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National survey finds business switchboards have fallen short during pandemic

Two thirds of UK businesses expect call volumes to increase once more staff return to offices and the economy reopens, yet research by outsourced communications provider, Moneypenny, reveals that they’ve struggled to manage their switchboards throughout the pandemic – failing to prioritise customer care or put future-proof communications strategies in place.

Moneypenny, which handles more than 20 million calls and live chats for 21,000 businesses each year – found that almost half of companies turned their switchboards onto 24/7 voicemail throughout lockdown, 30 per cent admitted to trusting onsite security to answer calls and a third removed phone numbers from their website altogether.

Figures also reveal that just 18 per cent currently outsource their switchboard and the majority of organisations (49 per cent) rely on reception or front-of-house teams to manage switchboards while juggling other duties. Yet only 15 per cent planned to invest in outsourced switchboard support to cope with expected demand.

Jess Pritchard, Head of Corporate Sector at Moneypenny, said: “This data is yet another reminder of the knee-jerk reactions so many businesses made in the shift to remote working. At a time when consumers needed more support than ever, a worrying number of companies failed to provide adequate customer service support and put their reputation at risk in the process.

“Over a year down the line, diverting calls to mobile, passing the responsibility onto building security staff or actively discouraging people from calling simply isn’t good enough. The world of work has changed and with 65 per cent companies planning to continue to offer remote or hybrid working over the next six months, it’s crucial to ensure systems and processes are up to the task.”

Despite this, of those that don’t currently outsource, over 40 per cent say that doing so would make it easier to offer 24/7 support and adhere to social distancing. Additional recognised benefits include the ability to repurpose existing staff, improve service and achieve cost savings.

Pritchard concluded: “Too often, we hear of unfounded misconceptions around outsourcing –concerns that a third party will fail to integrate with a business, really get to grips with a brand or deliver the quality of service required. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Outsourcing a switchboard offers a seamless, professional and positive customer journey that demonstrates to enquirers that you care. Missing calls, leaving people waiting or clunky transfers lead to bad first impressions and lost revenue, so failure to get things in order now could prove extremely costly.”

On Tuesday 11th May Sara Bean, Editor of FMJ and Jess Prichard Commercial Manager – Corporate, Moneypenny hosted a webinar: How communication tech is the backbone to a successful flexible workplace.

During the pandemic the switch to home working has seen a revolution in working habits. Even as people begin to return to the workplace, it’s most likely to be in a hybrid home/office form. So as working patterns change, so too has the FMs role. Facilities Managers must now take ownership of the virtual workspace as well as the physical.

Panellists included Mark Warn, Facilities Manager, Baird Europe and Vaughan Williams, Head of Property & FM at Shaftesbury PLC, who joined Bean and Pritchard to discuss how technology can help FMs bridge any staff communication gaps, aid a smooth transition for workers coming back to the office and help ensure FMs continue to help their organisations ensure high levels of client service.

To view the webinar click here.

About Sarah OBeirne

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