We are bound to remember these months for a long time, they will leave a mark and drastically change what we do and how we do it.
There are lessons that we can learn and embrace, one of these is that without technology during this time we would have felt more lonely, not being able to “stay” with our loved ones. Virtual dinners or toasts, online schools and gyms, children singing “happy birthday” during a videoconference with a distant granny, and hours and hours of video calls with friends, relatives, colleagues.
And while we talk about reopening to public life, as “insiders” we must not forget this lesson and work instead in a new direction, alternative to the one undertaken in the past. We will communicate in a different way, inside a new normality that will see an acceleration of digital investments, starting from appropriate connectivity infrastructures. Getting prepared to this new phase is not an option, in fact it will be a salvation for many, and while many others will surely go through hard times, a way to mitigate this situation is to ponder on how to rapidly improve the model underlying all digital interactions with colleagues and customers.
There are known examples: banks and insurance companies have undertaken this path since long, ensuring more and more efficient digital channels as opposed to physical channels, and if so far we have often considered these channels as an alternative, today in order to catch up Organizations must push on the accelerator to become “Remote Enterprises”, companies whose channels of preference become digital channels and whose primary option, when designing a new product, is to understand how and to what extent it is possible to use online channels to spread it on the marketplace. It is a neat choice and the quickest to seize this opportunity in their own sectors will benefit from the competitive advantage.
This is true in all verticals. A challenging example: how much of the productive chain of an automotive company can be digitized? Market analysis, high level design, remote control of machines, robotics, commerce and showcase, customer service, marketing, HR, … Using appropriate tools this can be achieved with investments that are often less impacting than one could expect. And if this can be done in the automotive sector, what about other sectors such as education and training, medical science or telecommunications?
How to rethink the enterprise
As it often happens, the black swan that hit us can bring new opportunities for the open minds, the ones who will try to ride the change instead of suffering it. There are no ready-made recipes, but among the success cases that we analyzed we spotted some common elements. In particular there are two aspects that our customers are living as ‘phases’ while facing this critical situation:
- Equip themselves with a flexible IT structure: in this moment there’s nothing more frustrating and detrimental than having worked for years on a particular technological solution just to discover that it is not possible to use it at a maximum extent because of its rigidity. Solutions stratified throughout the years or architectures created to bypass underlying problems have led to infrastructures that are fragile and stiff. To face the needs of smart working during these days of pandemic our customers have the majority of their teams working in VPN. Business teams ask for urgent actions and IT teams must equip themselves with servers, network infrastructures, connectivity. This is time-consuming, and increases both CAPEX and OPEX.
The time has come to face this problem no more in a tactical way, but strategically. How can my IT infrastructure evolve to become effective? Talking of our sector (I guess this is true for everyone, but each layer has to be managed with the proper competence) it is necessary to invest in cloud services, easily accessible and which guarantee an ubiquitous access and an immediate scalability towards higher or smaller volumes. In order to achieve this we suggest a pragmatic approach: where can I act right now, gaining a valuable benefit even though some integration gets possibly lost in the short term?
- When the structure – or one of its parts – becomes flexible we can leverage this to rethink the model that we normally use to face our problems. Some starting points:
- How do operating procedures change for the colleagues working from home?
- Which aspects must be reconsidered to avoid inefficiencies?
- How do I get back to or tackle with activities that I usually did in person, such as the direct contact with my customers?
- How much the remotisation of activities and the lack of direct contact affect the workforce effectiveness?
- How smart working affects teams productivity? Are there flexing curves?
Essentially we see impacts at two levels: a technological impact that leads to a functional and organizational rethinking.
Talking of the specific sector in which Eudata operates, i.e. the world of Customer Interactions, until “yesterday” the way of working was:
- Contact center services (be they traditional phone or omnichannel CCs) delivered and managed by teams working together in the same premises
- Agency services, delivered by employees and consultants working in physical agencies and/or scheduling one-to-one meetings with customers, done remotely only in a small percentage
The social and economic importance of Contact Centers has been recognized by our government (in Italy) that has kept such services open since its first act at the beginning of March. However due to the pandemic Contact Centers have been emptied (where possible) or drastically downsized with regard to the physical presence of agents in the premises, similarly agencies and consultants have had to partially or totally stop their activities.
The remodeling that we have set up together with our customers is based on the following key points:
- remotisation of Contact Centers, trying not to use VPN wherever possible, since VPN limits scalability. For more structured customers that are already using a cloud Contact Center (i.e. based on WebRTC protocol instead of SIP) and a cloud CRM application, both of which are natively usable via web in total safety, the remotisation has been completed in just “hours”, with agents using just normal PCs with standard characteristics, since the computational power mainly resides in the cloud. Moreover thanks to this speed, many have decided to provide also consultants and agencies with the same tools of the CC (where pricing models allow for it), guaranteeing the centralization of information and a great operational simplification
- adding of digital services: digital tools act on two levels, the retrieving of the “emotional” contact happening during a video communication (associated to collaboration tools), and the leveraging of “instant” and widely spread digital channels (WhatsAPP and all the similar ones)
- automation: the relocation of activities has accelerated some automation scenarios that were already taking place, be it on customer side with an increasing focus on BOTs that actually reduce our clients workloads, or on the agent side where through BOT assistants it is much simpler to remodel both caring and sales processes, gaining efficiency and speed as attested by highly significant figures. Besides, BOT assistants are able to track all the processes enabling supervisors to control agents daily actions even in a remotised context
- organization: to modify the Enterprise structures as described above entails big organizational challenges. Giving new work tools imposes training sessions, new models (and software) to manage the organization and remote governance actions. Moreover in such new context it is necessary to use tools to keep the team spirit alive, in order to avoid the professional isolation that could hit some employee.
To sum up, there are various needs when it comes to adapt the work environment to the new operational reality, they all necessarily gravitate around a technological modernization aimed to host new organizational models in total safety. Once the intervention priorities have been defined considering the maturity level, a road map can be defined which includes also a review of the organizational processes.
In this regard we consider it very reasonable to make an evaluation that can cover all the Enterprise units interacting with customers and not only the customer service.
In this way it is possible to achieve a great simplification of internal processes and an improvement of customer experience, without forgetting that this remodeling will lead in the medium term to a reduction of costs related to physical network infrastructures, management costs, location maintenance and to a simplification of architectures.
CEO and partner Eudata