Bridging Employee & Customer Experience with XCaaS Solutions

Jun 22, 2021 1:30 PM2:30 PM EST

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Key Discussion Takeaways

In today’s world, technology is ever-changing, and how to interpret technology is at the forefront of guiding clients to circumnavigate the changing tides. How can you apply the benefits of technology so that it serves the people and community as a whole?

Transforming business communications with clients and employees is crucial — especially during a tumultuous time where many have been uprooted during the pandemic. Connecting clients, individuals, and teams through digital transformations engage and provide the tools to help everyone work collaboratively. Speech analytics tools examining voice, video, and chat on a global platform result in upskilled agents who can easily navigate the hybrid work-from-home environment.

In this virtual event, host Greg Irwin talks with Jamaal Savwoir, Director of Channel Sales Engineering at 8x8, and Erik Bishop, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Recon, and they discuss the benefits of applying business analytics and interactions on channels to accelerate and ensure the best possible client services. Bridge the gap between employee and customer experience in this insightful virtual event!

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Erik Bishop discusses how the post-COVID workplace is changing and how the blended, hybrid environment between home and office can be advantageous to the worker
  • What the term “hot-desk” means: a desk that is agnostic to the user
  • How to handle a pandemic so there is no loss in employee productivity from a hybrid environment
  • Jamaal Savwoir tells the story of how they helped a company with over 200 employees stay engaged and build a long-term solution from a pretty rapid change
  • How speech analytics tools in the voice and digital channels change interactions between employees and aid in cross-training
  • Greg takes a question from a guest, and they discuss how to leverage video applications to bring everybody together virtually
  • Greg discusses voice and video, particularly for contact centers, and how different companies have handled the sudden change to at-home work
  • Where is the staff?: Erik discusses the challenge of staffing and the importance of offering hybrid flexibility
  • Students in the hybrid classroom space
  • Jamaal talks about how the pandemic has really accelerated transformations in technology and made it possible to accelerate and engage with employees
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Event Partners


8x8 enables organizations to become faster, flatter, and more agile. With 8x8 XCaaS unifying UC and CC channels, organizations can now have contact center, voice, video, chat, and APIs all on one cloud communications platform.

Guest Speakers

Greg Irwin LinkedIn

Co-Founder, Co-CEO at BWG Strategy LLC

BWG Strategy is a research platform that provides market intelligence through Event Services, Business Development initiatives, and Market Research services. BWG hosts over 1,800 interactive executive strategy sessions (conference calls and in-person forums) annually that allow senior industry professionals across all sectors to debate fundamental business topics with peers, build brand awareness, gather market intelligence, network with customers/suppliers/partners, and pursue business development opportunities.

Jamaal Savwoir

Director, Channel Sales Engineering at 8x8

Jamaal Savwoir is the Director of Channel Sales Engineering at 8x8. He leads a team of technically savvy people who are transforming the future of business communications. 8x8 is a leading Software-as-a-Service provider, aimed at connecting individuals and teams so they can collaborate faster and work smarter.

Erik Bishop

Managing Partner at Recon Solutions

Erik Bishop is the Co-founder and Managing Partner at Recon, a company whose goal is to escort clients through digital transformation and help companies collaborate more efficiently. Erik’s knowledge transcends the barriers of IT, Cybersecurity, and Telecommunications.

Event Moderator

Greg Irwin LinkedIn

Co-Founder, Co-CEO at BWG Strategy LLC

BWG Strategy is a research platform that provides market intelligence through Event Services, Business Development initiatives, and Market Research services. BWG hosts over 1,800 interactive executive strategy sessions (conference calls and in-person forums) annually that allow senior industry professionals across all sectors to debate fundamental business topics with peers, build brand awareness, gather market intelligence, network with customers/suppliers/partners, and pursue business development opportunities.

Jamaal Savwoir

Director, Channel Sales Engineering at 8x8

Jamaal Savwoir is the Director of Channel Sales Engineering at 8x8. He leads a team of technically savvy people who are transforming the future of business communications. 8x8 is a leading Software-as-a-Service provider, aimed at connecting individuals and teams so they can collaborate faster and work smarter.

