It sounds prosaic to say companies outgrow their technology. But that’s a very real process many businesses have to navigate. To maintain business as usual while internally managing process and technology evolution is a tricky path to tread.
Original Cottages faced this exact situation last year. Having grown physically and geographically, the company needed to bring consistency and connection to a dispersed customer services operation.
That rapid company growth came from two key areas: organic expansion and acquisition of smaller letting agencies around the country. Original Cottages ran a central Group Services office in Norfolk, and managed more than 40 brand offices all over the UK.
The growth in transactions and in operational structure started to make communication complicated. The company was finding it difficult to efficiently direct the increasing number of daily phone calls to appropriate teams and locations.
“The phone system didn’t allow us to easily balance call traffic according to various teams’ capacity,” said Richard Sage, Original Cottages’ Chief Technology and Innovation Officer. “One office might be quiet while another was getting hammered with local customer calls.”
Given the wide dispersal of its offices, Original Cottages didn’t want distance to be a factor in its daily operations. To be flexible and responsive, the company wanted to enable employees to work remotely, thus minimising the need for travel potentially suspending productivity.
Another problem facing the company was an increasing level of disruption to its phone service – which was another outcome of change and growth. “The phones gave out more and more,” said Richard. “Because our supplier inherited us as a customer after acquiring the previous supplier, they really didn’t know the system well enough to help us.”
That put pressure on the agents who had to rely on the phone system. Richard didn’t want its growing pains to become a pain in the neck for customers, so he went looking for a solution to these problems.
With much of the company’s technology already in the cloud, Richard wanted a communications system to match. As Richard described, “Telephony was one of the few remaining areas of our infrastructure not already cloud-based, and it showed—in the hardware problems we had to manage, the inconsistent experience across our locations, and the lack of sophisticated phone features we needed, such as real-time call reporting and analytics.”
The adoption of a cloud-based phone system had an immediate effect on processes. “We could now set up call-queue groups online in minutes, decide which teams would get which calls, and easily update routing instructions anytime,” said Richard. “Because we can see what’s happening across our entire estate, we’re able to experiment with varying levels of phone support at different times, at different locations, and adjust quickly based on what the data tell us. That’s helping us become more efficient and responsive.”
Besides the customer communication improvements, staff began making full use of the integrated communication functions in the RingCentral app. “We use the team messaging feature all day for targeted team discussions,” said Richard. “And our managers are taking advantage of RingCentral Meetings to have regular video calls with their teams.”
So far so good. Original Cottages was able to streamline its communications, adopt a fully reliable platform, and connect its agents from wherever they were. The future looked bright.
And then 2020 arrived. In March, the UK was sent into lockdown, putting the travel and tourism industry on pause, and sending all but essential workers home from the office. How would the company meet the challenge to support its employees as well as its customers, and survive the pandemic?