Being able to cope with change is essential for any business, and the pandemic has spelled this out clearly for many organisations.

The changes to established working practices were only one of the key challenges faced by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC). As a non-profit organisation offering help and advice to members across the country, it needed a telephony solution that allowed its staff to keep in touch wherever they were. Fortunately, Arrow was there to help.

The communication challenges of remote working

Like almost every other office-based business in the UK, the first lockdown in March 2020 was a challenging time for the REC. But being suddenly thrown into a new, remote working environment proved especially tricky as the firm’s existing telephony system wasn’t equipped for this.

Chief operating officer at the REC Richard Charnock explains: “We still had hard equipment, so telephones on people’s desks, and no capability of porting the number that each individual had remotely.”

Richard Charnock – Chief operating officer at the REC

As a result, the organisation found it difficult to take inbound calls from its members. Instead, it was forced into a makeshift system where callers would have to leave a voice message. This was then forwarded by email to contact centre teams, who would then listen to the recording and attempt to call the member back.

This proved to be a very inefficient way of working, both for REC employees and the group’s members. It also meant that when making calls, users had to rely on their own mobile devices, outside of the REC’s business phone system.

“We realised relatively quickly that we should do something about it,” Mr Charnock continued. Therefore, the company turned to Arrow with a request for a modern solution that would facilitate more flexible working.

Equipping the REC with a softphone solution from ‘Swift’

After evaluating the REC’s needs, we suggested the Swift hosted-phone service to the organisation. Swift consists of a cloud WEBRTC based telephony system that REC users could access through a web browser, with no need for additional hardware, and which would be easy to set up and adjust as required.

This was first presented in a series of demos to the REC’s stakeholders in the summer of 2020. Having been impressed by the capabilities and features of the Swift system, and following a cost analysis, the REC decided to implement Swift for its 70 users in September, with the solution going live just a few weeks later.

Mr Charnock says: “There was a small cost saving, but that wasn’t the reason we did it. It was all about the impact on our members, which was that they could phone us and speak to us if they wished to.”

Additional features include reporting tools, management services such as call whispering and monitoring, and Arrow’s RAMP call recording tool. This is used for certain users to ensure services such as legal advice remain compliant with rules such as GDPR. This all means the REC now has all the tools it needs to operate effectively from remote environments.

Training and Onboarding

Arrow also underwent a detailed training process to help get employees up to speed on the system. As the rollout progressed, it became apparent that the they had several unique requirements, so we worked with the REC to develop bespoke training sessions tailored to the organisation.

“The quality of the training delivered was great, but there were specific things we needed,” Mr Charnock adds. “Our account manager was very good at getting things sorted for us. Likewise, the trainer was very, very good. The installation engineer who led the project was constantly on the phone updating me for the two days of implementation, so the customer service element was great.”

What the installation of the Swift system meant was that when the second and third lockdowns came about, the organisation was much better prepared.

An efficient, futureproofed way of working

“What we now have is remote access with a true softphone, so nobody needs any handsets or headsets at home,” Mr Charnock explains. “It’s all dealt with through an internet browser, and it also means that our two call centres can operate the same way as they would do in the office while being remote.”

As a result, the organisation has enjoyed significant efficiency savings, especially compared with its initial experiences with remote working.

Improving Efficiency with Swift

Mr Charnock estimates that the deployment of the Swift system has resulted in a 33% to 35% increase in efficiency compared with the first lockdown, when it was very difficult for employees to speak directly with customers. This means the REC’s teams are now able to work just as effectively as they would in the office.

What’s more, the system will also be able to better support the ‘new normal’ way of working for the REC in a post-Covid world.

Like many businesses, Mr. Charnock foresees the organisation adopting some form of hybrid working approach for the future, which sees office and home-based users working at the same time and switching frequently between workplaces.

This may also include changes to the way the organisation sets up its office space, and again, the flexibility of the Swift licences is set to prove useful. Mr Charnock notes that with the softphone system installed on users’ PCs and laptops, this makes planning any future telecoms deployments much easier.

He adds: “This phone system gives us the flexibility to be able to accommodate people wherever they are … The only thing we need to think about is broadband speed rather than telephony because we just take it with us.”

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