The way forward: Factors for Caribbean businesses to considerWednesday, October 28, 2020
The novel coronavirus pandemic has taught us that many Caribbean islands still have tremendous work to do to develop their online systems and thereby better manage their businesses on an online platform.
The pandemic has pushed companies to earnestly channel their business processes online and manage customer orders via an online platform, whereby customers place an order online and receive a notification by way of a text message or an e-mail informing them of the delivery date and the proposed delivery time for the goods. For many businesses, this online transition has not been managed very efficiently, as customers expressed grave discontent, stating that their orders were either delivered two days after the scheduled delivery time or that their orders were incorrect and not consistent with the original orders placed.
Caribbean businesses should therefore seek to focus on managing these online platforms more efficiently to ensure that the customer experience is of high quality and consistency, especially during a time of uncertainty. Customers prefer and enjoy the privilege of knowing that they can depend on a specific company for their goods or services at any given time. The ultimate aim is to ensure that customers know that they are valued, appreciated, and that they know that their needs are being met.
As such, Caribbean businesses should consider the following guidelines for efficient management of their online business platforms. First, they need to consider strengthening the skills within their information technology (IT) department. In some instances, Caribbean businesses do not have an IT department to facilitate the online platform. These businesses should start implementing procedures to have such provisions in place to remedy this weakness and should seek to employ appropriately skilled IT personnel to allow the transition to e-business to be as smooth as possible. The e-business platform should also be user-friendly, whereby customers can make purchases with an interface that is welcoming and easy to use.
Second, Caribbean businesses need to ensure that they are constantly monitoring the orders and requests which they receive online. A recommended measure is to employ personnel who can constantly monitor orders and ensure that they are being delivered on the correct date and at the time agreed with customers, so that customers are satisfied with the level of service they receive.
This experience should be synonymous with the service they receive when purchasing goods in an actual store.
Third, Caribbean businesses need to ensure that they possess the necessary resources to facilitate an online platform. For companies that sell goods and commodities, this will involve ensuring that they possess the vehicles to facilitate transport and delivery of orders. For service providers, this will involve ensuring that service professionals are readily available on an online medium to facilitate the needs and requirements of customers. Online mediums should also have a facility whereby customers can chat in real time with a representative of the business so that queries and questions can be answered and addressed in an efficient time frame.
While the costs of managing an online platform will be larger initially for Caribbean businesses, it will generate customer loyalty and contribute to the overall success of businesses, especially during challenging times such as the pandemic.
Overall, Caribbean businesses need to ensure that the same value and level of service that they are giving to their customers via face-to-to face means are consistent with the type of service that they provide by way of an online platform.
While I am not discouraging businesses from discontinuing their face-to-face mediums and physical locations, I am suggesting that an online business platform will not only provide an alternative route for customers but also serves as an avenue to provide additional income and ensure business continuity in times such as these.
— Thea Lowe, ACCA, CA, BSc (Hons) is a chartered accountant and accounting tutor with six years' experience in assurance services and two years' experience as a tutor. She is currently employed at a professional services firm, where she is the audit manager in assurance services, specialising in the audits of small to medium-sized entities.
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