• Rose George, Bharvi Dani, Gauri Dathan

How has the Pandemic affected the Communication Strategies for Businesses? Part 1 Microsoft

The changes brought about by COVID-19 in today's world have been tremendous and the domain of business communication is no exception to it. The various strategies and traditional methodologies of communication which were prevalent in corporate firms and organizations before the pandemic has now become a thing of the past today.

Gauging the importance and the need for digital strategies is synonymous with the corporate strategies of a successful firm. The Digital Revolution, also known as the Third Industrial Revolution, saw the shift from mechanical and analog electronic technologies to a digital era with the proliferation of computers and digital record keeping. Digital platforms had recast the relationships between customers, employees, and employers in a firm by enabling faster communication between different hierarchies and work structures.

Thus, the pandemic isn't the first tipping point for technology adoption and digital disruption in companies is not new. But the pandemic has led to digital adoption to a much larger extent and has taken a quantum leap in terms of industrial and organizational growth.

The Case of Microsoft:

Microsoft, undoubtedly is one of the giants in the information technology sector, operating globally and running multiple businesses in various domains of technology. Adhering to its mission plan, which is based on the practical implications of the constantly changing world of technology, Microsoft realized that they must up their communication game during the pandemic when the world was socially distancing.

Effective communication is absolutely necessary for an unobstructed flow of information, both internally (within the organization, employee management communication) and externally (with the customers and stakeholders). Microsoft offers several services for digital transformation, and hence has a competitive advantage in this domain, which is made use of right from within the organization. In this study, we see how Microsoft strategizes its communication both internally and externally.

Microsoft Core Services Engineering and Operations (CSEO) has started using Yammer, an enterprise social networking site used for private communication within an organization, in response to the remote working conditions in place owing to the pandemic. Yammer plays a key role in the effective communication of its parent organization Microsoft, by communicating changes, promoting IT Services, receiving feedback to get insights on end-user experience, and also improving the manager-employee relationship.

The pandemic also necessitated the organization to come up with innovative programs to encourage communication. One such initiative was the Ask CSEO, through which anyone within the organization can ask questions, get support, connect to expertise and best practices, and provide feedback on any of their operations. This promotes the community learning experience within the organization, which can go a long way for the organization as it minimizes time for problem resolution.

External communication is just as important when the world has shifted to the virtual domain. In order to increase engagement with customers and stakeholders, they sprang up to the action, to provide the support needed to make those digital transformations. They strive towards working with customers to reimagine what’s possible and create successful solutions and experiences for all.

Microsoft has an established Social Command Center which helps the organization monitor all interactions and disseminates data to different sectors of the company. It also manages all social media interactions in the U.S. – gathering real-time insights and responding directly to customers as needed – and forwards social media messages to other parts of the organization, such as customer care, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. The Social Command Center can help benefit all sectors of the business. Social media can help track and identify anything from customer concerns to sale issues. Microsoft also integrates the application of social media with employee involvement, customer engagement, and product development and design.

Microsoft shares its customer stories on its blog post. Inpex, a leading energy company that caters to the energy needs of Japan and countries all around the world. As part of the company’s communication reforms, INPEX is switching from its old IP phones to Microsoft Teams phones. Microsoft. (2020a, March 22).This helps in creating a work environment that is unconstrained by location and thus promotes innovation in work style and communications. Microsoft reported an increase in business demand for phones that can be used by employees from anywhere, at any time, as if they were in the office.

Demonstrated by the need for remote work due to COVID-19, many companies realized they need flexibility in their business infrastructure. Using Microsoft Teams has also helped companies for seamless telecommuting during COVID-19. Microsoft Teams and phones for Teams are rising in popularity as essential platforms for new ways of working in a changing world.

Microsoft has also contributed remarkably to the community since the very beginning of the global pandemic, which reinforces its assurance and social responsibility as a corporate entity. It supported government efforts to combat the virus, by collecting data, designing apps, and using technology to reduce the spread of the virus. They developed an app to enable drive-through covid testing centers and also maintain data of the samples collected. Microsoft closely coordinated with the US Department of Health by developing a healthcare bot as a tool for self-assessment.

As far as the marketing strategies are concerned, Microsoft has been focusing on humanizing the brand and following a customer-centric approach. (Research-Methodology.2019b, February 3) However, we have observed that the commercials for all target nations are highly standardized. Having a localized brand image can help them connect to the customers at a deeper level.

The organization also came to the forefront to support the cause of education, by offering free trials of virtual classrooms and teams to support teachers and students for remote learning. This experience was further enhanced by the broadband infrastructure development which ensures better internet connectivity. Lastly, they also offered financial support to several nonprofit organizations, schools, and community groups to lend a helping hand in these trying times. Microsoft. (2020a, March 22).

In the words of Mr. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft,

COVID-19 impacts every aspect of our work and life. We have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. There is both immediate surge demand, and systemic, structural changes across all of our solution areas that will define the way we live and work going forward.”