When we think about ways that communications technology is coming into play during this unique moment in history, most people will naturally think first about the videoconferencing and team collaboration systems that are keeping many enterprise teams connected and working productively even as offices are closed and travel is essentially impossible. But look closer and you'll see new technologies being deployed creatively to meet more of today's unprecedented challenges.
My colleague Dana Casielles has an excellent post on No Jitter this week about how enterprise communications leaders at Navy Federal Credit Union moved quickly to put speech analytics in action to deal with some of the unique challenges that the pandemic is creating within its contact center. It turns out that contact centers aren't just using communications technology to quickly enable agents to work from home—though Navy Federal did that with three-quarters of its 14,000 agents. It also used speech technology to make those agents more effective and to help customers deal with the incredible challenges being experienced by many people for whom the pandemic has meant financial strain and the accompanying personal stress.
One line from Dana's article on Navy Federal stuck with me, because it's something that you hear contact center people talk about a lot when they explain why customer experience and good customer service is so important. Navy Federal, she wrote, "is fully aware that customers are going to remember how they were treated during a time like this." You should definitely check out Dana's post; it's a terrific story.
Cases like Navy Federal are a great reminder that enterprise communications leaders who work closely with business leaders can make a real difference for their customers. For a contact center, at a credit union, during a period of financial catastrophe, the urgency of such collaboration is obvious. But even those enterprises not as close to the front lines of the crisis need to engage in this sort of internal dialogue, because it's likely that almost every workforce has been changed by the crisis, and is unlikely to ever return to its old ways of doing things.
And this isn't just true of knowledge workers looking to re-create the collaborative energy of an office or contact center agents no longer permitted to take their seats in a physical contact center. Frontline workers have been a focus of many enterprise communications vendors as they refine their team collaboration products, and these workers' jobs have changed and will continue to change. Current workers deemed essential and therefore still on the job need added protections and the processes that support them; and when the rest of the frontline workforce returns, it will be to businesses that in most cases won't be able to operate exactly as they did before the pandemic shut them down.
We do know that our new ways of doing business will likely require a need for physical distancing, and places of business will be re-opening gradually, not all at once, with many workers still remote in the early stages. Both of these conditions suggest a role for the kind of improvements that the current generation of technology seeks to provide.
It's funny; "telecommunications" fell out of favor as a descriptive term because of its association with the legacy technology of the PSTN. But the "tele" prefix means "at a distance." And that pretty much sums up where we all are right now.