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The COVID-19 pandemic will go down in history as the most significant economic event of the decade. Consumer behavior has undergone rapid changes, many businesses have been forced to shut down, and new restrictions have caught companies off guard.

Leaders across the world have been forced to reimagine their business models — practically overnight. Unfortunately, many have fallen into the trap of believing that if they simply transfer their existing operations online, customers will follow.

But returning to “business as usual” in the digital space isn’t going to be enough. To rebound from the pandemic, you need to consider how your company fits into the post-coronavirus landscape, which aspects of your business need to be revamped, and how technology can help you improve the customer experience. The businesses that flourish in this new world will be those that excel in three core areas: customer convenience, speedy response times, and workforce flexibility.

Here are four tools your business needs to survive and thrive after the crisis:

1. A more powerful CRM platform.
The world we’ll be returning to post-shutdown is not the same as the one we left. According to one survey, 43 percent of U.S. households saw their income decrease during the pandemic, and 40 percent report becoming more mindful of their spending.

But perhaps more surprising was the hit the pandemic took on brand loyalty. Three out of every four consumers dabbled in new shopping patterns during the crisis, such as shopping at another store, buying online, or trying a different brand. These changes were primarily motivated by product availability and convenience.

To cope with a possible influx of new customers (and a decrease in spending among your existing ones), you need a powerful customer relationship management platform that allows you to aggressively segment your customers and target them with highly relevant messaging.

Try: Salesforce
Salesforce is one of the most advanced CRM platforms out there. While it does have a steep learning curve, Salesforce is highly customizable and integrates seamlessly with popular tools such as GSuite, QuickBooks, and Zendesk.

2. Live chat to answer customer questions instantly.
As more consumers become online shoppers, their expectations for a digital storefront increasingly begin to mirror the experience they would expect from a brick-and-mortar store. Your customers want to be able to get real-time answers to their questions as they shop. (In fact, 44 percent of online consumers say that getting their questions answered by a live person is one of the most important website features.)

One way to provide such personalized service is by adding a live chat function to your website. It’s not quite the same as being greeted by a helpful employee at the entrance to a brick-and-mortar store, but the advantage is that someone (either an agent or a bot) is available around the clock.

While chatbots only handled about a quarter of conversations from start to finish in 2018, bots were involved in 59 percent of interactions. Shockingly, 92 percent of customers report feeling satisfied after using live chat — probably because it provides both the convenience of online shopping with the personalization of a human interaction.

Try: LiveChat
LiveChat is a bit pricier than some of its competitors, but your customer chat platform is one area where you don’t want to skimp. LiveChat is often praised for its sleek, feature-rich interface and strong customer support. Best of all, it boasts more than 170 integrations, including Facebook Messenger, Salesforce, ChatBot, and Google Analytics.

3. A platform to manage and optimize your hourly workforce.
As states across the U.S. reopen, many companies are seeing a spike in worker retirement and absenteeism due to coronavirus fears. Absenteeism already costs US employers $36.4 billion per year, but this number will likely increase in our post-pandemic world.

Illness or injury is only one reason employees call in sick. Stress, caring for family members, and a lack of flexibility all contribute to absenteeism, as well. Seventy percent of hourly workers say a flexible schedule is extremely important, but workers aren’t the only ones who want flexibility. You need the ability and agility to optimize schedules to reduce absenteeism and manage overtime.

Try: MyWorkChoice
MyWorkChoice is a workforce management platform that can take your existing schedule format and use it to create flexible shifts with seamless shift transitions. Workers can set their schedule and schedule shifts within the app up to 40 hours per week. Employers get a 95 percent fill rate on their open shifts without paying employees overtime.

4. A third-party logistics provider that allows you to compete.
COVID-19 was especially lucrative for companies with fast delivery and subscription options. When consumers found empty shelves at brick-and-mortar stores, many turned to retail giants to get their essentials.

In the first quarter of 2020, Amazon Prime subscription revenue grew 28 percent. Walmart’s digital sales increased by 74 percent, and pet food subscription service Chewy.com saw a 46 percent growth in sales during its first fiscal quarter. Subscription services and companies offering free two-day shipping thrived because they provided a shopping experience that was fast, convenient, and safe.

With so many new customers doing their shopping online, your business needs to decide how it’s going to meet these same criteria on a smaller scale. Will you offer fast and free shipping on orders? Do you have an enticing deal to get customers to add items to their cart? What about a subscription service that rewards customer loyalty? However you plan to capture customers’ hearts, you need a fulfillment service to compete in today’s need-it-now marketplace.

Try: ShipBob
ShipBob offers affordable two-day shipping for small- and medium-sized businesses. It integrates with the most popular e-commerce platforms, including WooCommerce and Shopify, and allows you to effortlessly manage your orders, inventory, and returns.

COVID-19 changed the business landscape overnight — possibly forever. It’s impossible to know how long the effects on consumer behavior will last, but the pandemic has provided an unprecedented opportunity for business innovation. Companies that respond to consumers’ changing needs have a chance — not just to rebound — but to thrive in a post-pandemic marketplace.