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COVID-19 had a significant effect on businesses, especially for those in customer-facing fields that had to change their processes to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers.
Processes and workflows became a kind of whack-a-mole, said Phil Edholm, president of PKE Consulting. Businesses had to quickly create a patchwork of new processes and tools to support remote workflows and social distancing guidelines. As organizations plan for a future in a post-pandemic world, they need to figure out how to redesign their business processes to ensure resiliency against another significant event, like a pandemic.
"Communications and collaboration are going to become a critical part of reengineering our business processes," Edholm said at Enterprise Connect Virtual. Communications platforms could serve as the primary system for efficiency and productivity or a secondary plan in case of a major event.
A key component of these redesigned workflows is frontline workers, who have been typically underserved in the unified communications (UC) and collaboration market. But the addition of UC tools to certain workflows can benefit frontline worker communications.
At Enterprise Connect Virtual, Edholm outlined how organizations can identify their frontline workers and five use cases for integrating UC with frontline worker communications.
Identifying frontline worker communication use cases
Frontline workers, also referred to as firstline workers, are often customer-facing employees, such as a customer service agent, healthcare worker or field service technician. Other examples of frontline workers include bank tellers, police officers and delivery drivers.
Communications and collaboration technology can address internal and external frontline worker communications needs. Edholm identified five use cases where organizations should evaluate integrating UC and collaboration, or UCC, technology to support workflows and increase productivity.
1. One-to-many communications
This communication method helps management ensure that all employees are receiving the same message and training on important processes and operating standards. A UC platform can enable managers to guide employees through a new process and offer greater levels of interaction for employees, Edholm said.
Delta Air Lines, for example, is using Zoom to communicate new information and changes in processes around safety requirements and guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. By standardizing on Zoom, customer-facing Delta employees, such as gate agents, received consistent and timely information about safety requirements implemented by individual states and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This has been a great way for Delta to improve their customer service and normalize their business," he said.
2. Internal peer-to-peer communication
This use case centers around employees with the same type of job whose interactions are tied to processing information to resolve an issue. For example, a field service technician could be missing a specific part when out on a service call. The technician could use a mobile collaboration tool to communicate with other technicians in the field to see if they have the part and coordinate delivery, Edholm said.
Phil EdholmPKE Consulting
"You can use team spaces here to organize work and provide for group assistance," he said. "This is an area where we're seeing a lot of innovation."
Mitel has been developing rapid team formation technologies that can quickly bring people together in response to an event. Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service, a helicopter ambulance service in Canada, uses this technology to bring together helicopter crew, hospital employees and ground transportation to manage the process of transporting a patient to the hospital or trauma center, he said.
3. Internal employee-to-expert communication
This type of communication happens when an employee requires an expert to help solve an issue. First, the employee needs a way to find an expert. This can be done through a contact center application or a team collaboration application, he said. For a dedicated expert whose primary job is to provide expert assistance, a traditional contact center app can support those communications needs.
An occasional expert may be someone with expertise in a specific area, but it's not a core component of the job. For this type of employee-to-expert communication, a team collaboration app can be more useful when that specific expertise is needed, he said.
Dairy Farmers of America, a cooperative of more than 7,500 dairy farms, uses Cisco to support field service technicians who need to connect to an expert to resolve an issue, Edholm said. The cooperative used the expert capability remotely during the pandemic to ensure tasks could be completed without physical contact. The group is now evaluating adding augmented reality capabilities.
4. Internal employee off-hour communication
This focus of employee communications is specifically during off-work hours for needs like scheduling purposes or an on-call emergency.
In this space, Microsoft has added scheduling capabilities and a walkie-talkie function within Teams. An employee could be in the Teams mobile app and send a walkie-talkie message to someone else.
5. External employee-to-customer or -partner communication
For many frontline workers, customer interaction is part of their job. Between 70% and 80% of customer interactions occur outside the contact center, Edholm said. But these interactions could benefit from incorporating contact center capabilities.
Doctors, for example, have become a kind of contact center agent with the expanded use of telehealth, where they are now conducting pre-scheduled video calls with patients. Similar to contact center and CRM platforms, their workflows are now defined by the healthcare management application being used to communicate with patients.
"This is a fundamental transformation," he said.