The well-being of our employees, partners and customers is a top priority for us. As the number of coronavirus (COVD-19) cases continues to grow, we have taken proactive measures to facilitate a safe and healthy working environment, while maintaining our business continuity (certified to ISO22301, business continuity standard).
Critical Service Provider
We recognise our role as a critical service provider to our customers. Our business continuity plans are in place, tested and ready to be ramped up as required over the coming period. We have taken the decision for staff to work from home, wherever possible all of which are set up with required access and tools to support business as usual services to our customers.
Whilst we have already helped many customers with rapid mobilisation of some very large homeworking initiatives, we still continue to experience a large influx of requests from customers to provide advice and rapid provision of technology solutions, to enable short and medium term contingency planning - of which setting up effective home-working continues to be a major requirement, including setting up softphones, teleworking and team collaboration systems.
Two weeks ago we took the proactive decision to prioritise our resources to meet existing customer relationships, and their requirements relating to mitigating the impact of the coronavirus, predominantly with set up and ramp up of homeworking solutions. We are working hard to balance all customers’ requirements to help keep our customers operating in this time of great uncertainty.
We have boosted resources with many staff electing to cancel leave and work additional hours, to meet such critical requests from our customers. Additionally, we have secured additional resource with tried and tested contractor relationships to assist with BAU support.
Short to Medium Term Considerations
Current thinking is that the peak of the virus could be 10-14 weeks away, so we recognise the importance of considering short and medium term choices and options to ensure that impact can be quickly mitigated but also taking the time to plan robust options moving forwards.
It is likely that working from home and managing a highly distributed workforce will become the new norm for the foreseeable future. This will require additional planning to help our customers maximise effectiveness.
Remote Staff Management
This may well include tools to manage staff remotely, assess and manage workload and accommodate what could be a reduction in staff available to work either due to illness or unfortunately due to economic impact of the virus on UK businesses as highlighted in recent news stories, through automation software and self-service interfaces to help share the load.
We must recognise that as more and more people are being forced to work from home this will present challenges for training and support for new ways of working, so collaboration software is useful for remote training and support.
SIP Diverts FOC
We have taken the decision to make resource available to undertake number / routing diverts on SIP for main numbers and key DDI numbers to alternative number routes – e.g. mobile numbers / home lines. We will not charge for initial number diverts to cover main numbers and key DDI’s up to a reasonable level. We may have to limit the amount of free diverts we can undertake for each customer, to ensure that we can provide coverage across our customer base and support this basic form of continuity.
Web Portal for SIP Management
We are also working with customers to accelerate their move to the new web portal for SIP management, wherever possible, providing customer access and control for number diverts and call flow management, providing training and support to ease the situation.
Software Trials FOC
There have been a number of offers from vendors of free licensing for the interim period. We are setting up test environments to make sure that such software is fully tested and understood in advance of deploying to customers, so as not to create an unintended consequence of increasing IT support requirements for our customers around how to use the new solution!
How we can Help
Positively we have a great deal of experience in helping our customers set up solutions to meet business continuity and contingency planning. I have listed just a few technology aspects below for consideration (there are others to meet different needs).
- Setting up number diverts, including self-service management via SIP / NGN portals
- Temporary removal of the channel limit, to assist with those that may need a temporary increase of capacity. (This will be limited though by the Phone system Capacity of SIP trunking licenses)
- Teleworking, setting up handsets to work from home – please bear in mind power blocks are required and supplies will be stretched
- Softphone working
- Unified Communications to provide collaboration (screen share, video, chat & presence technology)
- Audio & Video conferencing & Teamwork Collaboration spaces to assist with remote meetings, briefings and inclusion of remote workers
- Cloud systems – to enable centralised set up, test & deployment of new user and feature requirements, reduce the load on, on premise hardware and mitigate risk of not being able to access local premises to undertake remedial maintenance works, due to travel and access restrictions
- AI / automatic chat systems, process automation and orchestration technologies to initially help manage the load and cope with an increase in inbound enquiries
Customer Service Team Upscaled
We are fast tracking the deployment of automation and categorisation technology from Bizvu into our own service operations to assist with handling the large influx of additional inbound requests for help.
We are here to help and talk through the options and what is right for you and your individual business requirements and help you act accordingly. Members of the marketing team will be making contact to check in and make sure you are getting the help and support you require.
Once this initial step is completed, we would suggest it is important to consider what’s next, in support of effective business continuity and meeting the needs of customers and staff accordingly in the next phase.
I would certainly recommend, once your initial short term needs are met, to take the time to discuss with your account manager (or me as required) other longer term options to ensure that your business is prepared for what could be an extended period of change in the way in which our businesses need to operate.
We wish you well and we are here to help.