2020’s move to remote working taught the world how important acquiring collaboration tools to supplement voice can be to employee productivity and business continuity.
In “3 Reasons Why You Should Add Collaboration Tools to Your Mitel MiVoice Business System,” we outline key considerations you should make when extending video and voice capabilities to your workers. Rather than adding monthly subscription services to your environment, a better strategy might be to expand the capabilities of your core communications infrastructure instead.
Download this e-book to evaluate what built-in capabilities you can unlock on the system you trust before adding cost and complexity to your organization.
If they want to stay in the game, retailers today have to seek out new technologies, methods, and systems to bolster their customer experience. A hybrid workforce can potentially help retail businesses achieve this. Made up with a blend of virtual and in-person work, a hybrid workforce model combines technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and traditional physical manpower to get work done remotely or on site. Fully engaged customers account for a 23% higher share in profitability, revenue, and relationship growth. Additionally, companies that successfully engage their customers see 63% lower attrition, 55% higher share of wallet and 50% higher productivity.
From having a strong customer engagement strategy to developing a full-fledged omnichannel approach, here’s how retailers can offer a multidimensional customer experience by tapping into the hybrid workforce model.
1) Use AI To Engage Customers
Brands can engage customers via their website, physically at their retail locations, through their shopping apps, using social media, and even through email and SMS. In essence, every point of contact between your brand and your target audience is a space to improve customer experience. This is why it is important to have an overarching customer engagement strategy to synchronize your efforts over different channels and offer a more personalized customer experience.
As a retailer, making use of AI helps you engage your customers faster and potentially improve your organization’s responsiveness. For example, nowadays many business websites implement AI-driven chatbots that engage and guide customers through their buying journey. This can be especially helpful for brands that deal with a high volume of customer requests, questions, or complaints. A report by Gartner forecasts that by 2022, two-thirds of all customer experience projects will make use of AI.
Truth is, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way customers interact with businesses, and these new buying habits may well be here to stay. A study by McKinsey reports that 23 percent of US consumers are ordering their groceries online, out of which 49 percent reveal they intend to continue doing so even in the post-pandemic era. Remote retail teams have everything to win if they design their customer experience to adapt to each and every visitor. This also involves adapting the experience to the users’ proficiency level and catering for customers with special needs and disabilities.
While the whole picture may look challenging for remote retail teams, in reality, providing a hyper-personalized customer experience is simply about gathering data and delivering the most adequate user experience according to this data.
A few easy ways to collect data are through customer feedback and complaints. Listen to their likes or concerns, and tweak your customer experience accordingly. Additionally, you can use data collection tools, such as Google Analytics and heat mapping, to track down your users behavior and make informed decisions to refine and personalize your customer experience. Over time, remote retail teams can use this data to cross-reference demographic data and to find patterns, which will eventually be used to develop personalized experiences.
3) Offer Multiple Shopping Channels
It’s a no-brainer: customers should have the option to shop through multiple channels, be it online, in-person, or through an app. This allows consumers to access and buy your products when they feel ready and where they feel more comfortable. IDC Retail Insights found that this added layer of flexibility can increase customer lifetime value by as much as 30 percent when compared to customers buying through only one channel.
Yes, it seems quite challenging to manage multiple channels while syncing consumer’s preferences in real-time. The truth is that you would very likely need to set up a whole team to do this manually. Additionally, manually handling all the shopping channels would cost you hours in lost productivity, along with the increased chance of human error at each data input, which could directly affect the end-user experience.
A hybrid workforce makes the whole process easier: machine learning handles the data from each customer and syncs it in real-time across all your sales channels, while your human staff handles the decision-making, based on accurate data compiled by your AI assistant. Another benefit is that the data collected from consumer interactions via all your channels enables your sales team to devise tailor-made remarketing ads―ads that will encourage your customer to take the final step and buy your products. Whenever possible, you should look to cross-promote between different channels and focus on creating a holistic customer experience.
Putting It All Together
A successful retail strategy begins with an optimized customer experience. We have reached a point where the available technology enables us to personalize almost every aspect of the customer journey. The future of retail is very likely made up of a hybrid workforce, where humans and AI assistants can help tune your business processes, while delivering a strong experience for a modern consumer. Engage with your customers, learn their buying habits, and provide flexibility to purchase through multiple channels.
