When we entered the COVID-19 crisis it was an unprecedented time. Being prepared for a crisis of this magnitude left many businesses in the dark and the haphazard response to COVID-19 demonstrated the value of business continuity planning.
According to a study by Gartner of 1500 professionals in early March, just 12% of them believed their business was highly prepared for the impact of the virus while just 2% of respondents believed their business could continue as normal.
As offices shut down in a matter of days and working from home became the new norm, businesses faced huge challenges in remaining productive with systems that were primarily designed for in the office operation.
While employees were able to access third party conferencing software and made use of their mobile phones, the challenge to create a remote workforce that maintained the security and productivity of the office and provided the important customer service that was critical for business continuity for almost impossible for far too many.
How high does the risk need to be to generate action?
The Gartner study highlighted that the challenge of planning for an event such as coronavirus is due to the ambiguity inherent in a situation like this. While businesses have policies in place to deal with a variety of risks, they don’t activate them soon enough or until the risk is fully manifested. In this case it wasn’t until the virus forced governments to shut down workplaces that action was taken, leaving many businesses one step behind their competitors who were better prepared.
Impact planning vs scenario planning
Shinkman went on to say that It’s much more effective to focus on potential impacts on your business and how to mitigate them rather than the risk itself.
Planning responses in relation to impacts makes it very clear when to take action, what to communicate to staff and increases the likelihood that your response will be timely and keep you ahead of your competitors.
While the first wave of coronavirus may have come and gone, the need for impact planning has never been more critical if we are to ride out a second, third or even fourth wave of lockdowns.
Specific impact-based responses you should plan for now may include:
- What will our business do if an employee gets sick when we return to our office
- What will we do if someone in our team is suspected of the virus?
- What will we do if a customer traces the source of their virus back to our business?
- Do our customers/clients need to be notified of a case of COVID-19 in our office
- Are our current work-from-home measures productive?
- Is our data and sensitive customer information secure when staff work from devices that are off-site?
- What will we do with our current phone system that isn’t optimized for remote work?
- What will we do if there is a customer breach of information in an unsecure line outside of the office?What will we do if an increase of customer orders means more inbound phone calls?
- What happens if I can’t offer the same level of customer support when staff work from home?
Future proof your business against any COVID-19 restrictions
Each business will answer these questions differently based on their resources, technology and industry but when done well, they can immunise your company from many of the challenges brought about by COVID-19. They can also realize a longer-term benefit from increased customer brand perception. To respond well to the future challenges that the virus may bring, we recommend each business consider the following responses to the impending challenges that COVID-19 may still bring.
1. A new way of working remotely: Augment your existing telco systems with a cost-effective mobile-first solution
Your business must get agile to cope with COVID-19 which means the technology you use must be agile too. It’s impossible to predict what lockdowns may come upon us in the next year, so it’s important to have a phone system that can easily switch from office-based to remote-based depending where your employees need to work from.
- A mobile-first solution for easy remote working: With 50% of the workforce expected to be remote in the foreseeable future, investing in the technologies to enable remote working is an investment in future-proofing your business. Spoke Phone has a mobile-first solution designed specifically for a remote workforce. It’s an app your employees download onto their own mobile devices that takes just a few minutes to set up and onboard your team. It completely removes the need for employees to be office-bound and has all the features of a desktop phone such as voice mail, call forwarding, conference calling, and call recording.
- Augment your existing business phone systems: Technologies like these also act as a true backup overlay meaning you don’t have to overhaul your existing office phone systems. Spoke Phone scales up and down based on your needs, serving to be activated as part of your business continuity plan if another lockdown were to happen.
2. Improve your customer experience - activate and augment your existing customer service tools
Right now, customer enquiries are at an all-time high. Some businesses are seeing new customer queries specifically related to COVID-19 but call increases are not limited just to the virus. The continued disruption of daily life is driving spikes in other types of inquiries, such as payments, late orders, travel cancelations, and unemployment benefits, each with varying levels of urgency.
No matter how many calls you’re now fielding as a result of COVID-19, systems like Spoke Phone allow for you to keep servicing your customers in the same way a desk-based phone system would offer.
- We allow you to keep your existing office number: Keep the office number that your customers already know and forward calls from it to your mobiles. If a customer rings you and the call needs to go to someone else, it’s easy to transfer to the call on and even brief the person you’re forwarding the call to on who it is before connecting them.
- Caller ID: When you’re calling out to customers from your mobile they will see your existing office number not your personal mobile number.
- Record calls on mobile: Spoke Phone has a call recording feature where you can record customer calls on mobile. Recording high-value calls on mobile and ensuring no details are missed is vital for every sales-based business right now and ones that need to ensure high rates of compliance.
The benefit of having a seamless customer experience in spite of any challenges brought on by COVID-19 will position your business as one people can rely on and will continue to do business with during the hard times, safe in the knowledge that you’ve got systems under control.
3. Keep your workforce happy and your customer outcomes high
Your people are the heart of your business. During a time of uncertainty like COVID-19, it’s crucial to try and alleviate their stressors around working remotely – a big part of which means empowering them with the right tools to do so.
Extracting voicemail from a desk-based system from home can be tricky, while diverting calls to specific people after hours from an office number has its challenges too, which is why we offer the following:
- Work availability signal: Part of keeping your workforce happy means respecting your employees’ boundaries during their work hours. One of the key features businesses are utilizing with Spoke Phone is a work availability signal – a color-coded dot showing up next to employees in the Spoke Phone directory who are available to take calls.
- Hunt groups: This the ability to have incoming calls to an office number forwarded to a group of people able to answer the call. In this way, customers can always get through and boundaries are tight around which employees can and cannot take calls based on their hours of work.
With Covid-19 the time to act is now
With unknown reach and duration, it’s fair to say that COVID-19 has impacted the world in a way where there are no precedents to accurately base any projections on. We’re in uncharted territory.
This is not the time to be developing complex business continuity plans. However, by using an impact planning methodology you can charter a way forward for your business despite what COVID-19 may bring. In order to succeed, keep in mind the need to prioritize critical business activities, stabilize cash flow, and extend financial resources. Then translate what all of this looks like with a remote workforce away from their desk-based tools.
Spoke Phone can empower you and your business with the systems needed to keep your business running whether your teams are office-based or working from home. Our mobile-first system ensures a seamless customer experience and high compliance rates for your workers. Right now we’re offering Spoke Phone for a competitive monthly fee to use as a back-up to your existing systems in case of future lockdowns. Use it to augment your existing systems or overhaul your office-based phone system completely to prepare for the remote workforce of the future. Get in touch today.