Preparing your customer-facing workforce for remote working

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Ruslan Satsuik)

The “work from anywhere” concept was set to become a reality for many organisations over the next decade, but due to the current global health crisis, the speed in which businesses roll out virtual offices has had to increase significantly.

Advancements in technology in recent years have meant many businesses already operate a flexible, remote working structure successfully, but this type of working doesn’t come without its challenges. The very sudden need to accommodate entire workforces from remote locations is something that many organisations have not had the opportunity to prepare for.

Ensuring all employees, particularly those in customer-facing roles, have access to the communication channels and data that they would otherwise have in an office is a top priority for many organisations, and any issues in enabling this access must be overcome quickly, and efficiently.

Keeping up with the times

Over the past decade, the development of hotdesking and co-operative workplaces has changed the dynamic and added a dimension of flexibility to the office. This meant organisations needed to expand the technology services available to their staff to allow for mobile computing, so employees could be connected at any desk and be supported by the tools they needed to do their jobs well. All this giving workers the flexibility to move around the office environment.

Within this same time frame though, emerging technologies led to a further understanding, particularly among sales teams, that meeting customers face-to-face and commuting to the office were time and cost inefficient exercises that were no longer necessary for the job.

But the ability to manage a fully remote workforce hasn’t quite kept pace with its popularity and is now a growing challenge for businesses, with many scrabbling to adopt vital solutions and processes to maintain business as usual. This is especially true for the customer-facing workforce dealing in sales or customer service. For those with contact centres, many servicing clients will now need them more than ever due to issues arising from unusual circumstances, from boiler issues, to insurance claims. The question is, how will organisations deliver a service at a time of heightened traffic when they themselves are also having to implement new working policies and remote working structures. It’s not as simple as someone being able to log on from home, there is depth to this and, for contact centres especially, this extends to their phone system capabilities and configuration, not just for redirecting calls to mobiles, but to handle call queues and hunt groups effectively.

Communication is a vital productivity enabler no matter how dispersed our workforces are. So, when face-to-face communication is rare, picking up the phone is a crucial way of building and maintaining relationships with customers, resolving challenging or complex issues or simply ensuring the team is fully connected and engaged and not isolated.

When access to an office is simply not an option, there are many technologies available that enable the customer-facing workforce to maintain a consistent level of service.

Ensuring your phone is up to the task

One answer lies in intelligent telecommunications technology, which is rapidly advancing and transforming how and where people work, shifting the concept of flexibility to that of freedom. In fact, new cloud-supported interfaces are already available to give users the ability to work from anywhere, on whichever device they want.

These interfaces can give customer service agents control of who can contact them (for example allowing all calls or just VIP callers) and on whichever device, whether that’s their work or personal phones, with speed. They can also enable agents to set a different number as Caller ID for outgoing calls and choose additional numbers on which to receive incoming calls.

Agents on the move or working from remote locations can benefit from the same functionality as in the office on their mobile device, with all data being shared back into the business’ CRM system. This not only improves the efficiency and personalisation of future communications with customers but eliminates employee admin time. Businesses could also benefit from increased productivity of their newly remote workforce and from knowing that their CRM information is always 100% up to date.

Organisations have now been pushed into an immediate industry-wide business continuity full-test scenario that will expose a great many flaws in their technology. In these turbulent times, organisations need intelligent measures that can be deployed with ease and speed, enabling business leaders to focus on more pressing matters at hand. An intelligent phone system is one of the tools that can help. Rendering location irrelevant, businesses can rest assured their employees have the tools they need for seamless communication both within the organisation and outbound to customers and potential customers.

Neil Hammerton is CEO and Co-founder of Natterbox

Neil Hammerton

Neil Hammerton is CEO and Co-founder of Natterbox. His goal when he founded Natterbox was to revolutionise interactions over the phone between companies and their customers. With 65% of business interactions still taking place over the phone, it is surprisingly an area many businesses don’t invest in – as a result, they miss out on crucial customer insights. With no knowledge of telecoms, Neil read books and asked an industry veteran to teach him about the telephony industry. Natterbox was born 18 months later with the help of two other founders.