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How can communications enable business recovery?

April Wang April Wang
April Wang

I don’t think anyone envisioned that 6 months after our last virtual roundtable we’d still primarily be working from home, and that life isn’t returning to normal any time soon for most of us.

We all know that the COVID pandemic is changing the way we work and the future of communications and collaboration.

So once again we brought together heavy hitters in the industry, this time with myself, Dr. Fiona Lodge, Chief Product & Strategy Officer for the Cloud Comms division of NTT, and Michelle Accardi, President & Chief Revenue Officer at Star2Star.

The webinar, hosted by President & Principal Analyst of COMMfusion, Blair Pleasant, was aimed to open a discussion on how the comms industry can help shape the global marketplace – 2020 and beyond.

Some of the changes we’ve experienced will be around for the long term, with companies having to think differently about the way they communicate and collaborate internally and externally, and how they serve and interact with their customers.

When the reality of the COVID crisis initially hit, many companies realized that they needed to quickly respond in order to keep their businesses running by ensuring, not only business continuity but their employees’ health and safety as well. The big focus obviously has been on enabling employees to work from home and by helping customers do business digitally.

Everyone was in panic mode when this all started, but by now most organizations are running around trying to figure out how to survive, to thinking about what works, and what doesn’t.

So with much of the world working from home for some time now, many businesses have relied on their communication platforms and services during WFH. This leads us to the first question our panel was presented with by President & Principal Analyst of COMMfusion, Blair Pleasant:

What do you think have been the biggest issues businesses had to overcome when it comes to WFH?

Driving pipeline and driving revenue

Dr. Fiona LodgeNTT

“So I might focus on the external first. A lot of organizations have had to almost recreate how they go to market in terms of how to enable sellers to sell and how they enable their marketing teams to drive their digital marketing instead of the existing methods; Including how they can use things like digital and online events in order to actually engage and drive pipeline.

On the customer support side, a lot of organizations struggle to figure out how to deliver the same quality of customer support to their customers when their agents were working from home.

Organizations really needed to focus on how they would continue empowering their existing use cases, particularly in driving pipeline, driving revenue, and basically keeping the business running.

Finance departments had to get involved of course because when your pipeline is in an unclear position, you need to look at where you can manage your costs. Looking at opportunities to renegotiate contracts or tools you can terminate early.

I think one of the key things though is that this really brought cloud communications to the fore. The ability to communicate on the sales side particularly tended to lean on the need for digital conferencing.

On the digital marketing side, there was a reliance on webinars and virtual events. And with customer support, it’s very difficult to manage distributed agents if you’re not in the cloud. So a lot of trends towards moving to cloud with a specific focus on solving their line-of-business use cases.”

Different dynamics and drivers

Michelle AccardiStar2Star

“I think Fiona hit the nail on the head with the use cases that customers are having. It has really required that companies rethink their digital transformation in order to stay in business.

What we’ve seen from Star2Star’s side are a number of companies – everything from retailers needing curbside pickup, to restaurants going into take-out-only mode – where their phones have become very important to them.

And for some use cases where contact-center-like capability was required or text messaging.

So for curbside pickup, you need a responsive app or text messaging capability that tells you what color the car is, or what’s the license plate, etc. And Star2Star has done a number of those types of applications for our customers that need to make that digital transformation.

The other area we saw that was impacted was healthcare. Healthcare companies often get their compensation from the insurance companies based on the customer service ratings that doctors get from their patients.

So one of the things we saw was that, because the doctors were no longer seeing patients face to face, or were using some kind of telemedicine video capability, they still needed to make sure that patients were giving them good ratings. So we’ve seen the integration of surveys into text messages, or MPS scoring after a call, which is typically part of contact center use cases for Star2Star.

There have been lots of different dynamics and drivers depending on the industry, but it definitely has required 10 years of digital transformation to happen in 6 months.

And I’m really impressed at how all the communications providers have been stepping up to provide these creative use cases for all of our customers. And I can tell you that at star2star we have been spending a lot of time looking at how we could help our customers – many of which were middle-market companies that were going to have challenges financially or with their digital transformation.

We’ve been creating things like deferment plans on payments to help them stay ahead. We really wanted to make sure that we kept our very high customer retention rates by doing everything we could, and thankfully we haven’t seen any customer drop-offs from that.”

Learning to adapt

April Wang – Bandwidth

“So at the beginning what we really noticed was that a lot of companies struggled with the hardware setup as more people started working from home.

With seemingly everyone working from their homes rather than the office, people are absolutely hammering their residential internet connections. Their kids are streaming Netflix or playing Minecraft, all while taking away from the contended bandwidth that workers need for other things like Zoom calls and file downloads.

Those were just some of the daily difficulties we were experiencing on the whole.

Though from Bandwidth’s perspective internally, we saw an initial increase in our customer demand, which meant that our internal processes needed to change quickly. We also saw that teams from different departments were starting to talk with each other where they didn’t before.

After that peak season of adjustment, we needed to make sure that the processes we created stayed in place so that if an increase in demand happened again, we would be much more prepared for it.

At the same time, one big positive change when we started working from home was that we put a lot of enablement programs in place to help those working from home adapt to a different environment.

It’s these kinds of fundamental and social changes that organizations and companies are going to have to learn to adapt to as time goes on.”

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