So far, 2021 has proven to be anything but ‘predictable’. But what we can say with some confidence is that many people will continue to work from home in some capacity in 2021, and probably beyond. Therefore, businesses need to be geared up to ensure they have a workable remote working strategy that serves both their customers and workers.
Those industries and businesses which introduced home working measures during the enforced lockdowns in 2020, and saw an uplift in productivity or revenue, will obviously be happier to allow the trend to continue.
But not all businesses have thrived during these turbulent last few months. Those that depend on person to person contact have had to invest heavily in social distancing measures, along with cleaning and sanitisation equipment. And all this has been done under the shadow of uncertainty and confusion that has surrounded government policy and decision-making.
Remote working is inevitable
While a permanent shift to ‘home’ working in 2021 and beyond is unlikely, a move away from the rigid structures of the past is inevitable. Our own company, Numbergroup, is a typical example of a business that has shifted away from a rigid office environment to fully embrace remote working. All our staff work from home offices based in the UK, Ireland and even the Cayman islands.
Having always been primarily an ‘online’ business, we never followed the familiar 9-5 office hours that other telecoms companies did. We always knew we had to be more flexible than that to accommodate our customers and provide the ‘always-on’ customer service they demanded. This meant moving to a fully remote working situation was inevitable and was actually something we had been planning long before the first Covid-19 lockdown happened.
Lockdown isn’t all doom & gloom
Despite the prevailing uncertainty, some brave businesses took the opportunity to launch new products during the lockdown period. Here at Numbergroup, we launched two.
The first came about in response to a request from a school whose pupils were largely from disadvantaged areas who didn’t have access to a computer or laptop, let alone a WiFi connection. Going ‘online’ wasn’t an option for this school, so we had to come up with an alternative solution that would allow all pupils to participate in remote lessons and activities. We put our heads together and came up with a phone-based solution. Teachers could conduct lessons in real-time over the phone, and pupils could listen in by simply dialling a freephone number. To ensure a secure learning environment and safeguard the students, the ‘virtual classroom’ was pin-protected. Lessons could be recorded too, allowing students to call up at a later time and listen to the session. The UK government agreed to provide funding, which meant schools could provide the service to its pupils completely free of charge.
Our second new product saw us enter the business energy market. This was in response to some research we had done into the exorbitant cost of gas and electricity for businesses.
We found that energy suppliers were keeping their cheapest deals hidden away, accessible only through brokers who bumped up the rates (and lined their own pockets) by loading fees on top of the energy tariffs We felt this was unfair, especially to firms who were already struggling. So we decided to do something about it.
By becoming certified energy brokers, we were able to give our customers direct access to the best energy deals without them having to pay a penny more than the wholesale tariff rate. For one particular customer, the move to a new Gas supplier ended up saving them nearly £15,000 per year.
The lockdown shouldn’t be an excuse for shoddy customer service
For most businesses, the first half of 2021 won’t necessarily be about launching new products or increasing profits. It’ll be about survival.
However, far too many companies have used the lockdown as an excuse to offer poor customer service and keep customers on hold for far too long. The flexibility offered by remote working should have the opposite effect, enabling businesses to improve their response times and react quicker to customer queries and sales enquiries.
For remote working to be successful, you need to make it easy for customers to contact you, and for your staff to communicate and collaborate with each other, This applies whether your business is primarily online or offline.
We can help you set up a bespoke remote working solution that fits the way your business operates. Get in touch here, or give our sales team a call on 0800 3101010 for further information.