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New ways of working in a post-pandemic recovery: It’s all changing, and for the better

The way that we will work has potentially changed forever. The way that we will interact with companies has also changed. Our customers have even greater expectations for rapid service and instant and meaningful interactions over digital platforms, and that is what is driving a new wave of innovation in cloud contact centre services.

It's no secret that we're working from home, and that we're likely to continue to do so into the future. According to Gartner, close to half (41 per cent) of employees are likely to continue working remotely at least some of the time into the future, even as concerns for social distancing ease. Furthermore, 82 per cent of company leaders plan to allow employees to continue to work remotely, at least some of the time.

Underpinning that transition has been the need for enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation strategies, so that they can adopt a "cloud-first" approach to work. For many companies this was done through gritted teeth, but now that they've done it, they're discovering a new world of opportunity opening to them. Enterprises are now realising that all this transformation can also be tuned towards delivering a superior customer experience. "Many changes brought on by Covid-19 are starting to look permanent as customers, workers and companies actually prefer the new ways of doing things," a Wall Street Journal report states. "The shift to Internet commerce, already underway before the pandemic, will stay. Companies who sent workers home may keep the arrangement because it can raise productivity and cut costs."

At Optus, we have been right in the trenches with our customers in finding ways to deal with COVID-19, and we have been able to help our hardest-hit enterprise customers in building strategies that have assisted them to cope with the disruption.

What we noticed right at the start of the disruption was that a large portion of organisations did not have adequate business continuity plans in place to support remote working for the majority of their workforce, so had to scramble to adapt and implement solutions to support the impacts of COVID-19. From what we've seen, contact centres were particularly impacted with this change and we helped many of our customers to rapidly implement solutions to support remote agents.

However, there's a positive side to this. Now that COVID-19 has proved that employees can be just as productive working remotely with modern collaboration tools and secure network connectivity solutions, we're advising our customers that the next step, and areas for improvement, include having a more comprehensive strategy for their business continuity plans. So far, what we've seen is that our customers are very receptive to that.

Gartner, for example, is now predicting worldwide IT spending to hit $4.1 trillion by 2021, an increase of 8.4 per cent from 2020, as enterprises accelerate their digital transformation and look to turn remote work into a competitive advantage. "Last year, IT spending took the form of a 'knee jerk' reaction to enable a remote workforce in a matter of weeks. As hybrid work takes hold, CIOs will focus on spending that enables innovation, not just task completion," distinguished research vice-president at Gartner, John-David Lovelock, said. 

Those companies that are able to successfully make that transition will likely see an increase in revenue and productivity. They also then likely become truly resilient, agile companies, able to quickly adapt to any further changes in situation.

Meeting these needs was why we at Optus decided to pair our enterprise network capabilities with Cisco, as a communications platform provider of choice. Using modern collaboration tools such as Webex Meetings, Webex Calling and Webex Contact Centre, combined with connectivity options such as mobile broadband, secure remote access and remote desktop solutions, we've seen the idea of working from home go from being an exception in many companies to become something that can be considered as business as usual.

For one example of this in motion, we're already seeing the contact centre being revolutionised via the advanced new chatbots and AI capabilities that are available. Increasingly, they are able to support the humans working at the contact centre by playing the "first contact" role, before moving more complex tasks to the human experts to manage. This has the potential to return massive benefits back to contact centre operators, resulting in lower abandonment rates, lower times in queue and better handling times. This results in an improved customer and agent experience, and that has been driving improved NPS scores and sales within our customers.

For many businesses that's just the start of the kind of innovation that we'll see underpinned by the cloud over the next few years.

For more information on Optus cloud solutions, in collaboration with Cisco technology, click here.