As a services leader in technology, I have witnessed firsthand the effects social distancing and flattening the curve has had on our customers, service delivery processes and team members. At Dell Technologies, we transitioned over 100,000 team members to work from home in one weekend. Meanwhile, global companies that did not have a remote worker strategy pivoted to create one. Service organizations accelerated self-service, remote and low touch delivery options for their customers. In this article, I will share general trends I have observed, considerations for future service transformation, remote worker productivity takeaways, and tips for business continuity plans.
We all witnessed the rapid transformation from working in the office to working from home: Zoom, Microsoft® Teams and Webex™ became everyone’s best friend and people learned to turn on their webcams. As service leaders, we have discovered critical business discussions can occur without a handshake or water cooler chat. Many have had to also quickly adopt simultaneously taking care of family, home schooling children and managing interruptions from barking dogs while still getting work done.
All of this has forever changed our view of remote workers and service delivery.
Service trends that resulted in positive experiences for customers and employees
As the world around us transformed, interesting and unplanned service trends have emerged. We’ve learned that:
- Virtual meetings have unique benefits. Many customers have reported that when they could no longer travel, they were more likely to send more attendees to strategic briefings, meetings, and virtual conferences – which in turn helped build depth awareness of the brand’s products and services. In addition, virtual meetings allowed customers to better manage their own time by focusing attendance on topics of interest.
- The services sales motion can change. Because some people can no longer talk business over a meal or physically meet each other in person, sales efforts often have evolved into very specific, extensive conversations. Additionally, sales and delivery leaders can connect with customers and partners on multiple continents on the same day, without having to get on a plane.
- The boundaries between home and office have blurred. Bloomberg (1) recently shared that homebound employees in the US logged three more working hours per day than they did when working the same role in their office cubicles. As more employees struggled to maintain balance while working remotely, service organizations learned they had to evolve support for their team members.
- Virtual learning is here to stay. When physical classrooms were no longer feasible, people quickly adapted to virtual online training. At Dell Technologies, we transitioned most of our customer technical training from in person classrooms to virtual instructor training in about a week. Many customers are surprised by how easily and quickly they can make the transition to virtual classrooms.
In addition to these trends, we are working through how to provide repair services while navigating keeping physically distant, health care recommendations and restrictions around the world. This requires becoming more meticulous in planning how parts get to customer sites and how our technicians travel while simultaneously reducing physical touch points. This has been and continues to be a time of creative thinking and service delivery transformation.
Impacts and Considerations for Future Services
Service providers and customers have had to evolve and adapt their typical service experience in unique ways. Nearly all service companies have transitioned or are transitioning to low or no contact service experiences. Traditionally services have been focused on customer contact and personalization. Physical contact being no longer appropriate in some cases has opened the door to a surprising amount of innovation.
- Customers are more accepting of self-service or shipping units back to the manufacturer for repairs. Remote diagnostic and remote repair services are more highly valued.
- When service technicians cannot travel to customer sites, service providers set up local repair depots at their warehousing locations to enable quicker depot return times. At Dell Technologies, we adapted many of our service capabilities to address the need for remote delivery and packaged services to better serve our customers’ remote home needs.
- Data that many service companies have been collecting for years is invaluable in shaping new service delivery processes that are addressing the unique needs of today.
- Augmented reality has become a valued pathway to reduced physical contact. Companies who were already invested in augmented reality are able to realize distinct benefits from its use.
Remote Worker Productivity Insights
Part of being a good service leader is understanding how to drive customer experience while maximizing worker productivity. Inc.com recently published a survey (2) of 1004 full time employees: Half worked from home and half worked from a company office. (The survey was conducted prior to the social distancing.) Airtasker, the company who ran the survey, reported that remote workers:
- Averaged working 1.4 more days per month or 16.8 days per year.
- Reported less unproductive time with 27 minutes of unproductive time for remote workers vs. 37 minutes for office workers.
- Saved an average of $4,523.04 on fuel each year.
- Were more physically active by about 25 minutes each week over those working in offices.
Even without considering the added cost of office space, this data supports the positive effects working remote can have on productivity and efficiency. As service leaders, we are often tasked with maximizing workforce productivity, this is very relevant for future business planning.
Renewed emphasis on business continuity plans
Business continuity plans are more than a tabletop exercise: they are essential and must be periodically reviewed and tested. Dell Technologies’ readiness was critical to our customers’ continued success. Areas that all service organizations should address in their continuity plans include:
- Making certain it has the right equipment to support remote worker needs. This includes equipment, like a laptop or PC, monitor, webcam, headset, keyboard, mouse and a reliable internet connection, in addition to a process for providing technical support to remote workers.
- Strategizing and planning how to guard and secure company data, including data transactions that pass through company VPNs.
- Ensuring adequate VPN and networking resources are available to support exponential traffic growth when it’s needed.
- Having a strategy that supports worker safety when there are roles that cannot be accomplished remotely.
In closing, I urge all service leaders to reflect on what they have learned from our recent experiences, how their workforce adapted and how they will use these lessons to continue their service delivery transformation. Continued business success requires understanding of areas where service offerings can transition to remote or virtual, identification of technologies to best support customers’ changing needs, recognition of field workforce training and deployment best practices and realizing the role physical facilities will play in the future. Companies who can articulate and leverage what they are learning today will likely be better positioned for recovery, growth and improved customer experience.
- Bloomberg: April 23, 2020. Three Hours Longer, the Pandemic Workday has Obliterated Work-Life Balance by Michelle F Davis and Jeff Green. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-23/working-from-home-in-covid-era-means-three-more-hours-on-the-job
- Inc.com: New Study Reveals Why Working From Home Makes Employees More Productive: How do virtual and in-office workers differ? It might surprise you by Marcel Schwantes. https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/new-study-reveals-why-working-from-home-makes-workers-more-productive.html