As economies around the world begin to reopen, so too does the UK; slowly but surely. The challenges that COVID-19 has brought to businesses over the past few months have been astronomical.

For example, some have gone from little or no employees working remotely, to all or most of the workforce homeworking to stay safe and ensure business continuity throughout the lockdown. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital transformation and workplace modernisation within organisations and made many realise that they can deliver their digital projects much faster than they realise.

Our three stages of COVID-19 outline the way the virus has shaped business strategies, from the beginning to now and what the future will hold with the new normal on the horizon.

The Three Stages of COVID-19

Stage 1: Disaster Recovery (DR)

This was when businesses started to realise that lockdown was becoming increasingly likely. Disaster recovery was about shielding the business from the impact of the virus. Working to put procedures in place for the worst-case scenario.

DR presented businesses with a shorter-term plan and a theory to follow, ensuring that the basic business operating necessities are in place like ensuring everyone could access their emails or make business calls on their mobiles. Something a little complicated that it sounds if your company has never worked from home before! As the length of the lockdown period begun to dawn on organisations, that’s where business continuity planning (BCP) started to kick in!

Stage 2: Business Continuity

The next stage was to look at business continuity planning (BCP) to ensure that business could continue as normally as possible with a higher complexity of capabilities than just the basics. This stage meant than many businesses who did not already have remote working solutions like MiTeam Meetings or Avaya Spaces in place needed to get their working from home infrastructure sorted.

Business continuity for our customer Markerstudy saw them shift 3,000 employees to homeworking. In just two days they had 3,000 staff including contact centre agents working effectively from home. It just goes to show that many customer facing roles that have traditionally been done whilst working in the office, can be completed just as (if not more) productively whilst working from home.  

Stage 3: Optimisation and Lean Models (We’re Here Now)

We’re now moving towards creating the new normal. Stage 3 of COVID-19 business strategy planning is about how your business can move to a lean operating model and how you can optimise through automation, self-service and by utilising your human resource more wisely.

Businesses will become more agile, responding to change more quickly, with the recognition that they need to be prepared should something like this happen again.

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Evolve to Survive

The business climate was tough before COVID-19 and believe us it is only going to get tougher. Organisations that don’t transition to an agile and lean operating model will simply not survive. So bearing this in mind; what could the new normal look like?

Less Offices More Homeworkers

Some businesses have already said that they won’t be renewing their office leases. It all makes sense, why would you reopen your office, when you can save the overheads associated with having one and cut down on fuel pollution whilst doing so?

In the new normal, we will certainly see more businesses not returning to the office. COVID-19 has taught us that people can adapt quickly and get just as much done in their home environment (if not more!).

Increased Flexibility

Working from home has empowered people to have a life-work-balance. We’ve been saying for quite some time that this demand, particularly from the younger generation will come to pass. The pandemic has empowered people to work in a way that works for them.

Typically, an office confines employees to working say 09:00 – 17:30 with a one hour lunch break. Homeworking on the other hand means that they can start earlier and finish earlier (or vice versa) and fit their life commitments around any meetings or conversations that need to happen throughout their working day. This is optimisation for your business as it empowers employees to work in a way that is most productive for them personally.

Rethinking Industries

Many industries have had to shift dramatically to remain operating throughout coronavirus. Since restaurants were ordered to shut for example, techsavvy businesses developed a takeaway and home delivery service extremely rapidly. With the phased approach, they are likely to not be able to re-open until later in the year. The question is which ones will return to just serving food in-house. The hospitality industry will see one of the biggest shake-ups in the new normal!

Healthcare has had to adapt to be able to continue to deliver its service to the public. We’ve seen a huge uptake the amount of telehealth given and the number of patients utilising online portals. The pandemic is going to have a lasting effect on organisations like the NHS. With the realisation that some healthcare can in fact be delivered over the phone or via video conferencing, to optimise operations it is a service many will continue.

Education has been forced to adopt online learning for students. For schools, this has been a completely new challenge. However, it’s opened up the possibilities for the future of school by helping teach students the skills they need to be able to work by themselves.

Automation will Take Centre Stage

Our customer Mercury Holidays were already looking at ways they could make their operations lean before the lockdown started. Realising that automation is the way forwards, Mercury implemented our INBOX prior to COVID-19 taking hold in the UK. It has already managed thousands of their digital interactions. When the pandemic struck, the they were faced with an extremely high volume of calls and email enquiries from customers asking about holidays. With our solution, they were able to template answers on their website, so that customers could self-serve and create tickets that were systematically dealt with. The tickets could be easily prioritised chronologically or according to urgency.

The new normal will see businesses continue to automate processes so that they can allocate their human resource more wisely. This will see automation becoming integrated with technologies that already exist to communicate with customers like your chatbots or AI.

Demand for Self-Service

Businesses will need to move towards implementing more self-serve options for their customers and suppliers. Not only so that they can keep up with the shifting demands of CX but also to enable themselves to allocate their human resource wisely.

It is no secret that sadly many businesses are going to need to make cuts to the number of staff they have once the full effects of the virus are felt throughout the economy. Self-service means that customers are empowered to find out information for themselves so that less enquiries come into your customer service employees.

We will see more chatbots, AI and co-browsing options implemented across websites and other digital channels to enable this change. Our BiziBOT for example enables ‘reply and route’ automations, combining self-service and automation into an all in one solution.

Shift Happens

Whether we like it or not, change is the only constant. COVID-19 has made many realise that they can change rapidly if they need to. With digital transformation projects like implementing working from home technologies and strategies turned around in weeks or even days!

The result will be a business environment that moves at a quicker, more accelerated pace. Are you going to be able to keep up?

Discover how we can help to optimise and strategise for business in a post-pandemic world, take a look at our COVID-19 support.