Stephen Mackarel of Workair discusses how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted communications and what companies must focus on moving forward.
Communication has undoubtedly been put to the test in recent months as Covid-19 forced teams to disperse. According to Stephen Mackarel, managing director of communications solutions company Workair, the pandemic has been a “catalyst” for the future of work and customer engagement.
Mackarel leads the team at Workair in providing communications solutions to clients, initially recommending the best fit and then installing, launching and supporting the chosen route. Its partners include 8×8, RingCentral, Dialpad, LogMeIn, Vonage and Fuze. Since the start of the pandemic, Workair has been working to meet surging demand for distributed and remote working solutions across motor, auctioneering, law, recruitment, travel, financial services and healthcare industries.
LetsGetChecked, for example, fast-tracked its installation of Workair’s platform and within 10 days had offices in New York and Ireland up and running. Here, Mackarel talks about the shift he has witnessed in communications strategies during Covid-19.
“Company communications, both internal and with customers, has evolved rapidly,” he says. “Customers expect the ability to contact companies via multiple channels – phone, chat, social media, email and text – and employees expect to be able to communicate internally over multiple channels – phone, IM or chat, collaboration, video calls and video conferencing.
“Until recently, only organisations with large capital expenditure budgets and IT resources could deliver on these expectations. Each channel required a different solution and none of these solutions ‘talked’ to each other. This added to the cost and complexity of doing business.”
‘Covid-19 has accelerated the shift to digital channels and companies must adapt’
– STEPHEN MACKAREL
Covid-19 has completely disrupted that, however, as unified-communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) and contact-centre-as-a-service (CCaaS) providers become more commonplace. This has made previously inaccessible channels of communication available to companies of all sizes.
“These communication solutions provide phone, IM, chat, collaboration, video conferencing, video calls, contact centre functions, reporting and analytics – all on a piece of software that sits on a laptop, PC, tablet, mobile or handset while being charged on a per-user, per-month SaaS model. The only requirement is internet access.
“UCaaS and CCaaS now enable companies of all sizes to benefit from secure, future-proofed, enterprise-grade, fully integrated communications solutions. This is the future of communication strategies for all companies.”
Companies will have to adapt their communications
Mackarel explains that as customer priorities inevitably change as a result of Covid-19, so too must company communications. Customers of the future, he says, will expect to be able to choose which channel they want to use to communicate with companies, whether that’s on a phone, social media or another platform.
“Customer-centric organisations facilitate omnichannel engagement and have a single view of the customer, no matter which channel the customer chooses to engage on,” Mackarel says. “Covid-19 has accelerated the shift to digital channels and companies must adapt.
“Companies must measure their service-level agreements (SLAs) on their customer engagement. Effective measurement can only happen on unified communication platforms. These communication solutions must also enhance an organisation’s e-commerce strategy.”
The same can be said for internal communications, too. Staff will expect the same choices from their leadership, Mackarel says, particularly while working remotely.
“Employees know that long commute times are not just unnecessary, but are a waste of their valuable time, are costly, have a negative impact on their health and negatively impact the environment.
“Employees now expect access to multichannel communication options from anywhere they choose to work from.”
Communications considerations for the future
Businesses will not only have to step up their game with respect to the communications channels the provide, but also how secure their channels are, their usability and cost effectiveness, and whether they really meet customer and employee expectations.
“Covid-19 has forced many organisations to look at the cost of doing business and radically reduce their cost base,” Mackarel said. “Office and property costs are a significant part of the fixed cost base for many organisations. Enabling remote working allows companies to significantly reduce their requirement for expensive city centre office space.
“Remote working will be successful when it allows customers to engage seamlessly with companies regardless of where employees are physically located, employees have the same functionality and systems available to them anywhere they choose to work from, it reduces costs for companies and companies can measure and report on internal and customer SLAs regardless of the channel, device used or the location of any engagement.”