Working from home sounded easy until you had to have everyone across your business doing it next day, and having all your systems working and customer facing communication methods acting as normal! Having some people working from home on an occasional and transient basis is one thing, having the whole business operate away from any physical business location is another.
Working remotely has more challenges than many expected. Some departments have never been expected to work from home – take finance, customer support etc, many of their systems were never tested or expected to work fully remotely. Sales likely have mobiles and are used to switching between desk and mobile and customers finding them and vice versa, for other departments and their phone routing this is unlikely the case. We are already seeing pressures on businesses realising that existing legacy phone systems have not adapted well to the sudden requirement to have all employees productive and working from home collaboratively.
Globally, 52% of workers work from home at least once every week. (Source: Owl Labs)
There was an assumption that as often people across a business worked from home that it was all sorted, that cloud and mobile tech had been employed already, so this switch was going to be a simple tech one. What was missing was that the customer in normal day to day business still reaches to the central business’s physical hub location and without anyone there to man that ship things fall between the cracks.
The industries with the most remote workers include healthcare (15%), technology/internet (10%), financial services (9%), education (8%) and manufacturing (7%). (Source: Owl Labs)
Add to this the human side. Is the individuals home environment suited and prepped to allow them to work effectively and productively? Is their dog going to be barking in the background? How is having children at home in this instance manageable? We are all likely familiar with the 2017 BBC news incident when Professor Robert Kelly on remote guesting from home, had his children run into the room live on air. Over 30 million Youtube views later and we know how easy this is to happen and amusing when it’s not happening to you with your customer on the line!
Have they thought about unexpected noises and interruptions? I myself work from home and at varying times, often in the evenings, guest on recorded podcasts, so am familiar with the details people may not think of. Have a ring doorbell that rings all-round the house, cordless phones with room-based ringer stations, etc. It is very easy to have unexpected home-based noise interrupt a customer call. At this time, it is likely that customers will be more tolerant of this being that we all realise this is a world’s 1st. But the more professional you can appear at any time to a client is always a good thing and as time progresses how intolerant will customers become being that they have their own frustrations of poor customer experience from all this!
38% of remote workers and 15% of remote managers received no training on how to work remotely. (Source: Owl Labs)
We are also seeing some unexpected technical challenges and witnessed Netflix removing HD streaming. We take bandwidth for granted and may have high bandwidth packages to our home, but these are usually for the typical home use, which is intermittent and lower demands. Yes, you may watch a Netflix HD film at home, but unlikely are you to be doing it back to back all day, whilst kids play online games, others in the family are home and online and you are working on apps such as Salesforce and video conferencing, collaborating, etc The bandwidth we all use is not unlimited and aggregates with what others are using for the allowable total in the region we are in. With everyone at home with the same issues at the same time, are we to see exchanges and bandwidth struggling to cope? With any home technical issues with connectivity, apps or devices how easy is it for your IT team to support your employees to be effective?
Openreach, which owns and operates most UK phone broadband lines, said daytime data consumption has almost doubled over the last three weeks, jumping from 28PB (PetaBytes) on Monday 2 March to 51PB on 30 March. (Source: British Telecom)
So from a work from home perspective, having suitable equipment and tools for the user also has to be considered. Are they equipped with applications that easily work remotely? Are mobiles enabled as a backup to use the 4G and soon 5G network? And are they optimised to operate over the internet for all the applications and data they need to be productive workers? Is this the time true cloud is going to come into its own and we shall see the outcome differences from the haves and have nots? How will businesses that have lagged behind in maximising the use of cloud-based technologies, fair in this time?
Europe-wide telco Vodafone said it has seen a 50 percent increase in data traffic in some markets. (Source: Vodaphone)
In the rush to get your users live remotely, have you opened yourself to security risks? have you exposed holes in your systems and processes? Perhaps you had to open up systems quickly to empower workers to access from home, what physical security have you applied to devices now, not physically protected at your location? What training have you employed for users to remain secure working from home in an environment where they are more relaxed and do not have the protections of your corporate network!
There was a 667% increase in spear-fishing e-mail attacks related to COVID-19. (Source: Barracuda Networks)
Now is not the time to start full system switches, you need to get through what is happening and many businesses will unfortunately be in survival mode. But NOW is the time to start thinking about planning for mitigation for the gaps this has exposed. NOW is the time to have those frank discussions, to identify what legacy systems and providers did not shine and what options are available in the market to make sure you never suffer the same shortcomings again!
What impact has any lacking you have experienced had on your customer and their brand experience? Have you empowered your staff to be productive, to maintain their integrity and self- worth and to contribute positively during the work from home times? Your staff do not want to be sat idle, to be furloughed and to feel worried about their roles without any ability to contribute to a positive outcome for all concerned. Staff and customers want to engage, be it a challenging and different engagement, neither wants to simply stop and wait.
Many businesses are operating perceptively as normal to customers, you can contact them, ring them and speak to staff who can help as normal. Their channels of communication remain open, routing and call queues work, and you can call them as a customer and get the outcome you want. Many however, have simply shut down all communications, frustrating customers and staff alike.
Whilst the world is a different place the more normal you can make it for your customers and your staff, the more successfully you will weather the storm and come out the other side as strong as possible to recover and prosper again. The road has not ended, we simply hit a bump, the journey still continues.