Businesses often underestimate their need for a continuity plan that can help them survive all kinds of calamities. No one really notices it missing until after disaster strikes, and it’s already too late to do anything by then.
The slightest interruption or setback in standard business processes can be expensive as operations stall and revenues take a dip. It could be caused by a local power outage, a disruptive weather event, or anything in between.
The fact of the matter is that your business should have a backup plan that kicks in the second things start going wrong. This ensures that your production continues as planned, customers are happy, and life gets back to normal as quickly as possible.
It’s easier to survive the aftermath of an unanticipated event when you have a business continuity plan to fall back on.
What Is A Business Continuity Plan?
This framework details all the policies, processes, and procedures that will ensure that your business operations are restored quickly and continue as usual during and after a major disaster.
Essentially, it helps you build resilience and gives your organization the ability to address a situation with an adequate response, protecting stakeholder’s interests and business reputation.
Without this plan, it can be challenging to continue making, selling, and shipping products when your customers appreciate them the most.
Why Does Business Continuity Matter?
Now more than ever, we know how global pandemics can debilitate businesses and bring entire economies to a halt. Companies that had a continuity plan emerged somewhat shaken but still in working order on the other side.
There are countless instances where organizations were able to weather cybersecurity challenges, utility outages, and natural disasters because they had a plan for what to do when disaster strikes.
Having a well-developed, rehearsed and structured business continuity plan helps your business to recover from an incident as effectively and quickly as possible.
This way, you can ensure that your workforce knows their roles in an unexpected incident and handle it following an organized and agreed-upon procedure.
A business continuity plan’s primary goal is to keep the critical business processes/operations running and minimize disruption.
How To Develop A Business Continuity Plan
The right plan should feature clear-cut guidelines for what your organization must do to continue operations in case of an unforeseen event. It should leave no doubt about how to organize staff and move forward.
However, it must also clearly demarcate the different types of responses depending on the severity of the emergency at hand. Not everything has to be mission-critical, detailing recovery objectives and timelines for everyone to refer to.
Here are the necessary components of an effective business continuity plan and how to establish one for your organization.
Outline The Goals And Objectives Of Your Plan
Since every business is unique, first identify the objectives and goals that are most critical to the way your company operates. This goal-driven trajectory helps you reflect on the overall planning needs, potential recovery strategies, and risk assessment.
Establish A Team For Emergency Preparedness And Responsiveness
Select competent cross-functional leaders or managers who can be a valuable addition to the team. Ensure you appoint someone as the lead to keep things going smoothly and make informed decisions when necessary.
Perform Business Impact Analysis And Risk Assessment
This is where you need to identify the significant risks to your business.
Discuss with your team and analyze the consequences of modifying, eliminating, or reducing essential functions or services in emergency conditions. Be sure to study all identified issues and their impact on the business to comprehend the possibilities better.
Identify Predominant Ecommerce Related Business Functions
Determine how your company will effectively maintain its essential functions/services in case of an emergency. Following are some of the necessary functions and services that you will need to plan for:
Supply Chain And Inventory Management Continuity
Supply chain problems are commonplace in disasters like pandemics or weather events. During a calamity, will you be able to have adequate inventory? Do you acquire an inventory management system or tool to help you with inventory management? Do you have sound planning for times with low/no inventory?
Shipping Deadlines And Order Fulfilment
If a crisis arises, will you be able to fulfill order commitments and meet delivery deadlines? It may be excellent and helpful to expand shipping provider’s services. And if you use third-party logistics services, ask them about steps they take to ensure business continuity. Their answers will help you determine whether you can depend on them to complete and ship orders in disaster conditions.
E-Commerce Platform Functionality
Can your ecommerce platform display out-of-stock items during unforeseen circumstances? Can you manage an influx of visitors where supply increases significantly? Also, do you trust the cybersecurity and backup of your data?
Maintaining Customer Service
Customers need empathy and transparency when times are tough. You will need a communications plan for your digital marketing and your customer support team. Also, plan for onboarding more customer service personnel to address customer questions when they need quick answers.
Prepare A Plan For Necessary Services And Functions
Here are some of the predominant facets of your e-commerce:
Create unique plans to address the needs of all these factors during an emergency situation.
How do you deal with customer-related situations? Your customers are into that situation, too, and you’ll have to be empathetic and informative in every interaction.
