguise. By reviewing and responding to negative reviews, you can identify where your business is lacking and opportunities to improve.

Let’s say you own a doggy daycare. You notice amidst your glowing reviews a common complaint keeps popping up. There is typically a long line at check-in in the mornings and your staff always seems to be on the phone.

Following a conversation with your team, you learn that the mornings are when a lot of pet owners call to schedule overnight boarding, grooming or training services.

A CRM with the ability to allow your customers to book services online could be the perfect solution. You’re making it easier for people to book appointments while simultaneously freeing up your front desk staff to interact with customers each morning, providing a more personalized experience.

Whatever the case may be, at the end of the day, your job is to make your customers happy. People want the businesses they frequently do business with to connect with them on a personal level.

Not only should they know their names, customers believe employees should take an interest in personal details about them, like the names of their kids, or in this case, their fur babies.

With the right research, technology can be the key to providing your employees the right support to allow them to focus on those details.

Happy Employees Are Good for the Bottom Line

If your goal is to run a successful business, invest in your employee’s well-being. While technology in some cases is the cause of burnout, it’s also a solution.

Automating repetitive tasks and streamlining communication can free your employees of time.  Now they can take 15-minute walks, full-hour lunch breaks or even just chat with co-workers in the office.

In addition, digital business transformation can improve your internal communication, which is a big win when it comes to employee turnover — especially since employees often cite stress due to poor communication as a reason for leaving a company.

Employees that feel their employer cares about them as much as the bottom line will typically be more engaged.

Consider this: Have you ever walked into a business and could tell immediately that the man behind the desk just didn’t want to be there? How did that impact how you perceived the business? If the staff doesn’t want to be there, do you?

Laura Tolhoek, CEO and founder of Essential HR says it best on our podcast.

Good people are hard to find … but as a job seeker, good companies are also hard to find.

Employees that feel appreciated, will be more loyal to you and your brand and provide your patrons a better customer experience.

Technology Is Part of the Solution

Committing to a digital business transformation can have a positive impact on how your customers and staff perceive your company.

As showcased, a CRM or CXM like Thryv can provide the support for your team to offer an extraordinary customer experience. However, this sort of digital transformation will only work if it is thoughtfully implemented and used to complement the human side of small business.