Erik Bishop

Managing Partner at Recon Solutions

Erik Bishop is the Co-founder and Managing Partner at Recon, a company whose goal is to escort clients through digital transformation and help companies collaborate more efficiently. Erik’s knowledge transcends the barriers of IT, Cybersecurity, and Telecommunications.

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Aaron Conant

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution.

Co-Founder & Managing Director Aaron Conant runs the group & connects with dozens of brand executives every week, always for free.

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Discussion Transcription

Greg Irwin 0:18

Thank you all for taking some time to join one of our sessions we are breaking into the 21st century with video. So we're going to try and make this as interactive as we can. A huge shout out to Jamaal Savwoir over an 8x8 and Erik Bishop. And these guys are going to be our co hosts three, three co hosts today, Erik, Jamaal, and Greg, Recon Solutions, BWG and 8x8. And the idea if you've been on any of my sessions, you know, it's about sharing some real stories about what's what's actually happening. And what we're talking about, really here is the new changing customer experience. Work From Home is the story that everyone is interested in watching evolve. And now we have people who live you see, to talk about how it's actually happening in in reality. So what's going to happen is I'm going to ask everybody to share some stories. You know, it might be anecdotal. It might be, hey, here's how my team is using it might be something more growing. I think all stories are welcomed and will be instructive. The other thing to think about is look across the group and think of everybody as a resource as a as a network. So you might hear something on the call and you want to do some follow up, I'll really encourage you to be proactive. We've been very fortunate to put together a phenomenal group here. You don't need to come through BWG or 8x8 or Recon. But I really do want to encourage you to reach out to somebody across the group, make a new relationship, and continue to build your own personal network. And we're going to help that with just by in our follow up emails, we'll give everybody's names. Not going to be publishing email addresses. But if you'd like to do some follow up, you just have to ask. Okay, let's get into the intros here. Jamaal, do us a favor, give a little intro of yourself and 8x8.

Jamaal Savwoir 2:27

Bigger much. So my name is Jamaal Savwoir, and I'm the Director of Sales engineering for 8x8’s Channel Partner Program. So I work with partners like Recon. And we help to differentiate our solution among the mini ups and contact center and communications platform as a service opportunities that are out there, and really help customers dial in the business cases where these solutions can really be impactful to their businesses. So I've been with 8x8 since 2015. And prior to that, I worked at a smaller outfit that was kind of a unified communication startup. And I've also worked at a software company, computer associates or ca technologies you may be familiar with. Back in the day when software was so like hardware when it was big, huge, you know, software installs in rollouts, and things like that. So happy to be part of the SaaS marketplace today. A byte has a very unique single platform solution that's global in nature that provides both unified communications and contact center solutions in the cloud. So happy to speak to all of you today about your specific business challenges and what you're seeing in this new marketplace.

Greg Irwin 3:30

Let we're going to limit sales pitches, but Jamaal, I want to I want to drive the point home, what is 8x8 offer.

Jamaal Savwoir 3:37

So 8x8 offers a single platform solution, we call it experience communications as a service. But you may more traditionally be familiar with Hosted Voice or eucast, or unified communications. We deliver the Cloud PBX enterprise telephony technologies that many companies use to engage their employees and everything from voice to video to chat. And we also have a very strong omni channel context and a solution that many companies leverage today for their external communications things about inbound or outbound contact center activities, whether that be over voice or digital channels, such as SMS and social. So it's a complete platform solution is really designed to again, help companies communicate whether that's internal or external.

Greg Irwin 4:21

And customer size. Are you perfect for the 50 person organization, the 500 person organization, the 50,000 person organization? Where's the what's the bell curve look like?

Jamaal Savwoir 4:31

Yeah, we cover a wide range. And part of that is due to our international strength. We have you know, in some markets, most of our customers are in that 100 to 200 range. But we also have global customers if 30,000 40,000 seats worldwide. So it's the way the solution scales is incredible in terms of companies that may be migrating part of their solution, migrating part of their business or going full blown globally, to get everybody on the same platform. So it definitely we have a small business unit that targets our more commercial sales opportunities. But we also have enterprise sales that cover worldwide.

Greg Irwin 5:08

Got it. Alright, perfect. That was straight to the point. And and much appreciated Jamaal Jamaal. Thank you. Erik Bishop, let's get you in. Give that quick intro and, and your co host behind you there over your shoulder.

