How localised lockdowns will affect customer service

By Neil Hammerton, CEO and Co-founder, Natterbox 

If there’s one thing that current events have taught us about business, it’s that customer service will never be the same. In an era of social distancing, we have learnt that connectivity – and most importantly telecommunications including cloud telephony – are absolutely essential. Without it, businesses will be limited by both time and geography and ultimately fail to meet consumers’ evolving needs.  

The availability of customer response is an indispensable part of the transition as the UK reopens its doors to public spaces. Businesses must be able to respond to these changes, as well as the possibility of localised lockdowns. Everywhere in the country will want to ensure the safety of their residents while allowing for a degree of normal behaviour. In trying to achieve that, businesses will need to continue relying on technology that is efficient, improves productivity and reduces the risk of going back to the “old way” of doing things.  

As businesses search for ways to maximise operations and minimise the risk of disruption, they’ll need both technology and policies that ensure they are up and running at all times – whether they have been given the go-ahead to reopen, or whether they are put back into lockdown. As and when consumers do begin to leave their homes again, businesses must be ready for everything that comes next. 

Prepare for a wave of customers 

While staying in due to social distancing, consumers had no option but to focus their purchasing habits on food shopping and entertainment. With the UK’s lockdown having now lifted across the majority of the country, we have already seen a rush of people to high-street retailers to buy new clothes and shoes, eat at restaurants and go on holiday, whether a staycation or going abroad. And each and every one of these industries – retail, restaurants, travel – has needed to be ready to serve the wave of customers that have come their way. But that is not the be all and end all. With different areas around the UK and in other countries experiences peaks and troughs in the number of cases of coronavirus, we are seeing localised lockdowns reimplementing coronavirus restrictions, as well as travel restrictions to countries like Spain, which has been put back on the UK’s quarantine list. All of which is making for a very uncertain time for these industries, meaning they need to be equipped to provide the best customer service, no matter the circumstances.  

From backend technology (such as websites and payment processing) to consumer-facing employees including customer service, waitstaff, clerks and travel agents, everything and everyone needs to be ready to be in place when the time comes. That means bringing back furloughed staff and hiring new talent whenever necessary, all the while relying on technology to propel workers to do their very best, regardless of their location for when restrictions are still in place. With the fluctuations in stay-at-home policies across the country, businesses will need to embrace solutions that will eliminate the risk of disruption. 

The businesses that prepare now will be instantly distinguished from those that did not. Consumers vote with their wallet, and they have always voted for the companies that provide the best service. This is a particularly precarious time with numerous unknowns, further increasing the urgency to prepare. 

Re-consider the office “space” 

The work-from-home climate has taught businesses that they don’t necessarily need a traditional office to get things done. Whilst there are certainly benefits to having a place where everyone can work, collaborate and communicate, many are now asking whether they really need to dominate an office space for 24 hours if it’s only being used half the time. 

With remote work on everyone’s mind, one idea is to treat the traditional office as a flexible environment that is either shared across teams working different shifts or between non-competing businesses. Instead of a 500-person office, a company could rely on a smaller space that is used by different team members throughout the day. Not just workspaces but even the technology – phones, computers and whatever else employees might need. Cloud technology makes this possible, linking employee information to an account instead of one particular machine. 

A flexible office would be more economical and allow for larger companies to more easily move into crowded cities where space is limited. It would also open the door to a more flexible work schedule, perhaps encouraging those who can work from home to do so more often. For example, customer service specialists could work remotely without losing the benefits of being in an office. The cloud infrastructure means you won’t need someone on-premises to manage your phone because it’s all remote. 

Get ready for what’s next 

This year has brought about numerous changes that have inspired many to rethink how, where and when business should be conducted. By taking the time to prepare now, businesses can stay ahead of the curve and be ready to serve every customer equally. In doing so, they will be positioned to thrive and withstand any and all changes brought on by the pandemic.