“It’s not just about answering calls. It’s about making sure you don’t lose a customer.”

Simon Horton, vice president of sales at Sangoma Europe, talked to Comms Business about the importance of the employee experience and the role the channel can play in helping small businesses understand contact centre solutions.

Comms Business Magazine (CBM): What hurdles do employees need to jump over to work effectively remotely?

Simon Horton (SH): “In the first lockdown, businesses had to move quickly without much notice, so people were sent home and told, ‘there’s your mobile phone, get on with it’. That meant some employees were having to use their own phone number and, now we are over six months later, they might not be happy about it. One big issue is losing a lot of functionalities like not being able to redirect a call, so they’re having to ask a customer to phone back on a different line.

“A contact center, for a lot of employees, simply enables them to do their day-to-day jobs. Having access to your office phone features at home, or being able to take your business phone number with you wherever you go, or being able to transfer a call – that’s what is important.

“Being able to manage the call queues virtually is also significant. If the queues are becoming overwhelmed, it needs to be simple to assign what we call secondary agents. It might not be their primary job role to answer the phones, but these employees are there to handle inbound inquiries if call volumes get to an unmanageable level.”

CBM: Once employees are set up with those functionalities, what else becomes important?

SH: “It’s about maintaining productivity at home and having access to the same suite of tools. In the office, you could look across and see whether your colleague is on or off the phone. The right technologies can help replicate that. With our platform, you look at the presence button and if your colleague is green or red shows you whether they’re available. That visibility then helps managers decide, for example, who can answer an incoming call.

“One challenge some employees have is with their home internet connection, so we have tools that will test an internet connection for suitability for voice or video, as well as using some techniques that minimise the bandwidth requirement. This ability to tweak the set up to make it less heavy on the internet connection can be really important.

“For the more fluid teams that are often in SMBs, our home tools also help teams do a quick conference in the same way as they might have a quick catch up in the office. From my perspective, as an employee, I wouldn’t want anything new and I wouldn’t want to have to change how I work. So it’s about providing employees with the same capabilities and functionality at home as they’d get in the office at their desk.”

CBM: What role can the channel play in helping businesses understand their employees might need these technologies?

SH: “For a lot of SMBs, they have maybe ten employees, and five of them answer the phone from time to time. If a company like that is sent some messaging by a channel partner or a reseller that says, ‘you need a contact center’, they’d probably think ‘what’re you talking about?’ Some smaller companies think of a contact centre as a big room with 300 people answering calls, so they don’t see why they would need a solution.

“But it’s not just about answering calls. It’s about making sure you don’t lose a customer, and making sure a customer gets the best possible experience when they call in. It’s much more persuasive to position a contact center as a way to manage your customers in the best way.

“One learning I think the channel can take is to position this in the right way and not position it as a ‘contact center’ to their customer base. If they do, the preconception that exists around who needs a contact centre will mean that the channel is missing out on sales.”

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