Erik Bishop 5:25

Yeah. Again, I'm getting photo bombed or video bombed by my by the queen of the house. Erik bishop on the managing partner and co founder of Recon Solutions. Recon is a carrier agnostic, Cloud Services Advisory focused on you, CCaaS, cloud Network Solutions and cloud infrastructure. As well as securing all that. I have worked with a bi for several years now, we've rolled out several implementations with them. Great product, we obviously focused on eucast pretty heavily, as Greg knows, we've been on several of these calls. Certainly done quite a bit with with 8x8. And internally, we're actually rolling out their teams integration. So I'm interested to hear Jamaal, talk more about that today. Because we're about to roll that out internally. And we're excited about that.

Greg Irwin 6:22

Got it. Alright, well, so hey, let's start off with this. We're talking about the changing dynamic. Some people are coming back to the office, if I can turn my camera around, I'd show you a windfall office, you're about 30 people in the room. But I know other organizations are coming back different. Erik, I'm going to start with you. And this is kind of one of the key threads. I'd like to press on today, which is how do you see the post COVID work environment shaping up? I'd love to hear a story or two. And then two and probably most pertinent to this is how is the communication systems choices? supporting? It might be very simple, or there might be some real nuance to that. But those are two of the areas I'd like to like to get started.

Erik Bishop 7:16

Yeah, so two point number one, Greg, we're seeing a lot of focus on hybrid, every organization that I can think of off the top of my head that we were currently engaged with, and, you know, a lot of clients are reaching back out that we implemented two years, three years ago, because they're like, you know, they made all these changes when COVID kind of kicked down into gear, and now they're getting back and they're, you know, re re kind of revisiting some of that now. So we're seeing a lot of clients come back to the table and say, Hey, we haven't architected this way. And we want to do it this way. But the core competency of all that seems to be focused on hybrid, right? We're gonna have people you know, coming in two, three days a week, some people are gonna stay remote. It's sort of a blended environment. I think that's what we're seeing across the board from backup majority of client.

Greg Irwin 8:05

Let's see if we can make this chat window work. All right, let's see if let's see if this thing's functioning. Everybody do me a favor. Give us two numbers. What percentage of your workforce was on at least partially remote, pre COVID? What percentage of your workforce is going to be? Actually it's not a majority, majority remote? pre COVID. What percentage of your workforce is majority remote? Post COVID. So put two numbers into into there, and let's see what we see. But I'll tell you from BWG's perspective, before we were maybe I'd say 10% remote. And now post COVID. Maybe were when we were covering the restabilize magnet, we'll get to like 25% remote. I'd love to see what what they come in. Erik, tell us a story. What tell us about one company, one of your clients, and how they're implementing well, that that hybrid hybrid? Sure, I think everyone can call it declare hybrid, but it's the nuance that matters, whether it's a hot desking or whether, you know, you know, what they're putting at their endpoint or in their, in their homes to enable it? Yeah, I

Erik Bishop 9:31

mean, I, you know, it's hard to pinpoint one client per se, because we're seeing it pretty much across the board. But what we're seeing a ton of is the phones are going away. More and more clients or even if they've purchased phones, they're sort of like, hey, it's much easier for us to go out there and say, Hey, just log into your phone, because that's agnostic to the device, right? It's just if you're hot desking you can see do that a lot simpler than doing it from a from a physical device or a physical phone anyway, it's a lot easier to do with a, you know, a terminal that is being utilized by multiple users. And we're seeing that across the board. I mean, I think that's sort of what we've suggested as as the method of least resistance. And I think clients have been very, I think one thing that COVID really did was, it really made people understand that the actual physical phone can go away. I know we've talked about that for years. Yeah. But the buy in from the client side has been accelerated dramatically, by COVID. Because everyone went home, they didn't take these phones with them. They went home and use a cell phone. Once they realized, man, this thing works just as good as a desk on is not better. I think that the buy in we saw from organizations was bam, let's just get headsets. And it's a lot easier, a lot easier to sell it that way. For sure. What,

Greg Irwin 11:03

what a question. And by the way, let's all ask some questions. All right, I don't want to be if I'm asking all of them. That's, that's a problem with this call. So you can raise a hand, we've got zoom, that I think everyone here is probably a zoom pro by now. How to raise a hand or use the chat, jump jump in? I've got one more for you, Erik is what is a hotfix? In practice in real terms, is it just an empty desk that somebody brings a laptop to and basically uses their laptop in client from a collaboration perspective? Is their actual infrastructure? Is there a login terminal there? What what, in real terms in specific terms, how have you seen a hot desk implemented,

