What’s Changed as We Head Back to the “New Normal”
This month we welcome summer and here at Segpay we also welcome all our employees back to the office. With 80 percent of our staff vaccinated, we’re ready to say goodbye to distanced working, unless someone is not feeling well, of course. We’re also celebrating the one-year anniversary of Segpay’s re-opening after the initial pandemic lockdown. With our headquarters in Florida, we were lucky to be granted re-opening before many other states across the U.S. Like many others, we put a lot of effort into protecting our valued employees. We modified the office to comply with COVID protocols, developing many safety precautions like temperature check stations, six feet separation techniques, and much more. As we develop our new normal, we wanted to highlight how COVID played out across our industry. In this month’s column, we look at the top impacts and trends as we hopefully head towards a worldwide turning point.
Like most of the industry, Segpay experienced a surge in volume when the entire world went into lockdown. Many of us wondered if the trend would continue. Would we see a rush of chargebacks as consumers began to feel the pinch of being out of work and the loss of their income? Some industry insiders predicted chargebacks to increase in the fourth quarter to levels never seen before. Thankfully, this was not the case. Based on the trends in our portfolio, revenue has continued to hold steady. Other than the typical first-quarter increase of chargebacks after the holidays, the online digital content world is still going strong. We’ve even had a few clients comment that they saw a surge in traffic after each COVID relief bill gained momentum for approval.
2020 was the Year of the Cam. Cam models and the entire cam segment were top performers. We saw a huge surge of new fan sites as cam models, influencers and performers moved to fan programs to further monetize their brands. And the fan site trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down, instead, the trend is continuing to go up in 2021. To keep this community safe, the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) is currently working on a vaccination guideline. COVID tests results are now included in the Performer Availability Screening Services (PASS) program and the hope is to have vaccinations be part of the system too. Since there is no current way to validate a COVID test, it is going to take a little longer to add that component to the PASS system. It’s likely COVID testing will become the new normal just like HIV testing that PASS provides industry governance for.
After traveling one to two times a month over the last several years, it’s been nice to be grounded during this past year. My children have all shared with me that they were happy I’ve been home more–except they miss one thing. They’ve admitted to missing my husband’s hot dog dinners. Apparently, when I was out of town, this was his cooking “go-to” for the kids. In the past, many sales teams’ “go-to” for clients was trade shows. It provided the opportunity to meet up with existing clients as well as engage and create new opportunities. My first fear was that without the steady stream of trade shows, that our client activity would dry up but with the ability to host a virtual conference, networking has been able to continue. In fact, online panels and seminars seem to be even more attended, helping to keep a lot of business flowing. For example, I typically participate as a speaker at different shows. The most I’ve ever seen in a crowded room is 100 people. During one of the last virtual panels, I was a part of, there were almost 1,000 viewers who joined in to listen. These online shows allow individuals who normally didn’t have the time or weren’t the ones to travel to participate in shows. As the world begins to open more and travel returns, I hope shows and conferences continue to keep the hybrid model allowing more people to participate both in-person and online.
We’ve been lucky at Segpay, having been able to have many staff members other than those who were considered “high risk” back in the office for nearly a year. And, to date, we haven’t had any issues. We’ve even expanded our staff, hiring ten new employees over the last year. By being open I must admit, it was easier to hire and train our new associates. There were so many talented individuals available who lost their jobs during COVID, we felt blessed to have been able to snatch up some amazing talent. Employees are our top priority and like other companies, we’ve made several changes. Instead of catered lunches, we are allowing staff members to order from Door Dash every day. Snacks and our regular cookie delivery all come individually wrapped now too. We have developed a much more heightened work-from-home policy. If you have the slightest sniffle, staff members are encouraged to work from home. I realize we’re a bit of an anomaly and not every company is at this point of return. Many of our merchants, acquirers, and partners are still working remotely or are planning to move to a hybrid solution with staff alternating days back in the office. Some are even forgoing the expense of office rent and eliminating stressful commutes for team members. This will be one area to revisit in June 2022 to determine if the remote workforce remains the norm, or if people yearn for the comradery of their teammates along with separation of work and home environments. My vote is to keep work at work and home a place to relax.