Do you have any plans or arrangements to change your current supplier to ensure that you don’t have inventory limitations? Also, do you know your options or alternatives in case your shipping partner faces a disruption?
Focus On Documentation And Reviewing
You need to ensure that you have the following aspects in writing:
Business risk level
Impact on customers and employees
Financial resources in case of a calamity
Community partners or external organization who can help build a mutually beneficial relationship during a disaster
Present your continuity strategy/plan to your stakeholders, perform trial runs and be proactive. This allows you to identify any weaknesses or missing features. Once you make the necessary updates, start to train your staff, test, and revise accordingly.
Planning for a catastrophic or disrupting event is paramount for businesses. A documented plan for business continuity communicates how your business will mitigate risk is a significant investment any organization can make.
It’s never too early to think about the future, especially when it comes to the ways you communicate to your teams and customers.
When the communications systems you currently have work just fine, it can be easy to put off updating them until a later date or even indefinitely. But in a world where communications technology is evolving faster than ever, for growing businesses, the timeline for considering what’s next for your tech may be coming more quickly than you think.
I’ve seen this play out in real-time. My grandmother was once very opposed to using a smartphone. To her, the flip phone she used worked just fine, and she didn’t need all the extras that came with smartphones. “All I want is a phone.” She would say. “You all can have fun with all that other stuff. I don’t need it.” This lasted for a few years, but as is the way with older tech, it eventually became too difficult to keep accommodating her request. Eventually, she had to get a smartphone.
My grandmother was unhappy about being forced to leave the technology she had come to trust. After a while, though, we started noticing a few small things happening. She was sending text messages and enjoyed receiving them in return. Where she was once only able to view pictures of family that we showed her on our phones, she had begun asking, “Can you send that to me? Will my new phone work with that?” If you ask my grandmother today what she thinks of her smartphone, she will tell you about the jokes the family sends back and forth through text. She’ll tell you that she can use her phone to do some light reading from her favorite book here and there. But mostly, she will tell you that she’s able to facetime with her new—and at the moment, only—great-granddaughter, who lives a few time zones away.
New communications technology led to new opportunities for my grandmother. In many ways, it’s the same for business owners. The ways people communicate since the pandemic began have changed. They had to, and businesses weren’t exempt from these changes. Suddenly capabilities that were thought of as “nice to have” became significant benefits to productivity and continuity, and in some cases, a lifeline.
However, people are resilient creatures. Business owners found ways to keep businesses running by adding capabilities for video collaboration, messaging, and mobility. While many plan to keep using them, some business owners have noted that these updates may not be compatible with your existing phone systems, and you now have a hodge-podge mix of costly technology and software that isn’t integrated. What’s more, the next time a world or life event occurs that has the ability to disrupt business operations, you’ll have to make quick pivots once again.
Or maybe not, if you begin thinking about the future sooner than later. Cloud communications solutions like MiCloud Connect offer built-in features that growing businesses would previously have had to pay for separately, such as mobile applications, video calls, chat, and contact centers. Transitioning to a modern system allows businesses to streamline current technology needs, save time and money, cut down on complexity, and create room to grow for whatever comes next.
I sometimes think of what could have happened if my grandmother had transitioned to a new phone sooner. How many more experiences might she have been able to partake in via facetime? How many more pictures and videos of loved ones would she possess? How much easier would it have been to interact with family that didn’t live nearby? While we may never know the complete answers to those questions, we do know that she is now fully in the loop and never has to miss another moment. When it comes to your business, does your current communications technology ensure that you won’t miss any of the big moments?
If you are a MiVoice customer, your technology partner has supported your business faithfully over the years. Work with them to find easy solutions to ensure your organization stays on stable footing while planning for the future. You’ll be glad you did.
As more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, businesses are readying plans to reopen their offices and bring back their employees. Already, though, it’s clear the new workweek will look different than it did pre-pandemic.
Daniel Pinto, co-president and chief operating officer of JP Morgan recently told CNBC, there is zero chance of 100 percent of people going back into the office full-time, and zero chance that everyone continues working remotely.
As a result, hybrid work may very well become the new normal for many people, and schedules could look very different depending upon the situation. For instance, some employees may split the days of the work week between home and traditional offices. Others may rotate into their company’s workspace on weekly schedules.
The hybrid model is especially attractive to knowledge workers, 63% of whom say they prefer it. So, you may be wondering, are you a hybrid worker? Here are eight signs that indicate you’ll flourish in this new environment.
