Lessons on ice – the small business 2012 checklist

Logistics and customer services will be under pressure, and delivering to normal expectations during this time will be a challenge. It is certain that the country will be extremely busy next summer – but it will certainly be open for business.
However, Graham Sutherland, managing director, BT Business says that businesses should not be approaching next summer blindly. Let’s not forget that another city has recently staged a similarly massive event, and we can be thankful of a reality-check courtesy of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
After the Vancouver Games a survey showed that 66 per cent of business had prospered as a result of the Games and 61 per cent continue to benefit to this day. 50 per cent of firms however said that they should have been better prepared, and 75 per cent said that they underestimated the impact of the Games.
It’s easy to empathise with those who said they could have been better prepared, or who underestimated. With Christmas and the Queen’s Jubilee sitting between us and the opening ceremony on 17 July 2012, the scale of the opportunity could pass us by. But no switched-on business owner is going to sniff at 10.8 million event ticketholders, nearly 30,000 media and broadcasters and around 16,000 athletes. 
In Vancouver, businesses that were unprepared say that they didn’t meet customer expectations and lost out on opportunities to make money. That’s galling when you consider that in some locations, retail sales were up 200 per cent. Businesses that were prepared made hay, customer confidence increased and their brands were stronger as a result – and the technological upgrades they made are still working hard for them today. 
So, what’s the take out for London firms?
See London 2012 as an opportunity to surprise and delight customers and staff:
Adapt quickly and easily to the scale of the Games. You’ll be expected to deliver regardless, and it will pay you back in terms of customer loyalty and brand awareness. 23 per cent of Vancouver organisations were let down by network capacity issues. 34 per cent said they should have been more prepared.
Ask yourself the following questions:
  • What systems do we have in place to allow our staff to work remotely if they can’t get in to the office?
  • How easily can we scale up our communications infrastructure to meet more demand for our products and services?
  • Will our staff watch the Games online (BBC are launching new online channels, and Channel 4 will be covering the Paralympic Games), and can our systems cope?
  • How can we pick up and reply to the calls of everyone who contacts us?
Don’t stop the workers working:
Absenteeism was up for almost a third of all businesses during the Vancouver Games. With hindsight, 30% would have improved their flexible working facilities. Of those businesses that invested, 19% say they’re still seeing the benefits of staff flexible working arrangements.
Don’t assume that your employees will be able to get into the office. According to TfL, almost 400 London businesses employing more than half a million staff have signed up for bespoke 2012 Games travel advice, with hundreds more organisations attending special Games transport workshops. Start planning to support remote working now.
Can our remote workers access company systems, deal with calls and work as effectively as they do in the office?
Are our remote workers able to work with colleagues and suppliers from anywhere?
Does our communications system support us to control costs with staff working remotely?
Make sure you can answer every call:
In Vancouver, 42 per cent of businesses had higher than normal call centre volume, yet less than a quarter of businesses increased their call centre capacity.
The London 2012 Games will be bigger, with new opportunities to convert new customers and cement existing relationships. So, ask yourself:
  • How can service levels be maintained throughout the Games?
  • Can we increase call centre capacity in the short term?
  • How will we communicate disruptions or delays to our customers?
  • Do you need to run online sales and marketing campaigns, or market internationally?
See communications security as a priority:
During the 17 days of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, more than 12 million IT security events each day were collected and filtered. But in preparation for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, only a fifth of organisations improved their system’s security and resilience. Ask yourself:
  • How secure is our business data? 
  • Am I protected against potential gaps, threats and vulnerabilities?
  • How would we receive calls if the local exchange experienced a major loss of service?
After the lessons of Vancouver, UK firms will be in a better place to anticipate the scale and impact of London 2012 on operations than any other firm, in any other host country before them. When the researchers, start asking their post-Games questions, I hope that UK firms will have stepped up to the challenge.