Erik Bishop 11:47

we've seen it both ways. We've seen it where they have a, you know, a station there, and you're logging into it with your single sign on, or we've seen it where it's just a blank desk, and you're bringing your laptop, that's really just how the organization sort of deploys machines, right? If everybody has a laptop, maybe they're more inclined to go that route. If it's a blended environment where you have, you know, you maybe never went 100% remote, maybe you always had certain segments that were were coming into the office, then it's a lot easier to have that terminal layout. But we've seen both ways. But at its core, hot desking is simply a desk that's agnostic to the user, and then anyone can sit out and log into their profiles and work.

Greg Irwin 12:31

Or they use I can think about hot desks, and you set up these hot desk area, and it just being crickets. Because nobody really wants to be in that in that. It's like sitting in the corner. You know, nobody wants to I don't want to be over in the corner, no name desk. So, you know, how have you seen it actually use?

Erik Bishop 12:58

I honestly, I think that the flexibility I think the give and take of saying I can go home and spend you know, to do some laundry while I'm working during the day is so advantageous to the end worker, that I think that they are willing to sacrifice, having that, you know, desk space with pictures of their kids and all that stuff. You know, all around, I think there's a give and take there. Yeah, you know, I think we're a little early for me to give you the feedback of what the end user returns are at this point. Yeah, it's still relatively new, even here. In South Florida, we've only really been back full time for maybe a month now for most organizations. So it's still a little early for me to say, Yeah, I don't think this is gonna work long term because people want their personal space, or whatever that's going to look like but I think the, the give and take is so advantageous and the flexibility. And people have figured out that there's a lot of, you know, there's a lot of ancillary advantages to being home two or three days a week or whatever that looks like for that organization. Maybe it's five days a month they come in, maybe it's two days, maybe it's 20. You know, they're all flexible.

Greg Irwin 14:11

It's gonna be hard for a collaboration professional to understand where it settles, because I feel like what we've seen so far is what the employees want, that that message has been communicated. employees would like to 100 a lot of flexibility to work from home. Absolutely. Who wouldn't? You know, we found though, in our company, yeah, we actually did a track to measure productivity, we found our employees were truly legit 30% less productive at home. For all the reasons you expect. Now, I think that they could get their jobs done. But that just means that we're accepting the fact that there'll be 30% less, less productive than they are in the office.

Jamaal Savwoir 14:51

And I go, I'll throw in some more real quick and that and that's that, you know, a lot of that kind of hot desk or hotelling or available space in the office. This versus working from home, a lot of the push and pull is based on the commute that you have to, you know, go through to get to that workspace, and how effective your workspace is at home. So I've seen companies that had the opposite of what you saw whether 30% decrease in productivity, that a 33 30% increase in productivity, but that was largely due to the fact that people that work in different functional groups could now collaborate, you know, they were used to collaborating in person and waiting for somebody to be available for a meeting. But now with a collaboration tool, they can they can start conversations or work on projects sort of asynchronously, and get some productivity gains that way, but you do find those people that, you know, they don't really have a suitable work environment in their home space. And it's much easier for them to kind of get away from the home environment, get to that, even if there's, you know, one or two people in the office, get to a space where they have some, you know, some space to get things done. If the commutes not atrocious. So that's, that's what I've seen some give and take on that on that whole spectrum. But definitely leveraging tools to collaborate and not having to wait for people to be available. Or, you know, the equivalent of trying to catch somebody at the watercooler leveraging those digital collaboration tools have has had has had some increased productivity impacts in some businesses. Perfect.

Greg Irwin 16:19

Jamaal, Jamaal, thank you. Let's, let's stir the pot a little bit. Lori, great to see you. Thanks. Thanks so much for joining and give give a little intro.