1. Focus Time Is Productive Time.
Your home office is a converted spare bedroom with a view of your well-tended flower and herb garden. It’s quiet, although you often have your Amazon Echo Dot streaming classical music at low volume. Your workspace is more conducive for projects that require deep thought, but you can still hold an impromptu webchat with your colleague to ask questions.
What was once upon a time your traditional office has been transformed into a space to foster your social connections and build your working relationships. The company’s downtown building is buzzing with energy. It’s not only a hub for learning but also for unscripted collaboration. Here is where you make a point of having coffee or lunch with colleagues who work in other teams. These other perspectives are vital for spurring new ideas.
3. Every Day Is A Team Day.
In a hybrid work schedule, time can be used more effectively. That means technology and an innovative approach to scheduling can improve team collaboration, brainstorming and project management. Hybrid workers have the benefit of quiet time at home to work on projects. In a fully remote environment, the lack of in-person meetings risks stalling ideation and sometimes makes innovation harder. But as a hybrid worker, you have the best of both worlds: quiet time at home to focus on projects and in-person meetings to brainstorm ideas. Technology makes it possible to continue conversations in collaborative workspaces and via video. Some teams set up regular times (like Workshop Wednesdays) to connect socially and to build on ideas. The overall result: collaborative time, at home or in the office, is more productive.
4. Flex Your Hours.
Two days a week, your workday starts at 6 am. The other three? 8:30 am. The good news? On days with an early start, you’re also able to have lunch with your six-year-old. When you own your own schedule, you can manage work-life balance more efficiently―and accomplish more in both worlds.
5. You’re A Master At Multitasking.
No, not writing a report while also attending your team’s weekly conference call. Hybrid workers know how to make the most of their time without infringing on other tasks. You’ve learned how to get a few things done around the house while also giving your full attention to work. That’s the magic of washing machines and robot vacuums.
6. Focus On Your Goals Not The Clock.
Working remotely required a certain level of trust. One thing we’ve learned from the experience is that performance isn’t measured by time in the office, but rather by accomplishments. Your employer trusts you to get things done and you feel more empowered. Whenever you go to the office now, it’s not for more face time with the boss. Instead, the focus is on learning new skills and engaging with colleagues in working sessions.
7. Solve Client Problems, From Anywhere.
Mobile technology and unified communications have made it possible to serve the needs of clients for some time now. But as a hybrid worker, you value these capabilities more than ever. They make it easier for you to transition from work to home without missing a beat.
8. 3-2-2 Works For You.
One of the benefits of remote work during the pandemic was the flexibility employees enjoyed. Despite the challenges of managing family and work in the same place, you’ve found remote work made it easier to balance competing demands. You’d welcome the opportunity to continue a flexible work schedule after the pandemic. The 3-2-2 model advocates three days in the office, two days at home and two off― which sounds perfect.
If these reasons sound like you, you’re a hybrid worker. Taken together, they also say something notable about you: you’re a modern worker in a state-of-the-art world. As Unilever CEO Alan Jope points out, the pre-pandemic, five-days-in-the-office structure “seems very old-fashioned” after a year of remote work.
The current COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the way the majority of industries conduct their business. Governments reacted to the pandemic outbreak by implementing strict restrictions that include social distancing and complete lockdowns. Since the global situation is volatile and changes are inevitable, businesses gradually shifted to remote working models.
According to the FlexJobs survey, 51% of respondents reported they feel more productive while working at home. People slowly started to adjust to the new working environment, but more than 60% of employees expect to return to their offices in the first quarter of 2021.
The rapid development of vaccines and effective restrictions resulted in partial control of virus spreading, which presents the opportunity for employees to return to their offices. Leaders must create and implement a strategy for the safe returning of employees to the office.
Here are 5 effective ways technology can support a safe return of employees to the office.
Reduce Occupancy With The Help Of Effective Scheduling And Advanced Apps
It is unrealistic to expect full office occupancy overnight, so it’s crucial to gradually introduce employees with safety protocols. For instance, social distancing is a new reality of shared workplaces, and it may be tough to find an effective way to implement social distancing without losing resources.
