Small businesses should be reaching out to their customers frequently, but during a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic it is more important than ever. Are there problems that customers are having that your small business can solve?
DSignage is a small business that sells, installs and maintains smart signage for enterprises. The Key Biscayne-based business serves hospitals and health systems, retailers and big enterprises such as Siemens, which has honored DSignage as supplier of the year — twice. DSignage supports innovative digital installations in more than 600 locations around the world. The company recently opened a new office in Spain to cover the European market.
“Our passion is customer service. We bend over backwards for our clients, striving to go beyond expectations at all times,” said Jose Diaz, president of the 15-year-old family business.
So it should be no surprise DSignage again focused hard on customer service and innovative approaches just as the pandemic began its spread. The company could have slowed down. After all, some of DSignage’s clients closed during the shelter-in-place so signage was not a priority. DSignage asked: What was a priority for its customers now? What could DSignage provide to make life better?
It turns out there were big needs, particularly with DSignage’s healthcare clients, for repurposing the signage for the “new normal.” A key benefit is that smart signage can be continually updated in real time, making it even more useful during COVID times. DSignage’s clients that were temporarily closed would have different needs in the “new normal” when it was time to open up. The company worked fast to offer solutions for all these new challenges.
What can we learn from DSignage’s experience? Here are five lessons from how the company not only survived but also thrived during these unprecedented times.
Ask your customers what they need.
During the early days of the pandemic, DSignage used the time to quickly get up to speed on what clients needed, both immediately or in the future.
Temperature checks for entrances were going to be needed, as the economy began to open up. Businesses typically deployed one or two employees at the entrances to take temperatures with a handgun. DSignage could offer businesses a “Temp Check” (pictured at top of this post) that allows companies to save time and staff resources. Temp Check goes further than competitors, as the solution not only checks temperatures but it is a smarter system that links to the back-end systems and can record that an employee is OK. “And if you do have a fever, it connects you to a virtual concierge or gives you the option to talk to a live person to tell you what to do,” said Diaz. “Temperature Check has been a home run.”
Another benefit, Diaz said, is that once COVID is past us, the Temp Check kiosk can be repurposed for another use.
Think outside the box.
Think about how aspects of your product or service can be adapted quickly for changing customer needs.
Smart digital signage that can be repurposed in real-time is DSignage’s business. They are often used as informational signs such as wait times for appointments, updatable restaurants menu boards or educational messaging. So why couldn’t screens included with sanitizer dispensers help hospital foundations raise money? “We came up with the idea to use the sanitizer screen as a platform for raising money for the hospitals and they really love it,” Diaz said.
DSignage already offered a service that featured social media feeds, but mainly it was used in the past to feature the clients’ own messages. But DSignage saw that healthcare clients’ social media displays could be adapted to feature advice and news updates from the CDC, WHO and their own healthcare system. DSignage has offered this for free to customers during COVID.
Now that you know what you want to offer, your solution may already be accessible within your network. Your suppliers may already have it and by partnering up you can help bring them to your clients faster.
DSignage has a large network of suppliers, many of them in Europe and Asia — regions that experienced the wrath of COVID-19 earlier than the U.S. These suppliers knew what helped customers and DSignage learned from their experience and could offer their products that already had been used successfully in a pandemic. For instance, People Count, which counts and tracks the people in a store or office at any one time – critical for social distancing — comes from Philips in the Netherlands.
Keep it fresh.
Keep innovating to bring your customers the latest in technologies or services. DSignage, known for staying abreast of the latest trends in smart technologies, began offering a new app by Medrics at the beginning of the year. The app can be white-labeled by healthcare groups and is designed to help throughout a patient’s journey. For instance it can be used to find the doctor’s office, get medication reminders, it even tracks you down to lead you to your XRay appointment. It can be linked to a patient’s records, too, for easy access to medical records on the go. “It’s super cool,” said Diaz. “It is being used in more than 30 hospitals around the world with many more in the pipeline.”
Don’t go it alone. Seek guidance.
During the pandemic, DSignage has not laid off any of its 10 full-time employees or its part-time workers and continues to work with its large network of subcontractors. As the COVID crisis continued, in fact, it hired two additional employees. With the help of the Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center with FIU’s College of Business, DSignage applied for and received a PPP loan. And as the company has been doing for the past five years, it welcomed advice from SBDC consultants during this time.
“They have been super helpful,” said Diaz, adding that consultants proactively reached out. “Throughout COVID, they have gone out of their way to help us out, with PPP loans and guidance. I tell you, they are gold.”
For DSignage, the lessons learned during COVID will help the company in a second wave or in another crises. Once through this crisis, Diaz looks forward to focusing on growing his business further, with additional hiring and a focus on new client relationships. “We take such good care of our existing clients it is hard to acquire new ones. But we are working on it and looking to increase marketing.”
We hope you can take away some tips and inspiration from the way DSignage has survived and thrived. How can your business fill the new needs of your customers during this crisis and beyond?
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