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“The work-from-home transition has gone incredibly well. Shockingly well, in fact,” said Rick Tudor, director of operations for Zoho One customer C.A.R.S. Protection Plus. As a warranty provider, C.A.R.S. Protection Plus has a vast network of dealers and vendors they regularly work with so while full remote work was new to the company itself, they thankfully had lots of experience working closely with people across the country. C.A.R.S. decided to move to fully remote work pretty early on, not wanting to take any chances with the COVID-19 crisis. And thankfully between that early decision and previous work with remote partners, they’ve got some great advice to share about how businesses can successfully transition to remote work without business interruption, not to mention what they think everyone can learn from this experience.
They’ve found that by paying close attention to employee needs and perspectives, making sure the right tech is in place to support those needs, and continuing to think about ways they can add value for their customers is the recipe for success in uncertain times. And while business in a remote economy is a huge change of pace and some things may have to be put on hold, C.A.R.S. emphasizes how much businesses can do to keep up and make the most of their time—everything from improving existing technology to enhancing analytics for a full picture, to doing small things to help others and set your business up for success down the road.
For C.A.R.S., a big factor in this transition has been making sure employees’ needs are being met across the board—this includes access to the right data, information, technology, and even hardware to make sure their home environment is as conducive to productivity as their work environment. It’s important to remember that this transition isn’t just scary for you, your staff may be struggling, too. “Make sure you’re supporting all their needs as they transition to home,” said Rick. One such tool is Zoho Assist, a remote access tool. “Assist has been incredibly useful in supporting 45 remote users who had never worked from home, and many of which had never used a laptop before.” It’s important to make sure you cater to employees who’ve never experienced this type of environment and enable their success.
“One of the biggest pitfalls of remote work is that people tend to start feeling like they’re not on a team,” said Rick. “The best way to combat that is to ramp up communication, even to the point where you may feel like you’re over-including folks.” Generally, C.A.R.S. stresses the importance of really paying attention to employee needs, and that’s something they advise all businesses to really think about. When remote work is completely new for your business, it’s natural to be nervous about productivity dips or worry that work isn’t getting done, but the best thing you as a leader can do in that situation is to make sure you’re listening to your staff and thinking about things from their perspective.
Zoho Cliq, a team communication tool, has been essential for bringing everyone together. “Cliq allows us to stay in constant contact with our staff, and we generally touch base daily at a supervisor-to-employee level,” said Rick. “It allows remote workers to feel included, not on an island, and informed of what’s going on company-wide.” C.A.R.S. also conducts a stand-up call each morning via Zoho Meeting, which they’ve found to be critical for keeping everyone in the loop and reproducing some workplace normality. And beyond all that, everyone’s in need of a bit more social interaction these days.
In addition to coping with changes on the people side of the business, C.A.R.S. knows it’s important to consider what we all can learn from this experience, and things we can all work on that we may not have been able to otherwise. “If you have time, task your agents to do clean-up work in your systems,” said Rick. Make sure important fields are filled out consistently and “Take advantage of this opportunity to engage with customers: schedule training, deliver remote sales presentations, and do what you can to be helpful to your customer base.”
Another thing Rick recommends is expanding reporting and analytics business-wide and making sure managers have the tools they need to ensure their teams are remaining efficient. “One of the key things for us in evaluating current employee performance is keeping in mind which employees should be given the option to work remotely in the future, after this is all over,” said Rick. “Generally let this crisis show you areas for growth in your business. A work-from-home environment gives you longevity for remotely managing employees—you could even consider hiring remotely in the future, which gives you a much deeper pool of folks to recruit from in the future.”
C.A.R.S. suggests everyone take advantage of this time to build out their analytics. “One of the ways we have expanded is predictive analytics to tell us when a dealer might be getting ready to leave our ecosystem—we use this to manage the frequency with which our territory managers visit their accounts, thereby making those dealers less likely to leave,” Rick said. Previously, they often weren’t aware there was a problem until the dealer had already moved on to another provider. “In order to do this, we leverage Zoho Analytics‘ ability to function as a data warehouse, combining information from external systems with Zoho CRM. We then created a dashboard we push to CRM, which is tied to a local SQL database of sales data from our ERP solution,” he explained. Now any dealer who falls out of their typical submission cadence not only shows up on their dashboard, but an alert is sent to the account owner and their supervisor, letting them know this is an “at risk” account and follow up is required. They have a similar dashboard and system to establish when their territory managers should visit accounts.
This is also a great time to think about ways you want to improve your processes, like adding in automation to reduce manual workload. “We’ve started leveraging Zoho Forms and CRM to outsource the shipping of our Dealer and Territory Manager supply requests,” Rick said. “Now we allow our team to submit a Zoho Form for the supplies they need and have it routed to an external shipper who then verifies the address and validates eligibility of certain requests through CRM before they drop ship the request.” C.A.R.S. has also started using Zoho CRM to allow an external call center to set appointments for them. “We’ve provided one of our Zoho One licenses to a call center who uses custom reports we created to target certain areas and set appointments for our external team,” he explained.
Lastly, Rick emphasized how much everyone should be thinking of what positive changes they can make to their business as a result of what they’ve learned during this time, even the smaller things. “You should consider what you can save on in-house resources, like thinking about if you could have a smaller office and more staff work remotely, or re-purposing office space for training or something that may help customers in another way,” Rick said. “And on a smaller scale, think about ways you can use less paper by leveraging document management platforms like Workdrive. It’s important to think about resources you can save to better your business and the world around it.”