In a recent interview with Moshe Beauford, technology journalist for UCToday, Dan Hayes, Spearline’s Chief Customer Officer, got the chance to answer some pivotal questions about the challenges telecoms providers have faced during the novel coronavirus.
Dan kicked things off by stating that all the difficulties seen by the telecommunications industry during the COVID-19 period have been unprecedented.
Not since the 1918 pandemic have people seen so much disruption to their daily lives. Drawing a comparison between COVID-19 and the 1918 influenza outbreak, which left 50,000,000 people across the globe dead, the novel coronavirus has left millions across the globe jobless, and those who remain employed in any sort of enterprise setting have seen a shift in the way they work.
Today, more and more individuals leverage remote working tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, WebEx, GlobalMeet, and cloud-based PBXs, to enable business continuity.
Hayes stated the initial series of business and societal lockdowns in countries from APAC to the Americas, starting in January through to April, had a profound impact on the telecoms industry.
Hayes said: “This shift required people to remain connected to the hosted applications they used for their day-to-day work or to connect with others for meetings whether they were for fellow employees or customers, suppliers, etc.”
He continued, stating that this led to what he deemed a “noticeable rise in the use of telecommunications services in general”. In the early stages of the pandemic, Hayes shared – telecommunications networks around the world struggled.
“Mostly because the number of users and traffic volume increased drastically,” he added.
Telecommunications companies soon adjusted for capacity and improved resilience to provide a more stable environment for the millions who suddenly found themselves working from home.
“Remote agents working from home faced a lot of struggles and that can affect CX,” Hayes continued.
Continuing that stream of consciousness, Hayes added, remote agents have encountered several other challenges during the COVID pandemic. For starters, agents who moved from the office to their home had to connect to their contact centre solutions over the public internet.
As Hayes explained it, many of them adopted new WFH lifestyles within a matter of days, which posed its own unique set of difficulties in and of itself.
“Something as simple as bandwidth on the home internet connection now had a significant bearing on the quality of service that they could provide to their customers,” stated Hayes.
He did note that one of the dynamics discerned during this period is a drop off in audio quality. “The duration of engagement with customers increased, and with a finite number of agents available ASA increased as well.”
According to Hayes, this led and continues to lead to “negative impacts on customer satisfaction.”
Outbound testing increased, as did reliance and on and the usage of VoIP technologies, according to Hayes. And in the conferencing/collaboration space, the volume of audio calls continues to increase as more and more workers began to meet virtually.
“With millions of people working from home, there became a noticeable increase in the percentage of audio traffic that moved to VoIP as most of the UC companies used adaptive codes in their products,” added Hayes.
Doing so enables telcos to maintain high audio quality with bandwidth fluctuations, and for PSTN traffic. Hayes noted two additional observations. First, the percentage of dial-out out traffic has increased substantially, making it greater than dial-in traffic.
Second, dial-out to mobile became more material as those working from home now relied more on their mobile devices to fuel working experiences.
When it comes to team collaboration, Hayes also made a few distinctions. This is one of the more interesting areas to observe. Hayes joined the Spearline team in the middle of the pandemic. He said he did not meet the team in person until three months into working there.
Despite this, he shared, the team adapted to the dynamic environment, as many other companies did: “The use of persistent chat applications has become ubiquitous in enterprises, which led to a more agile working environment with more genuine real-time collaboration sharing and working on documents in real-time.”
Enterprise voice components of the UCaaS (unified communications as a service) stack also saw, and continue to see, according to Hayes – a “large increase in usage, as teammates use these tools to have conversations with their peers.”