Did you know that 69% of employees are concerned about job security, and 87% of companies changed the way they schedule working in shifts to avoid high space occupancy? Smart scheduling that allows employees to work in shifts reduces office occupancy while following social distancing policies. It requires strategic activity and task planning to understand optimal resource needs. On top of that, it reduces the number of people sharing the same area during the shift, reducing the chance of virus outbreak.
There is a growing trend in office apps that focus on providing a safe working environment by supporting basic administration tasks. Also, some apps focus on occupancy tracking, which shows which areas are packed with people in real time. That way, organizations can effectively plan area usage and cleaning activities.
Since COVID-19 spreads through direct transmission, a sterile working environment is more important than ever. Cleaning workers must ensure all the areas are disinfected and clean, especially common areas such as meeting rooms or cafeterias. Effective scheduling and cleaning go hand in hand since there must be breaks between group meetings that allow enough time for sterilizing the whole area.
There are various smart technological solutions for cleaning strategy planning that ensure the highest safety and sterilization of the office area. The basic principle of IoT utilizes intelligent sensors that report specific states, such as area occupancy, which gives a clear picture of how many employees used the specific office in a particular period.
For instance, implementing these sensors in common areas allows organizations to access real-time data and plan effective cleaning activities. If a room is occupied 50% of the time, compared to another occupied only 10% of the time, then it’s logical which one to prioritize.
The prioritization in cleaning allows better resource allocation, which ultimately reduces the costs of cleaning services―which grew astoundingly after the COVID-19 outbreak.
Utilize Technology For Business Meetings
No one can expect the immediate return to normal that was before the COVID-19 outbreak. Videoconferencing and collaboration platforms experienced a surge in users during the pandemic, mainly because of the shift to remote working. The question is: will these platforms stay relevant in a post-COVID world?
Since the businesses most likely will adopt a hybrid model, which allows greater flexibility in scheduling and occupancy, there is a good indication that these platforms will only get more advanced. Even if a single employee gets infected, it disrupts business operations drastically, and everyone wants to avoid that. Social distancing restrictions forbid large gatherings, and physical meetings pose a risk for employee and organization safety.
Using online communication and collaboration platforms reduces the risk of spreading the virus internally, while effectively sharing information among teams. Businesses can also save on office space and cleaning services since there will be a reduced need for conference rooms.
Invest In Smart Offices
Smart offices equipped with sensors and gadgets that support employees and organizations are the future of the workspace. It is resource-heavy for organizing and keeping track of office occupancy all the time, especially when social distancing is required. Many companies brainstorm creative solutions to keep office workers following the latest safety guidelines and keeping them healthy.
For instance, gadgets such as smart wearables are being developed, and they notify people once they breach social distancing policies. If two workers get too close in a shared space, the wearable will notify people to increase the distance.
On the other hand, temperature screening cameras became the new normal, since they are quite an effective way to measure someone’s temperature and notify officials. High body temperature is one of the most common symptoms of the virus, and identifying and denying access to someone with a high body temperature in real time can stop further virus spreading.
Utilize The Potential Of Artificial Intelligence
COVID-19 has shaken the world by disrupting global economies, health systems and taking human lives. However, the pandemic speeds up developing technologies and finding practical ways to use technology to control the spread of the virus.
Supporting restrictions and policies—With the use of advanced cameras, AI can help businesses analyze and report crucial data such as body temperature, the distance between employees, and whether they are wearing face masks. Companies can analyze provided data and decide which office spaces are critical for breaching the restrictions and acting accordingly.
Analyzing employee well-being—Employees’ mental health is crucial, not only for the individual but also for the whole organization. The constant fear of getting sick and various social restrictions can make a massive burden on everyone’s mental health. AI can analyze internal communication using key terms, and indicate if there is a sign of anxiety, depression, or high-stress levels that could lead to burnout.
Contact tracing—Organizations should plan the possibility that some employees will get infected. AI solutions integrated into a smart office can help create a contact map to analyze who had contacts with the infected employees. It can help organizations identify employees who are at risk of getting infected and stop spreading the virus on time.
Technology Solutions Will Make Returning To The Office Safer And Easier
After getting used to remote working, returning to the office is stressful for both organizations and employees. Organizations should ensure the safest working environment for the employees to avoid a further virus outbreak. Technology plays a crucial role in the transition as it can effectively mitigate the risks of spreading the virus, while keeping the key processes operational.
