What will be the security industry’s biggest challenge in 2021?
The pandemic continues to reshape how we live and act. It’s strange to think that it wasn’t all that long ago we went about our lives free of tight protocols—for the most part—regarding where we could go and when. And words like “social distancing” “new normal” and “coronavirus” had yet to enter everyday vocabulary.
Since the spring, people and businesses have worked overtime to adjust, and the results have been mixed. From a business perspective, many are still wondering what current standard operating practices will become permanent and what might revert back to normal. All the while they forge forward and adapt as best that they can.
We had a chance to talk with Bob Moore, Axis Communications’ Director of Marketing, about this uncertainty, the importance of pivoting and evolving, and his outlook on the future here.
Navigating 2020’s bumpy road
When state and local officials first put lockdowns into place, many companies felt like a rug was swept from underneath them. How would employees go about regularly working in a virtual setting? How might this impact their ability to connect with colleagues and customers? And, of course, what were customers thinking? These were just some of the questions Bob wrestled with at the onset.
“The security industry is pretty traditional in the sense that in my experience we do lean on face-to-face interaction to do business,” says Bob. “And this isn’t a bad thing at all; It’s been very successful. This has come in the form of networking at hundreds of tradeshows or inviting people to, in our case, our Axis Experience Centers located in cities across the U.S. But suddenly that had to stop happening, at least in the traditional sense. So, the question I asked myself was, ‘how can we continue to connect with our partners and new prospects in ways that benefited everyone?”’
Bob mentions the very first test came right away when ISC West, like most tradeshows, was postponed. Adjustments had to be made on the fly, and the word “pivot” became a fashionable term used to describe how Axis would tackle oncoming challenges.
Axis had scheduled—among many other events and sessions—its annual press breakfast and the launch of its product roadmap. Bob and Fredrik Nilsson, VP, Americas, Axis Communications, Inc. made a key decision to replicate these important parts of the show in a virtual format, ensuring that Axis was still able to connect with industry leaders, media, and other stakeholders who had been anticipating these events.
“There’s always bumps in the road, but being decisive is extremely important because in times of uncertainty decisiveness wins out,” explains Bob. “As a leadership team we set an ambitious goal, and everyone worked around the clock to make it happen. Day in and out we held meetings with a task force. It was amazing to see it all come together.”
For the first time in recent memory, companies worldwide were forced to simultaneously adjust due to the pandemic. The health crisis has amplified the need for businesses to stay on their toes and deal with sudden change and uncertainty often on a daily or weekly basis. Going forward, they’ll have to continue to use what they’ve learned so far to think outside their traditional frameworks of operating. They’ll need to ensure they have the right tools and procedures in place to quickly pivot. And they should, however difficult, be OK with feeling somewhat vulnerable because that’s where Bob believes opportunity exists.
“There’s always bumps in the road, but being decisive is extremely important because in times of uncertainty decisiveness wins out.”
“We have choices to make. There are activities that we’ve done every year—and I believe this has been the case with all businesses—that we weren’t able to do this year. While at first that’s discouraging, when you step back you’re able to see that it’s actually been an opportunity to basically conduct A/B testing and re-evaluate what’s worked and maybe hasn’t work as well. There might have been something we had to do given the circumstances that ended up being a diamond in the rough.”
The trickle-down effect
A top concern is how the pandemic has and will impact customer relationships. How are companies engaging with customers and prospects today that they didn’t before? And will this continue well into the future?
“First, it’s important to identify what’s working and what’s not working,” Bob says. “Companies need to provide their employees with the proper tools so they can adapt to change and still efficiently do their jobs. Take, for example, web conferencing tools. These aren’t new; they’ve been around for years. But the pandemic has caused usage to surge whereas it might have taken years for a similar wide-scale adoption to happen. Now that we know the value these tools bring, they’ll likely have a prominent roll in the workplace going forward even when we do get back to normal.”
Evidence backs up Bob’s point. Research from Vonage shows that the popularity of digital channels, such as video chatting and social messaging apps, has surged since January, and there appears to be little chance this wanes as we head into the new year. In fact, the research indicates we’re at the onset of a “huge market-wide communications revolution.” Agile businesses that have the resources to meet with and provide for customers remotely will have an advantage and come out of trying times stronger.
Axis, for example, has been utilizing web conferencing tools to host meetings and take part in virtual tradeshows. And it’s long had in place different tools to connect with customers. These include, for example, its strong technical support team, and Axis Academy, which has—due to the pandemic—momentarily reverted to an online format.
Axis Academy offers a range of training services and the only global professional certification in the video surveillance industry. Axis’ award-winning, robust technical support offers a breadth of support channels including live chat, helpdesk, support videos, product and developer pages, and troubleshooting guides. Or customers can call into the support center, which is constantly evaluating its level of service. Customers should know that Axis’ technical support doesn’t focus entirely on average handle time (AHT). Technical support employees stay with customers all the way until the problem is resolved. This builds trust and strengthens relationships.
“Now more than ever, reading a warm personal communication that sounds like it’s written from you versus a mass communication can make all the difference.”
Just because we’re all working in a more virtual world doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t have a personal touch. Bob believes this boils down to how we speak to someone.
“I think companies really need to be careful with how they message and communicate to their partners,” Bob says. “Now more than ever, reading a warm personal communication that sounds like it’s written from you versus a mass communication can make all the difference. The more you can personalize your communication the bigger impact it’s going to have on someone.”
From traditional to virtual: Embracing the challenge
“Success if not final, failure is not fatal, it is the course to continue that counts.” Not our words, of course. But Bob feels this concept really is applicable today.
The road’s been bumpy. And it won’t necessarily be smooth going forward. But Bob believes that those who are agile will likely find it easier to pivot than others. And those who are willing to embrace the chance their “old normal” (whatever that might have been) may not return—at least for the time being—can then embrace new ways of doing business to stay a step ahead of their competition.
This won’t necessarily be easy to accomplish. But what’s important to remember is that at the heart of all of this change, there’s also one constant, and that’s people and the need to leverage the human element. Companies that continue to focus on having that personal touch in business will be able to navigate the biggest challenge going forward (uncertainty), maintain strong relationships, and put themselves in a great position to succeed.