EMEA Sales Director Natterbox
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We are not all equal in a WFH world

1st May 2020
EMEA Sales Director Natterbox
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One for all and all for one right – if you have some workers who can work from home, they all can as easily right?  Not so!   People have different roles, use different systems and engage with customers, suppliers and other staff in different ways.

Flexibility of work anywhere for Sales is easy, I speak from experience as a Sales Leader having worked remotely, on the road, in hotels, at home for many, many years, even from when cloud computing was not a thing and mobiles were rarely used.  Remote working for Sales has been part of the package for a long time and the individuals are typically familiar with this work regime and armed with the tech setup to take this as the norm.

Around the world, 44% of companies don’t allow remote work at all (Source : Owl Labs)

Today’s tech stack has made it incredibly possible and affordable to work from anywhere, at any time and often on any device. You have applications that default to having mobile app versions, if not then being coded to work in a mobile friendly web rendering manner. We are all familiar now with Cloud solutions that allow you to login from any web browser on any PC and work without limitations of locally installed software and data stores, that are not physically tied to your own machine. Office 365, Google Mail are prevalent and HR, Expenses and CRM systems now for the majority are selected as cloud offerings.

Providing access to data from anywhere is the main reason for cloud adoption (Source : Sysgroup)

However the first barrier is that many workloads are not in the cloud, in fact it has been reported that up to 80% of computing applications remain as locally installed – some due to being legacy industry specific apps and others due to customer choice over perceptions of security or limited bandwidth needs. Cloud is widely accepted as a form factor now we have reached 2020 and most companies, if not all have been touched by cloud in its varying forms, usually by the simplest of which is SaaS (Software as a Service).

90% of companies are on the cloud (Source : 451) with 89% of companies using SaaS  (Source : IDG)

We also need to consider that many teams in a business have never been expected to or required to work remotely. How many have their customer support teams work from home or their finance teams and in wholesale manner. Perhaps on occasion one individual may have needed to work remotely, but not the whole team.  Are the applications these teams use able to be accessed remotely and importantly in a secure fashion? Have you previously locked then down to the office machine by IP address range for example or restricted access to the actual office-based user machine?  Do your users have laptops to take home or have you relied on older of cheaper desktops and now find a limitation of their software being tied to a physical device on their office desk?

Assuming you step past the fundamental blockers, how do you ensure that your teams can work together and collaborate in an effective manner, to still service customers and in turn remain secure and proficient in their usage.

95% of cloud security failures are caused by users rather than   providers (Source : Gartner)

If you are to allow , encourage or need to have workers able to ’Work From Home’, it is key that they are able to do so effectively and without technical limitations that hinder their ability to be as productive as possible for your business and for the customer (be it your external of internal customer they serve). Working remotely when empowered to do so can bring great productivity and loyalty benefits to the business and quality of life benefits to the employee. Report after Survey shows that workers allowed this so called ‘perk’ are more enamoured with their employer, more likely to stay longer, work harder and give greater long-term value to the business.

Half-time telecommuters save 11 days a year by not traveling to work (Source : Sate of Telecommuting Report)

So allowing your workers (when not forced by an incident such as severe weather or the maybe not so unique if predications prevail, COVID situation) to work from home is something an increasing number of firms have been accepting as more of a norm and one that some of the world’s leading brands in fact encourage as part of the work/life balance.

If we are to move past this being a privilege of the few, of the leaders of the business, of those with unique valued skills and of the likely remote worker being roles such as Sales People then what needs to be considered and overcome from a tech perspective to make this more than practical, but fully empowering?

Users need to be equipped with devices that are portable and permitted to use them remotely in a securely configured fashion.  Applications that a user needs to perform their duties need to be accessible and capable of performing remotely. It is no use having one that works remotely, but when accessed by more than 10% of the workforce remotely concurrently grinds to a halt (as many governmental applications were found to do during COVID).

Executives report that their service agents’ top frustration with using their current tools in the field is that current tools are not fast enough (45%) and they can’t access all of the information they need (38%). (Source: Salesforce)

An often missed component and one that during COVID caught many out is the phone system and its capabilities to work in a dispersed environment where endpoints may be mobiles or users home phones or where the user needs to be able to receive calls through and to their PC as if at their desk ; importantly without any physical connection to their desk or hard desk phone!  What device will a user be able to make and receive calls from? Ideally the ability to allow them to selectively and easily choose a phone on their PC, their mobile or home phone is ideal.

Extra thought here needs to be given that simply re-routing calls to the users own mobile or landline and expecting them to call out from them is not enough! Is your employee happy having work calls routed to their private lines? How are you managing ensuring this is only in work hours?  How are you managing when is convenient and not convenient for this home worker to take calls? Perhaps they have to care for their children (whether COVID or not this may be a consideration) or now have time dependent responsibilities. For example, during COVID have they managed to secure a food delivery slot they cannot take calls when those much needed supplies are being delivered, do they have school pickup commitments or times when they need to be unavailable for calls due to work focus reasons. Does the user have the ability to easily tell the system when they’re available or not for calls and have it not allow external calls through to them at these times and allow internal users to visibly see if they are available or not for calls and why?

The biggest problem for 22% of remote workers is unplugging after work (Source : Buffer)

Supplementing this it makes sense to have easy reporting to know that they did this fairly, as after all you are still paying and employing them to be available and working.  Another consideration is will you allow them to claim for outbound calls from their own numbers or does the tech enable an easy way that they can invoke these calls but not have any work call charges billed to themselves, with the system already handling this in the way it is configured.