Lori 16:31

So I work at the second largest, triple A in the nation. And I work on the innovation side of our claim department. So we are a pretty big Midwest, Southeast 14 state footprint property and casualty insurer. So if you have a claim to your car or your home, you're probably working through our area from first notice of loss all the way through settlement and recovery. So I am now working solely on innovation and strategy and working to get all of our legacy systems into one common platform. So I think I'll be busy for the next few years. But excited to join the conversation

Greg Irwin 17:12

on so what better. Thank you for joining. What have you learned in terms of or kind of resettling here into our new working on this hybrid, this hybrid environment there? Well, I

Lori 17:30

think we've kind of debunked the myth that you can't be productive from home, I think we're still really struggling I used to be of our contact center has 125 seats. So I think virtual management has its own challenges. Some of our context centers are piloting voice analytics, gamification, and I think we've just had to be really intentional about engaging our team, whether it be the adjusting community, whether it be our context center, I have technology consultants reporting to me. So we collaborate, we piloted teams, my team piloted teams, for claims and help Microsoft curate our training so that we'd have the right use cases, because their trainings very accelerated, it was kind of boiling the ocean. So I think we've just really had to pivot it, we've really accelerated our FinTech insure tech initiatives at my company. So we implemented virtual payments, bi directional texting, so we can now chat with you related to your claims. So from the customer side, and the team member side, we've just learned so much. But we also realized that if we are not more contemporize, with our workplace strategy, we're going to lose staff. So my company just announced a survey, would you prefer to be hybrid you want to come into the office? Or do you want to completely work from home, and then there's that caveat, your team's got to be able to support that. But just by way of anecdotally, we moved. So I had 0% of the context and are working from home pre COVID, then it went 99%. And only the employees that could not support a whether it be lack of internet, not the right connection speed, we're in the office, only three people out of that 125 in the brick and mortar. And we just formally reclassified all of our contacts that our employees across our footprint to working from home unless they cannot support your home. So we'd like the pendulum like completely swung the other way. I think we'll get back to center but it's been a real journey. So it's been a pretty epic year. But you know, how many agents do you have? So we have about 1300 team members delivering telephonic service through the club, so like texting to toe calling to toe, your policy, your membership travel services, we have a bank life insurance company, so about 1300 people are now you can be given backspace. 1300. Yeah, well, interestingly enough, they completely reorganized and disassemble the cubes that were in my contact center. So I still have my office, but outside my office was, you know, like the low walls, the small desks, they've completely repurpose that area, and they call it the plaza now. And so now there are these larger keys with plexiglass, so that if someone comes into the office, and let's say they, they want three monitors or two monitors, they can dock or they have some stations set up with desktops where you could hotel, if you had a meeting, and then you wanted to work from the office, they've now set up these, you know, hotelling stations. So that's kind of our use case, in, you know, how they've repurposed. So, really, my team has no place to go back to their like five hotelling desks and have all of our apps on them. And so if our agents are disabled from home, we can direct them into the office if they're now even within a drivable distance, because now I have employees asking to relocate across the country. So that's a whole nother banana. But we're seeing some, you know, real employee asked now that, you know, virtual, it's like that it's like the next normal, not the new normal, but the next normal.

Greg Irwin 20:57

So, um, what are one or two more? Or what is what's the expected KPI? And are you expecting a customer sat improvement? Are you customer expecting an employee set improvement? Are you expecting a productivity improvement? Once you're, oh, you're gonna know how things are going? Well, what's your expectation how things are going to change not just in terms of the workflow, but that the net result in the business? Well, number one, we

Lori 21:26

measure it. So prior pre COVID, we were open limit, much more limited hours we offload at night so that we are open 24 seven, but we have a TPA that takes our claims at night. But we expanded hours, we removed about a quarter million dollars of expense, because now we're offering more contemporary work schedules. So we're going like 410s, before we were out of the building it was we weren't as nimble to be able to offer that we're seeing better take rate on our overtime, we do eat NPS surveys, my net promoter score from an employee standpoint, it's never been better post COVID. So I really feel good about that. And from a productivity standpoint, we measure post claim, you get a survey from us, I can actually index across NPS. And all of those KPIs are pointing to the right markers, net net, like things you measure in the context center, like after call work, and some of these other efficiencies, talk time has been, that's been a little bit more of a challenge with certain agents. But net net, we have remained very productive, great service delivery. And from a customer sentiment, it's been great. So you know, across the board, we really didn't see a dip going home, which is amazing. And, you know, we're we're cautiously optimistic, and we're leaned into, you know, offering better options, and because we move remove the expense out of the business, it's a win win for the staff, as well as the company.

