Futures Housing Group continues its drive to create effortless customer experiences and revolutionise its operating model using Microsoft Skype for Business and Enghouse Interactive Contact Centre (EICC).
In this third article in a series of four (see Housing Technology, July & September 2016 issues, for the two previous articles), Gavin Hitchcock, head of ICT at Futures Housing Group, explains how the project progressed during September and October 2016 as it moves into the cultural change and change management aspects and preparations continue for ‘go-live’ in November and December 2016.
The renowned MIT lecturer Peter Senge once said, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” For this reason and due to the significant changes of this project and the impact they will have on the working practices of Futures Housing’s staff, it was essential to capture their attention and gain their buy-in and support.
While the technical builds of the contact centre system were being completed, queues set up, messages pre-recorded and agent configurations finalised and tested ready for the system go-live in November, the project team worked with Futures Housing’s communications team to deliver a series of awareness activities for staff across the group.
Alex Kellett, who led the internal communications for the project, said, “It was clear that this project was going to revolutionise the way we operate. Having explored that theme, we chose the idea of using Che Guevara-esque propaganda to bring the campaign to life.
“We were really happy with the style we came up with. It was vibrant, exciting and nothing like we’d ever done before. We applied the style to all of our internal communication channels, such as our intranet, digital signage, posters and emails, with bespoke dossiers for each member of staff to tell them all about the new technology.
“We added gloss to the campaign by decorating the training room with props from a nearby army surplus store. It looked great and staff were talking about it, which was the whole point of doing it.”
A series of cultural change, education and awareness activities were launched during September and October to increase the overall awareness of the project and to gently introduce the changes to our culture and working practices in a fun, innovative and informative manner.
A total of 35 volunteers from across the group were invited to ‘boot camps’ where they were trained and given the Skype system for their day-to-day operational use. These ‘Skype ambassadors’ were then available across the group as the ‘go to’ people and as advocates for using Skype.
The staff were invited to a series of ‘join the revolution’ events where they could have a go and see the new equipment they would be using. Post-event surveys indicated the events had been well received with nine out of 10 staff feeling excited about the changes, and 85 per cent having a better understanding of the project and its objectives.
A range of communication and awareness initiatives were carried out on a regular basis to maintain momentum and ensure staff were kept up-to-date. It was also important to recognise that not all staff were office-based and a range of techniques were used to ensure everyone was ‘touched’ by these communications.
A series of very well received internal blogs were published on our intranet by project manager Chris Cheetham who addressed important issues in a blog titled “Do I really need a phone on my desk?” In the blog, he eased fears about telephone headsets messing up his hairstyle, looking like Britney Spears when wearing one, and how he had been apprehensive about losing his desk phone, but having got used to the system, he would never go back to that ‘lump of plastic sat on the desk’.
Taking a personalised approach, the communications team also put together information and educational materials based on different persona groups among the staff. This approach led to tailored boot camps for all staff, where they were given introductory training based on how they would use the unified communications system. For example, a mobile worker would have much more time allocated to using Skype on a mobile device, compared to an office/desk-based worker who would use desk-based equipment instead.
During these sessions, all staff selected their choice of headset and left the boot camp ready to join the revolution. These sessions were classed as ‘soft launch’ events to gently introduce staff to Skype and enable them to start using it for telephony, instant messaging and desktop collaboration in parallel with the group’s existing legacy telephone system, which will be decommissioned in December 2016. As of October 2016, over 200 members of staff have attended a session, with four one-hour sessions running every day.
While the change and communication campaign encouraged staff to join the revolution, the technical build, configuration and testing work marched on.
In addition to finalising the EICC build in preparation for it going live in November, the Skype system underwent final snagging. Integration with our Orchard housing management system is continuing, in order to deliver inbound contact identification, ‘screen pop’ and data capture for telephone, email, SMS, web chat and social media. The overall unified and multi-channel communications solution includes contact centre call recording using Enghouse’s QMS system; this system is currently being built and tested for go-live later this year.
The final pieces in the jigsaw include a pilot exercise to test the proposed desktop solution for partially- and fully-mobile members of staff. The full utilisation of Skype, including video conferencing capabilities, will also be enabled, and our offices and meeting rooms are also being assessed for video-conferencing equipment.
Looking ahead, it’s going to be very busy as we approach Christmas and the New Year and migrate the unified and multi-channel communications solution into live operational use. We will continue to encourage Futures’ staff to ‘join the revolution’ and embrace the change and opportunities offered by the new systems to improve the services we offer to customers, while revolutionising the group’s operating model.
Gavin Hitchcock is head of ICT at Futures Housing Group (email@example.com).