The extent with which work has changed over the last years cannot be understated. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, research shows that around 20 per cent of Australians worked from home. During the pandemic that percentage increased rapidly, doubling in most states, and reaching as high as 45 per cent in Victoria.
What is interesting is that this does not seem to be a temporary shift. Even after the pandemic worries ease and workplaces open, people will continue working remotely. According to the research, 75 per cent of workers believe that their employers will support future work from home, and that almost half the work week will be spent working remotely in the future.
The success of any effort to normalise working from home within organisations will be the strength of their communications and customer engagement environment. In turn, many CIOs will see this as an opportunity with room to grow. “There are many businesses that were forced to make technology decisions overnight as their existing systems did not support remote working very well and they did not have the luxury of time to search the market for the best solution for them,” 8x8 Director, Sales Engineering, Asia Pacific, Brad Moore, said. “Many of those same businesses a year later are now looking again as whilst the solution they initially selected "does the job" it, however, has challenges around things such as cost, integration with other business applications and call quality.”
Transformation and unified communications
Offering employees robust communications and customer engagement that will be necessary to facilitate a permanent shift to remote working is, in many cases, going to be a digital transformation exercise that CIOs need to undertake. It is not just about providing employees with notebooks and Microsoft Teams access, as CIOs also need to consider:
- Security – The CIO will need to address concerns over the security of voice communications, video conferencing, team chat and the use of cloud solutions to distribute and collaborate on sensitive data sets.
- Culture – Re-aligning the workplace culture so that employees do not feel like they are costing themselves career development and advancement opportunities and ensuring that teams are still productive and collaborative so that there is no sense of isolation, is another key consideration.
- The need for uptime and reliability – CIOs will also need to consider the stability and reliability of their networks and cloud platforms. As organisations continue down the path of digital transformation, every hour of downtime will cost them ever-escalating amounts of money, as the business becomes ever-more reliant on online activities in operation.
“Traditionally with legacy on-premises technology, IT had to set up and maintain remote VPN solutions, VPN concentrators and overall bottleneck challenges routing all traffic back into the corporate network to provide PSTN connectivity,” Moore said. “Now with the cloud, remote users can easily be up and running on a secure communications and contact centre solution with less IT involvement.”
“CIOs now have a great opportunity to lead their organisations through a digital transformation. Their main challenge will be to avoid future disruptions and leapfrog their competitors. For those organisations that are in the process, or have made, the transition, the next big challenge for them will be accelerating digital business initiatives.”
“How do you ensure those applications operate as well over someone's home internet as they do over a business-grade network and allow them to truly ‘work from anywhere’? How do you ensure that it is all secure at the same time? And then from a CX perspective, how is the organisation changing to ensure remote contact centre agents still provide excellent service while also meeting the changing communication needs of consumers as they gravitate more and more towards digital channels? These are just some things that are intrinsically part of the 8x8 solution that we've been helping organisations to solve over the past 12 months.”
8x8 in action: Improving customer service with unified communications
For Australian recruitment and businesses services company, Bayside Group, the opportunity to modernise its communications environment came at the right time. Faced with an aging legacy PBX environment, and with the transition to the nbn™ network for the Internet about to make those devices inoperable, Bayside took the opportunity to engage 8x8 and roll out a modern cloud-based phone system.
The transition to the new system commenced before COVID-19 sent Australia into lockdowns, but the pandemic forced the company to accelerate its plans. However, the company was able to seamlessly transition to the new communications platform, and now Bayside is ready to start leveraging the technology to its competitive advantage, reducing staff travel costs, improving communication and collaboration between state managers, and consolidating down the number of telecommunications providers they had previously worked with – saving $20,000/year in itself.
“It wasn’t just the glue that kept us together, it rapidly became our backbone,” Bayside Group founding director, John Wilson, said. “If we hadn’t had 8x8 in place, I don’t know how we would have survived as a company.” (read more about the Bayside Group experience here)
Meanwhile, over in New Zealand, The Jones Family Business – a specialist in importing premium European appliances – has been able to leverage the 8x8 communications technology to improve customer service. By rolling out a complete integrated communications and contact centre solution, which encompasses voice, online chat sessions, and email, without needing to juggle multiple systems and screens, The Jones Family Business was able to drive a new level of efficiency into customer interactions.
“We also wanted to have greater visibility of the customer interactions that were taking place,” The Jones Family Business Chief Financial Officer, Paul Wharton, said. “With our existing platform it was virtually impossible to get a clear picture of what was going on across our locations.”
It is important that any communications and customer engagement solution be developed around the organisation’s specific needs. For The Jones Family Business, 8x8’s ability to understand their unique requirements and provide a specific solution was a major advantage and ensured that they could go live less than two weeks after the initial design.
Now, The Jones Family Business has almost 100 of its staff and contact centre users working off 8x8 solutions in their entirety. (read more about The Jones Family Business solution here)
Communications strategies will continue to be built around enabling remote work, and much of the innovation in this space will continue down this line, Moore said. Those organisations that can capitalise can expect to have a happier workforce and better levels of customer satisfaction thanks to more comprehensive and clear communications channels available to them.
“Organisations have seen the benefits of WFH implementations, and so there are solutions being developed to help manage these remote workforces. IT automation, AI tools and monitoring technologies are being tested to both support employee happiness and understand employee experience and determine any underlying issues related to productivity,” Moore said. “From a CX perspective, AI will continue to play a large role in the digital workplace with bot technology, as well as virtual assistants.”
Click here to read the first edition of Essentials for the New Digital Workplace eBook and arm yourself with useful insights and strategies to help your customers transition to a work-from-anywhere world.