We all know Darwin’s Theory of Evolution; species must adapt to their environment in order to survive. The same is true in business, and the pandemic has been a hard lesson for many companies as they battle to stay afloat. The “fittest” have embraced (and even accelerated) digital transformation, finding new and meaningful ways to engage customers remotely.
This new normal shows no signs of waning. Even when social distancing restrictions relax, customers have grown accustomed to digital interactions. And for good reason: they’re faster and more convenient. But people still want to feel connected, perhaps even more so than before.
So how can companies strengthen their tie with customers and create a personal experience in a predominantly digital world? Unified communications technology makes it possible. Here are three specific ways to leverage digital communications tools to solidify customer relationships—and your survival.
1. Know Your Customer
We’re all in need of a little extra TLC these days, and companies that can find a way to show they care are rising to the top. What better way to do that than to demonstrate how well you know your customers? CRM integration with your communications system gives staff real-time access to information that can be used to create a memorable experience.
As soon as a customer contacts your business, agents can see detailed customer data, ranging from past order history and previous communications. Agents can immediately jump into action, providing updates on recent orders and answering questions the customer may have before they even ask them.
Maybe there’s a note on the account about an issue the customer recently had. How special will they feel if you ask them if it’s been fully resolved to their satisfaction? Or perhaps a promotion is running on a product or service a customer has shown interest in based on past order history. You can make sure they don’t miss out on savings. Small touches like these add up quickly when it comes to making an impact and building customer loyalty. Many companies have this type of data available, but agents need easy access to it precisely at the moment the customer interaction begins.
2. Make It Omnichannel
Customers have been interacting with businesses across multiple digital channels for years now, but the pandemic has forced even the most tech-resistant customers to become more digitally savvy. More than 80 percent of consumers are more likely to use digital wallets or cards in the future, and the use of chat and social media has seen a threefold increase.
Today, customers expect to be able to communicate with businesses via multiple social media channels, web chat, SMS messages, email and messaging apps. But it’s not enough to offer multiple means of communications. They all need to play nice together, allowing customers to seamlessly move from one channel to another. The digital customer simply expects to be able to start a conversation with a chatbot and move to a live agent via chat or phone (depending on their preference) without having to repeat any of the information they already shared.
Smart bots powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) make this possible by routing customers to an agent with the right level of expertise and providing them with a full history of the interaction. AI bots can also monitor communications between agents and customers (even if the conversation moves between channels) and provide guidance and training for the agent in real time.
Companies that move beyond multichannel and truly embrace omnichannel will earn the attention (and repeat business) of digital consumers.
3. Personalize It
Customers may be looking for ways to avoid physical interaction with your staff, but they’re craving personalization more than ever. They want to know you understand their needs and desires, that you value their time and business and that you truly care about giving them what they need. When agents have access to a full customer history, they can personalize the interaction and make customers feel appreciated and valued.
AI technology takes personalization to a new level, with virtual agents monitoring conversations and providing human agents with relevant information to resolve issues and answer questions more quickly. Integration with other internal systems such as supply chain and logistics platforms empower agents to answer just about any question a customer may have.
Imagine how pleased a customer would be if they were calling about a delayed shipment and an agent provides detailed status information as soon as they’re connected. When customers receive individualized attention and get answers to all of their questions, they get a sense of control in a time of constant change and uncertainty.
Powerful unified communications technology arms your business with the right tools to outperform the competition and adapt to changing customer expectations. How will you evolve?
The same sentiment can be applied to customer relationships. Businesses, like sports teams, rely on effective internal communications and collaboration to win. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more challenging for organizational teams to work together.
Two major trends of the last year have impacted the employee experience and, by extension, the customer experience. As many employees started working from home, consumers greatly increased their online shopping. It put businesses in a challenging position: just as newly remote employees were adjusting to new communication and collaboration methods, the expectations from customers multiplied and intensified.
We know both the employee experience and the customer experience are inextricably intertwined. The raised stakes of the pandemic taught us that the state of internal collaboration also directly affects customers. Let’s explore this in more detail from the customer, employee and team standpoints.
The Customer Perspective
While customer usage of online tools was growing before the pandemic, the events of the past year accelerated that behavior. In a survey of over 4,000 consumers in the US, UK, France and Germany, over 40 percent said their use of online customer service increased in 2020. These respondents also predict they’ll use digital customer service options like chatbots, virtual agents and self-service going forward. This signals an important shift in consumer behavior away from mostly phone and email.
