Umpqua Bank published a business resiliency study looking at how small and midsize businesses are adapting in 2020. The survey highlights both short-term changes made during the initial shutdown and the long-term changes business leaders plan to make going forward. 

While you can find lots of articles about how big companies in the tech and knowledge services industries are adapting, this shift to remote work isn't unique to big tech. Of the 1,200-plus small and midsize companies surveyed, nearly eight in 10 midsize and almost 50 percent of small businesses plan to support work from home going forward, and less than 5 percent of these replies came from the tech sector.   

Remote work creates new challenges for everyone, but it's particularly disruptive in industries like construction, health care, retail, and others where sales and service traditionally involve handshakes and the review of real-world goods. 

The companies surveyed are responding to this challenge by aggressively investing in technology. More than 80 percent reported that they were automating or planning to automate tasks previously performed by workers, and 76 percent are exploring ways to digitize the customer experience.

"Many companies are coping still," said Umpqua's executive vice president, Richard Cabrera. "They're working to put the platforms in place, bring on the right people, and find ways to make this shift permanent. And as they deal with all this change, leaders are increasingly asking: How do we maintain relationships with our customers when we can't meet face-to-face?" 

If your team struggles with this challenge, here are four inventive ways you can use video to keep customer connections strong.

1. Send video greetings to prospects and new customers

Record a short, personalized video and send it in your welcome email. Video welcomes show your valuable customers that they're working with real people, creating a service advantage over your competitors who've turned over their business to the robots. This also saves your talk-oriented sales and service reps the pain of trying to become great writers, making it easier for you to transition your existing workforce.  

Real estate agents and professional speakers began embracing video greetings a few years back using services like BombBomb, VidYard, and Loom, so look to them for lots of helpful examples.

2. Make meetings more efficient and effective using prerecorded video presentations

We're all tired from too many online meetings, so if you want your client meetings to stand out you have to keep them engaging and efficient. This means cutting out the time you'd normally spend going over slides so you can use your precious meeting time for answering questions and finalizing solutions.

That said, you also need everyone to understand what you're talking about before you can be productive. 

Instead of presenting slides during the meeting, record your presentation in advance. Many video recording apps make it easy to record your video alongside your slides, so your customers can see your hand gestures and facial expressions. 

Send the recording the night before your meeting, so customers can review it and come prepared with questions. As a bonus, you'll find customers bring better questions and you can get farther on one call this way. 

3. Turn on your video for meetings

New research shows that video meetings can be as effective, and sometimes better, than their face-to-face equivalents. Audio-only meetings are a disaster. 

If video is new to you and your industry, blaze a trail. The best way to encourage others to turn on their video is to turn on yours. 

4. Use video tours and journaling in place of site visits 

Need to walk your banker through a construction site to show progress, but travel bans make a real visit impossible? Grab a camera and give your banker a video tour. Want to reassure an anxious customer about a big order? Take a video recording of your products going into the crate and out for shipment. Need to see your customer's problem in action, but you can't observe them in person? Ask them to make a video journal as they work out loud, so you can see and hear what they're experiencing.

By using video, you can bring a human, personalized touch to your remote customer relationships. Video lets you show them you care and creates the kind of VIP special-access you need to overcome the increasing impersonal digital business experiences that erode customer loyalty.