Coronavirus and staying human in a digital world

Coronavirus and staying human in a digital world

By Jordan McCuaig, Digital Consultant

The effects of Coronavirus and the lockdown on how we do business are mammoth. It has been essential to learn how to adapt, quickly, even without having the preparation and infrastructure in place.

When Simon Devlin, Managing Director at Full Circle, asked me to write an article for the company LinkedIn, he had one simple request – write from a personal point of view.

I deliver support for clients on a daily basis, often via Zoom video conferencing or a phone call – in many cases watching a then-stranger, for the first time awkwardly fumble with their camera, then apologise profusely for not understanding the technology.

As humans, we often naturally make presumptions about those we haven’t met. Without the genuine connection of a handshake or the face-to-face nuances of body language, interactions can feel somewhat sterile unless we put the work in. It’s not simply adapting to technology that is crucial for maintaining success in this ‘new normal,’ it’s an adaption to the newfound restrictions on human interaction and humility.

For me, as an individual, I would struggle to think of any more ways the Coronavirus crisis could have forced me to adapt. Having been heavily involved in the marketing of some of Belfast City Centre’s busiest bars, nightclubs and large-scale events (think 10,000 people at the SSE Arena) for over a decade, I was massively affected.

A positive spin on crisis

On March 15th I reached out to my clients and told them I could not, in good faith, continue to deliver their marketing, as government advice had not been clarified. These venues were allowed to remain open, but it was advised against visiting them. A tough situation for an industry already operating on thin margins. Alongside that, I cancelled all upcoming events that I was promoting, rendering myself virtually unemployed… with our first child on the way.

An opportunity presented itself to me within weeks. With years of experience in directing clients to position themselves in a competitive industry, as well as running my own businesses and delivering campaigns from conception to completion, I was offered a full-time position at Full Circle. It is here I deliver mentoring for a diverse, passionate, and ultimately very fascinating mix of businesses.

With my own way of life changing in whirlwind fashion, It’s easy to empathise with the shock to the system that many business owners are dealing with. In many cases, after a lifetime of doing business day-to-day, their worlds have been turned upside down. Yet even in times of crisis, opportunities can be found.

I recently worked with a young mother who repositioned her skincare business online with no previous experience in e-commerce. Her turnover increased rapidly, and she has no plans to return to the salon. Similarly, a somewhat technology-shy older couple took their school uniform business online and quickly realised they were providing a solution for the cautious parent, reluctant to take their children into stores.

No substitute for humanity

Technology may make remote working and video conferencing significantly easier, but what it can’t do for us is automate humanity. We may have a screen in front of us, but there’s no reason we cannot exercise patience, ask questions and show an interest in the other party as an individual.

In many cases my clients are unaware that I have a 3-week-old child and a semi-feral cat at the other side of my office door. And vice versa, I would have little understanding of their circumstances – until I ask. A small pleasure came in the form of a WhatsApp from a client recently telling me how overjoyed they were that they had received their first e-commerce sale on a project I had consulted on. In the same breath they asked how my son was. If we had not developed a personal rapport, I would have heard neither of their newfound success, or their interest in me as a human.

It’s a taxing time for many businesses; take time out to ask your client how they’re feeling – you may be the only face-to-face interaction they’ve had that day. 

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