75% of remote workers say their company doesn’t pay for their home internet (Source : Buffer)

It is important to be able to route calls to the relevant person when someone is calling your main office?  To detect if they are available for calls, which device you should deliver the call to and for the system to do the right thing for the customer, business and employee. If the call does go through to someone and they need to re-route that call or transfer it on to someone else to assist, how easy is this to do?  In the office it is easy for someone in sales to transfer that caller to someone in support or finance, often being able to see them physically and if not, to at least be able to put the caller quickly on hold, try an attended transfer and if the person needed is there or not, take the appropriate action. How is this working for your teams at home? How easily can they transfer a call if at all?  It s not simply about routing the customer call to one point of contact, their needs to be facilitation to handle that call and utilise others in the business where appropriate be you in the office or Working remotely and whether you are on an office desk phone or your mobile should not hinder the user, not the customer!

59% of customers had a conversation with a customer service representative or agent via telephone, making phone calls the most commonly used customer service channel. (Forrester, 2018)

Consider also if you have a group of people that take calls, for example a support team, how is that call queuing and grouping being handled? Whilst re-directing to native mobile phones may not be that hard, how has the system coped with this? Do you send the call to ring 10 users mobiles for example, to find that one of the support teams mobile voicemail kicks in immediately, because they have lost GSM signal and so the call is taken from the queue as an answered call? Not an acceptable customer solution or experience.  This is one of the key reasons a volume of contact centres went offline during COVID, the remoteness of agents meant that technology and policies deployed did not facilitate the easy re-routing of calls with such nuances catered for effectively! 

Whilst working remotely at its basic level of receiving and sending emails, accessing systems such as Salesforce etc is easy, some legacy systems such as the telephony platform are likely to let you down, if you have not moved to something capable of handling all of these variances quickly and easily. You should be able to work at home, set that you are on a break, see that Bob or Sue in finance are on the phone at the moment and transfer a call easily to Emily who is sat at home working.

76% of customers want human contact to remain part of customer service. (Forrester, 2018)

Call queues and routing should not only work but work well and facilitate a great customer experience where the customer cannot tell that anything is different, that the agent is at home. All the customer wants is service, someone to help their need or enquiry.

Today all of this is possible. When the COVID quarantine hit, Natterbox ourselves and our customers all quickly and easily switched to working from home, able to receive calls at our same desk-phone numbers, see who was calling, get whispers of who the caller was, screen pops where relevant. Set our availability, transfer calls desk phone extension to desk phone, with it all working in a virtualised manner simply.  In reality, each user sat at home transferring a call to another home user, having received calls via the same IVR and call queues as per normal.  Yes, you can direct customers to self serve, webforms, email, live chat and perhaps social channels, but this serves your needs and choice, not necessarily that of your customer or prospective customer. And this being if you do a good job today or a multichannel supporting customer experience, of which many are already failing.  

68% of customers worry their query gets lost or misunderstood by fully automated services. (Forrester, 2018)

Interestingly in a PWC report issued entitled “COVID-19 and the telecommunications industry” it stated  ‘Remote work could increase security and infrastructure risks for customers and telcos. Some elements of telecommunications work cannot be easily duplicated remotely — or in some cases done at all.’  Worryingly expectation was that telecommunications would not be capable in a remote working time. For many this has simply proven untrue to an extreme degree as they had chosen new cloud offerings that were designed to work anywhere, anytime with full resiliency.

We have all had a wake-up call that any employee may need to work from home and in fact we should consider and encourage that this is a valuable part of an employee’s package moving forwards, the flexible working model for all. No one knows if we shall face a total and immediate WFH model again, but we can expect that now businesses will mitigate and plan differently, work towards a stronger and more flexible digital world that is available to us now if we are willing to invest the time and money to achieve it.

Companies planned to spend 24% more on public cloud in 2019, compared to 2018 (Source : Righscale)

We can expect digital transformation to be considered Digital rightsizing and a MUST have rather than a We need to do it sometime or over time. Expect to see investment and spend on new cloud systems and re-platforming accelerate as for the businesses surviving the 2020 financial impact, for many their will be no 2nd chance. A second impact of this nature will simply not be a sustainable option they can bear.   Those caught short the most today were those needing to engage with customers non- electronically, call and contact centres felt Social Distancing create Customer Distancing overnight.  Online focused firms found in the majority higher demand as they could be engaged. Those requiring a voice felt gagged. The ungagging will be new more flexible cloud-based telephony that serves requirements that had not been asked for before.

64% of organizations in the Contact Centre industry believe that customers should have access to a live agent” (Source : CCW Market Study: The Future of the Contact Center in 2019)

2020 has become the year of ‘time to talk’ more than ever before and post COVID we may find that the voice of the customer wants to be vocally heard more than in recent years. Voice is not going away, in fact in isolation we have witnessed a world wanting to engage human to human in so many varied ways and we strive that human connection. We have witnessed staff not taking to email and isolation, but to web conferencing and the phone and seen verbal interactions increase dramatically. The CEO of Verizon just reported a huge spike in call traffic to 800 million calls a day, double the amount it normally sees on peak days such as Mother’s day and New Years Day. Adding to this they reported calls being on average 33% longer, we can truly cite that now is the time to talk, to talk longer and to engage the customer voice, that is if you can get through to an agent of course!  Happy Phoning - #timetotalk

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