Greg Irwin 22:54

Brian, congratulations. Thanks. But teams, you're on teams, how does teams tie in with, you know, kind of your your customer facing contact center? When? How do you do that?

Lori 23:11

we're challenged right now with our contexts that are I with the so we we sent everyone home in the contact center with an office in a box. So it's a thin client, and we're switching over the hardware, we're not finished with that program. So if you want to have a one on one with your team member, they can dial in like audio stream like the screen or they can stream the screen. So the visual presentation. But the workaround, which is not elegant is they can load teams on the phone, use their network, I passwords and join the voice side or call in from the contact center soft phone if there's a conference bridge associated with the host. So we have not completely figured that out. We don't have video collab stood up quite yet on in an elegant way. So that is an area where real we're really focusing on trying to improve engagement.

Greg Irwin 24:03

I have to bring Jamaal and because I think you and I were talking about that. And not so much the sales pitch But please, how or tell us one story. Yeah, I mean, that's trying to bridge that experience.

Jamaal Savwoir 24:19

Yeah, and appreciate all the all the stories around, you know, how the employees have reacted to these, these changes. And, you know, we had early in the pandemic, we had a customer that had to send 200 agents to work from home within 48 hours. And that was challenging for them. But we were able to stand up a context and a solution for them in the cloud, get them up and running on that very quickly in it, you know, with a rapid change like that it had to be fairly basically configured. But over time we've we've helped them cut sort of evaluate, Recon figure and take advantage of some additional tools, including a speech analytics and quality management tool that gives the supervisor is real time visibility of the ages desktops. So it's sort of a, it changed from a band aid solution to something that they could live with long term, because they were able to maintain that engagement. And, you know, leverage the speech analytics to to do that quality management activity that typically they would have, you know, a few quality managers, cherry pick a handful of calls and sort of look, listen for things, but with the with analytics tool, they can now bubble up keywords, they can see phrases that are more common or less common folk spoken by the agent or spoken by the caller. And it really helped them to maintain the employee engagement, maintain those KPIs and, and leverage that that interaction that they would normally have in person, but over a digital format. And with with 200 agents that that can be quite daunting to go from to have that rapid change. But that was one story where we were able to, you know, sort of help that company, help their employees to stay engaged and build a long term solution from from a pretty rapid change.

Greg Irwin 26:06

God, so how would it work? Is it the does the agent stay within the team's client, or is teams integrated into an agent.

Jamaal Savwoir 26:16

So with the with 8x8 and teams, typically, they operate in a side by side fashion. But there are things that happen in the context center where they have to do post call work, or they have to change the status to something that's more detailed context center type activity, but they also have the team's client there for all the audio and all the collaboration that they do across functional groups or across team members. So it allows it to to operate together. And in the one of the benefits of working that way, is we're able to get certified by Microsoft as a contact center provider for the team's environment. So that's been working really well. It's generated a lot of a lot of interest from people that are living in teams, and they don't want to interrupt that workflow, with it with it with a third party context and a solution that's not integrated.

Greg Irwin 27:02

Yeah. I appreciate what you know. Hey, Noah, thank you for your comment here. And and Lori, I have your question up as well keep those questions coming. We may not I may not hit them immediately. But we'll do our best to keep ramping back. Okay, let's I want to cover now is first if that's okay, ignoring. The question is, how do you train agents in a virtual trip are all set? How do you maintain that discipline? And and what have you seen? I'm sorry, Jamaal, if you wouldn't mind taking a person.

Jamaal Savwoir 27:37

Yeah, you know that that's a that's another really great application for that for the speech analytics tool, because it is now expanded to not only the the voice channels, but also the digital channels. So when you talk about cross training employees, and that sort of that whole buddy system process, we've seen a couple of great things, because you can now capture the screen and the audio, when you find contact center representatives, whether they're in customer service, or sales, or whatever their function is, when they do something that's really great. Or that that's really an example for the rest of the team, you can capture not only what they said during the conversation, but also how they navigated the different screens. And some some of these agents have multiple screens, and training new employees on how the most efficient way to sort of leverage, Hey, I got a screen pop here, but I had to go over there. And the one piece of information I needed was in this knowledge base, being able to see that interaction, capture that and reshare. It has been tremendous in terms of upskilling folks across those different functional groups. And now also being able to apply the speech analytics to web chat or SMS interactions, you have additional benefits there of saying, Hey, we handle this this way over voice conversation. But over a chat conversation. It was it was slightly different, we were able to, you know, leverage an FAQ and just pop that into the chat and provide better information to that person, instead of the agent having to try to read through a list of items there. So those sorts of things have really helped to cross train, but also upskill newer agents, as they as they deal with this kind of work from home environment.

