We probably never thought this time last year that we would live through a global pandemic. Businesses in the UK forced to lockdown and discover new ways of working or cease all operations. Technology has really come into its own this year with people forced to rely on it to keep in touch with members of their team working from home, digitally complete operations or talk to their customers. Here are the top 5 fears we think technology has helped alleviate during the COVID-19 crisis.

Fear #1: Not Being Able to Effectively Communicate and Collaborate with Colleagues

For businesses that were able to continue all or some of their operations working from home; effective communication with colleagues was understandably a key concern. In an office environment it is very easy to simply have conversations with people, meet to discuss projects or go over plans with one another. However, just because you’re not in the same building doesn’t mean this ease cannot resume.

Many discovered the power of meeting tools like Mitel MiTeam Meetings, Avaya’s Spaces or Microsoft Teams. Enabling quick and easy meetings with audio and visual, screensharing for collaboration and messaging capabilities for sharing ideas.

These tools also helped provide the feeling of being in the office, enabling homeworkers who might have been feeling isolated to feel connected to people. Britannic certainly utilised MiTeam Meetings to the max, with weekly pub quizzes!

Fear #2: Being Snowed Under by an Avalanche of Customer Interactions Pre and Post Lockdown

With staff dispersed, 49% working from home (Office for National Statistics) and 9 million people on furlough (UK Government). Many companies feared how they would keep on top of responding to their customer enquiries. Utilising digital communication channels and automation is becoming increasingly important. With potentially a limited number of staff to take customer calls, businesses need to consider how they can keep their phonelines as clear as possible. Opening up the possibility of using digital channels like WhatsApp, webchat and social messengers.

INBOX was a key piece of technology for our customer, Mercury Holidays. Implemented at the start of the year, Mercury was very well positioned to deal with thousands of digital customer interactions when COVID-19 struck. Automating, categorising and prioritising responses for the travel company.

We can now report on the different types of enquiries we are getting and have the functionality to enable self-serve for the customers. For example - we have created a ‘My Booking’ section on the website that enables customers to add the extras they want for their holiday themselves. This frees up our agents to focus on more complex enquiries 

– Neil Whitaker, Head of IT, Mercury Holidays

Automating the workload is helping businesses like Mercury Holidays not only efficiently respond to their customer enquiries, but also start the shift to leaner ways of working.

Fear #3: Employee Productivity Rapidly Dropping and not Being Able to Track Progress  

Just because you cannot physically see your employees doesn’t mean they aren’t working productively. Over this period, working from home has in fact been able to greatly increase productivity for the most part. 56% of workers say they feel more productive working in their remote environment (UC Today).

The ease with which the tools we mentioned in fear #1 enable you to set up a meeting means you are no more than a few clicks away from catching up with your colleagues. Technology has meant that some teams can in fact monitor productivity and track progress better than ever before.

Possibly due to the fear of it, many have set up regular, short daily catchups with their team to focus on the key tasks and any blockers to progress. Resulting in regular communication and problem solving that doesn’t usually occur to the same level when working in the office.

Fear #4: Having to Rely on Different Channels of Communication for Business That Would Usually be Done Face-to-Face  

For many, it’s been the first time they have really had to rely on different channels to communicate with customers and other key stakeholders like suppliers. Usually, there would be regular face-to-face contact.

High street shops and restaurants have had to rely on digital channels and people ordering through their website or applications. Higher education institutions like universities and colleges have had to handle admissions in a completely digital way. Our customer, a college utilised MiTeam Meetings to interview prospective students through lockdown.

When the national lockdown meant we had to postpone meeting our prospective next-year’s students, Britannic Technologies came to us without prompting and said ‘we can help!’. They provided the means for us to engage with the applicants by extending their online meetings facility using Mitel MiTeam Meetings – at no cost and without fuss – in a way we couldn’t otherwise manage by ourselves.

– Joe Yeadon, Head of ITL Services, Godalming College

Fear #5: Delivering the Same High-Level Customer Experiences with the Strains of Lockdown

Of course, this has been a top fear for those businesses that have been able to continue to operate even during a severe lockdown. 89% of companies expect that customer experience will be the primary basis for competition (Gartner).

Many have had to rely on delivering great online experiences, utilising their website to deliver customer service. Webcall for example has been utilised to help join up website journeys with the contact centre. Ideal for GPs and hospitals to support the delivery of telehealth and help guide patients around their website or appointment portals.

Rebuilding and Thriving Post Lockdown

There’s a way to go for some businesses before they find themselves feeling comfortable in this ‘new normal’ we find ourselves in. The pandemic has certainly helped to accelerate the delivery of digital transformation projects and realise the importance of being able to have employees work from home.