The good news is that 60% of the survey respondents saw improvements in customer experience since the pandemic. Over half (55%) said they experienced friendly, helpful, knowledgeable customer representatives; responsiveness and fast service (45%); and communication that informs every step of the way (35%).
Further, thanks to the stress and isolation of the pandemic, customers have reprioritized what’s important to them in their interaction with businesses. Today, they place a higher value on trust, connection, understanding and empathy, signaling a change in expectations for the type of experience they want to receive.
The Employee Perspective
Interestingly, employees need many of the same things. The pandemic forced a seismic shift in how and where many white-collar employees get their job done. What’s become clear is that remote work comes with a unique set of challenges.
“Separation between family and work has become this balancing act,” says Patty McCord, a consultant and the former Chief Talent Officer for Netflix, in her TED Talk, 4 Lessons the Pandemic Taught Us About Work Life and Balance. “We used to say, “Well, this is my work home, and this is my family home, and those are two completely different things.” For many of us, it’s exactly the same thing.” McCord notes this new dynamic has created “a whole different level of complexity and coordination”.
To better support employees, organizations need business processes and technology that make communications and collaboration easier. Separating work life from home life is undeniably harder in a remote environment, but clear guidance on how to handle common problems, like interruptions by family members, can set the right tone in customer interactions.
Business guidelines can help solve momentary distractions, such as when a customer service call is interrupted by a child asking for a snack. In a customer-centric organization, the representative is empowered to make their own decision about how much to reveal to the customer. But now that customers view empathy and understanding as a necessary part of the customer experience, an agent’s choice to be transparent could be a game-changer in the relationship. Empowered, they can turn a potential problem into a unique opportunity to connect on a human level.
However, some situations can’t be smoothed over easily with a simple nod to the challenges of work from home. What happens to customer experience when the agent suddenly has to leave her home office to answer the demands of a sick family member? That’s when the right technology plays a role―such as call center software that automatically rolls over calls to other members of the team who can take over and ensure the customer gets the experience they expect. Collaboration in this case is both frictionless and invisible to the customer.
Supercharge With Technology
To achieve a higher level of customer satisfaction, organizations first need to focus their entire culture on the customer experience. That means even staff working in the middle or back-end of the company need to be tuned into the customer. Organizations that excel at customer experience are able to identify every interaction point their customers have with the business. Information such as customer feedback, analytics, purchase behavior flow from the front line to internal functions like marketing, distribution and production.
Technology that supports inter-team and company-wide communications and collaboration makes this possible. For instance, consider the customer service representative helping a customer troubleshoot a problem. Unified communications software streamlines collaboration by making subject matter experts easily accessible. No matter what channel the agent is using to connect with the customer, they can hold a side conversation with their colleague in product marketing at the same time without ever leaving the call center software. This seamless interaction allows the agent to resolve the problem faster and exceed the client’s expectations.
Another way to support agents is to balance workloads and allow for shift flexibility. This has become particularly important during the pandemic. Employees are often trying to balance work and home responsibilities. Using cloud-based reporting tools and analytics, companies can identify peak times and schedule staff accordingly.
The Team Perspective
The fluidity of today’s work-life balance means internal communications has never been more vital. If companies want to deliver a customer experience that rises above expectations, they need tools and technology that foster teamwork and collaboration and streamline communications.
When the Liverpool Football Club needed this kind of responsiveness, they turned to Mitel. For the team, collaboration among employees was essential for delivering exceptional experiences for hundreds of millions of fans around the world.
“In the speed of what football is today, all of the things that need to be seamless and frictionless need to come together and communication 24/7 becomes key,” said Peter Moore, Liverpool FC’s former chief executive officer. “Tools that allow collaboration, instant communication, understanding of what your colleagues are doing at any given time are critical.”
For example, when a fan calls or emails the club, staff has fan data at their fingertips so they can almost preempt what the issue is, said Moore. These advanced contact center capabilities provide omnichannel support and personalized experience to engage fans better.
Further, Mitel’s mobile communications and remote working capabilities allow club staff to connect faster with each other to resolve problems and ensure a better fan experience. That’s important for agents; it enables them to do their jobs with greater confidence. The organization benefits as well, because employees are more satisfied and experience less stress.
