The critical reasons why forward-thinking small businesses are rapidly ramping up their digital transformation efforts to support and fuel their growth in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the business landscape. Lockdown restrictions have impacted companies in several ways, but the common theme among those who have weathered the storm better than others is a savvy embrace of digital technologies.

Indeed, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation efforts by several years, according to research by McKinsey, and digital technologies have been core to embedding crucial resilience into business models and processes throughout the unprecedented disruption.

Operating on the front line of the economy, service companies have been disrupted more than most. Their steadfast dedication to continuing to serve customers (often in their homes despite the risks) has prevented economies from suffering more than they have. Tragically, however, this has not prevented the need for layoffs or even some companies from going out of business.

As economies gradually reopen and some level of normality begins to re-emerge in many countries, small businesses will be at the heart of the expected economic rebound following the pandemic. Service companies, in particular, account for large segments of employment and GDP in most nations, so their success is fundamental to any financial recovery.

Given the nature of this particular financial crisis, the recovery will undoubtedly be a digital-led one. Small businesses have already had to ramp up their technology and software to adapt and survive over the last 12 months. But to grow successfully in the coming years, riding the waves of the economic rebound, they must embrace the benefits of digital innovation further.

Though the return of restriction less interactions will be enthusiastically welcomed worldwide, there will be no reversal of the digital trends in consumer behaviour that have advanced. SMEs should apply the same commitment and creativity as they did to evolving their services during the pandemic to now placing digitisation firmly at the top of their agenda.

But where should they focus their efforts specifically, and in what areas are software and digitisation most required to fuel rapid business growth in the wake of the pandemic?

No more drowning in the admin – or slow payments

One of the biggest frustrations of small business owners is being bogged down by the routine administrative tasks of running a company. Most people start a business because they are passionate about what they do and are good at it. However, the tedious yet necessary paperwork required for the business to operate drains far too much time and resources.

At the top of the list is invoicing and accounting. Such tasks require almost constant attention and can often dominate the working week of a business owner. Overlooking these tasks, meanwhile, can prove disastrous for the business. A tax bill could be missed, an important document filed late, or the company could end up with cash flow issues. Software is an essential tool for automating and accelerating these tasks.

Customer experience is king

Service businesses have always been judged first and foremost by the customer experience they provide. But that customer experience is no longer just limited to turning up and doing a job well – it starts before the moment of the customer’s first interaction with the business. Typically, this first interaction with a customer is now online and continues through service delivery, all of the way through to paying for the completed work.

A disconnect at any stage of the process can lead to customer dissatisfaction, which will likely be documented through social media or review sites, potentially damaging future business. The real challenge is that customer expectations continue to evolve rapidly – consumers benchmark experience against their favourite apps.

That is not to say it should be complicated or costly. Highly affordable service management tools available today enable small businesses to access the same technology that large utility and energy providers use in the field. Meaning there is no reason not to digitise and no excuse for not delivering an optimised customer experience.

Inefficiencies hinder growth

No company should ever again have to turn down a job because it could not determine current capacity and schedule efficiently. Paper or whiteboard scheduling is inevitably slow and prone to human error, particularly during busy times. Very quickly, businesses can find themselves without the visibility needed to understand what they are doing and what they need to do.

This is just one example of a manual process that holds small businesses back from growing. There are hundreds (possibly even thousands) of such inefficiencies, small and large, deeply ingrained in companies that have not yet digitised their processes. Add them all together, and busy business owners can find it challenging to keep on top of their daily operations, let alone think about how they grow their business.

Data is the key to running a business more intelligently and with greater visibility across all operations now and in the future – and for non-tech-savvy business owners, that need not be daunting. Service management software is easy to use, seamlessly putting powerful data at the fingertips of business owners so they can eliminate efficiencies and scale their operations fast.

If business owners think the last 12 months have flown by, they have not seen anything yet. The post-pandemic economic rebound is coming, and competition will be fiercer than ever.  Digitisation is pivotal to their ability to bounce back better and drive growth, liberated from admin and inefficiencies, and with a powerful digital customer experience to boot.