“With Mitel’s expertise, we will have the ability to introduce new channels and intelligent fan self-service capabilities. Ultimately, the partnership with Mitel will enable us to simplify fan journeys and create seamless interactions which will result in a better fan experience,” said Billy Hogan, who recently took over as Liverpool FC’s managing director and CEO.
Internal communications foster teamwork and have the potential to elevate your business performance. However, it only becomes a game-changer when the right business processes and technology are in place. With unified communications, your business will look―and operate―more like a championship team.
As more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, we can hope that we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel. That’s the good news. However, we also now realize that unexpected, unthinkable events will happen—and can happen again. This is where business continuity and agility must be top priorities moving forward.
We learned a valuable lesson in 2020. Forced to adopt new technologies quickly to continue operating, many businesses turned to the flexibility of cloud communications. For example, 2020 saw a sharp increase in the number of white-collar employees working from home, and videoconference calls replaced many in-person meetings and conferences. Restaurants and supermarkets relied heavily on apps like Instacart and Door Dash to reach and serve their customers. None of this could have happened without web-based software residing in the cloud.
Given what we’ve learned about how essential it is to have resilient communications, the value of cloud technology has become more apparent. As a trusted, reliable element of any business communications plan, here’s why the cloud can provide peace of mind:
1. Resiliency In The Face Of Disaster
COVID-19 has been a real-time exercise in crisis management. Companies that had “crises” in their business continuity plans and the right technology in place were able to pivot quickly to remote work with cloud-based communications tools. Many of the lessons learned from the pandemic will be useful for future business continuity plans, just as other disasters―both natural and man-made―informed the plans we’re implementing today.
For instance, during Hurricane Katrina, IT leaders in and around New Orleans learned the value of having a disaster recovery that included the cloud. As the storm pummeled the city and water rose, IT support staff were displaced. The lesson? The ability to transition smoothly to remote work was essential for keeping operations running, especially as offices of government agencies and businesses lost power or flooded. Today, many of these leaders rely on the cloud to provide immediate access from any location to critical systems.
McKinsey estimates that by 2030, system downtime and cybersecurity breaches will cost companies worldwide approximately $650 billion. However, using the cloud to migrate applications could reduce that downtime by almost 57%.
Tessie Cleveland Community Services Corporation (TCCSC), a Los Angeles-based healthcare non-profit, factored these concerns into its communication needs. In addition to requiring a geo-independent and fully redundant solution, its new system had to protect highly confidential medical data.
“We needed a solution that delivered security, call quality, flexibility and disaster recovery,” said Simon Dayan, director of IT for TCCSC. By moving to the cloud, the organization was able to realize this for less money than its premise-based telephony cost. Now healthcare professionals easily collaborate from any location, using any kind of device. With a cloud-based solution, personnel are always reachable and advanced encryption meets HIPAA compliance requirements.
3. Innovation And Opportunity
The speed at which scientists around the world developed COVID-19 vaccines was breathtaking. Never in the history of modern pharmaceuticals has such a feat been accomplished. One of the first vaccines available was developed by Moderna, a U.S.-based pharmaceutical and biotechnology firm.
CEO Stéphane Bancel made a bold decision to use the public cloud as his company’s research and development platform. This enabled scientists to design research experiments, use automated laboratory capabilities and quickly translate data to manufacturing. To achieve this, Moderna uses a proprietary cloud-based application called Drug Design Studio. By using the cloud, the company can scale instantly. There’s no need to buy more servers to meet data storage demand. Applications are uploaded easily for all employees and partners to access.
Moderna’s example demonstrates how the cloud can support innovation and a competitive advantage. How could your organization benefit from this kind of computing power?
Hybrid Or Full Cloud?
If you’re considering moving to the cloud, remember you don’t have to do it all at once. In fact, experts advise against it. Step back and create a plan, even if you’re under duress. Identify what should stay on-premise and what should go to the cloud. Focus on what you’d need to operate if a major interruption or disaster occurred. Focus on the connectivity your employees need to do their jobs remotely. Also, focus on consistent and seamless end-to-end communications. Then work with a partner to build a hybrid or full cloud solution that meets the needs you identified.
By offering ease of access and reliability, the cloud is your security blanket in the face of disaster. It gives your company the agility it needs to respond to any disruption, be it a natural disaster, a global pandemic, a security breach or a failure of your network or hardware. Knowing your staff can access files, data, applications and their coworkers as if they were sitting in the office provides peace of mind, and ensures business continuity.