Greg Irwin 29:14

Great. Our job, Jamaal, thank you. Hey, Ken, thank you for being engaged here on the chat. I appreciate it. Tell us the story. Tell us about the new contact center virtual contact center, and what you've seen in terms of one of your clients, basically driving productivity, whether it's training or, you know, other aspects of, of operations. Yeah, I

Ken 29:41

mean, I think what we're seeing is some of these challenges that are being brought up like it's like, okay, especially from these people that have never really had any kind of remote or virtual work. They were basically dependent. You know, we saw some of the statistics, right, some people said, 1% were remote before I think I saw somebody that said zero and then They went from zero to 90. I mean, that's absolutely insane. Right? So basically everybody's learning, you know, by the seat of their pants during that whole process. And now that we're, you know, in this area where things have slowed down, it's like, Okay, how can we get better? How can we do this better? And so I think some of these things that are coming up, like, Okay, well, how do we train better? How do we onboard better? I think we have to look at like, what are some of the things that we did well, in a completely virtual environment? And how can we translate that with the same types of goals and objectives? Like, you know, what I've seen is leveraging video. In those situations, in those training situations, right, you have somebody shadowing, you have a new person, basically, shadowing, watching somebody, perform in the call center, answer questions, deal with things, they're kind of shadowing in the background, and then vice versa, you can switch those roles where the new person is doing it, and the mentor is watching. So they can provide feedback later, role playing exercises over video are excellent, too, right? Where you have somebody kind of playing the part of like, here's what the here's what the customer is going to ask, here's, you know, here's a common problem that comes up. Here's a common reaction. Here's how people, you know, playing that frustrating customer part. So I think it's just practice and experience and looking at, you know, what is it that we want to do and forgetting about like, Okay, how do we do that over video? First, you got to start with, what is it that we want to do? What do we want them to be better at? Then you step back and say, Alright, what tools and resources do we have available to do those things? Right? And, you know, you might say what the best way to do it is to have everybody in the same room together? if that's possible, I would say you do it, right. But you're like, Alright, well, we got people scattered all over the country, getting them all into the same room does not seem cost effective and practical. So what how else? Could we do that? Oh, well, maybe we can do it this way, we can leverage this video application that we have to bring everybody together virtually,

Greg Irwin 32:11

they can can for a customer you can think of now? Well, I'd say for a typical customer, for contacts and your customer. What percentage of agents? Do you think our video ready, if you know what I mean, not just in terms of their scale, but in terms of if they're working from home, they may not have the right connection, they might not have the right setup for that professional video, or even audio reading, maybe they don't have the right connection for audio. And they can only work best over chat or they really do need to be in the in the context. And what kind of mix Have you seen? Is that a major problem? Or do you think most people can figure it out and, and figure out how to find a nice home office to set that up in the right connection, and it ends up working.

Ken 33:06

I think if you leave people out on their own, it's not a good thing. If they're not going to, most people are not going to figure it out on their own. If you just say, I want you to go work from home now. And this is the expectation level I have for you is like you would be sitting in the office, you have to empower that person, you have to give them the tools and the resources like Lori was talking about, like it's like, we have to give them the tools and the resources. So they can do this effectively. at home. We can't just say go figure it out, or here's a $500 stipend, just get what you need. It's like, Well, what do I need? How do I do that? What do I do? You know, for some reason, my video application isn't working. I don't know, figure it out. Here's a link to an FAQ online. I mean, that's not how you support people. So you basically have to say, you know, you have to sit down with them, give them the expectations and walk them through like percentage wise, Greg, I would say like, you know, most people in a contact center are not used to video, right? They're not comfortable with that. So you have to get them comfortable with it. You have to mock from an executive, a C level, executive level on up, it has to be all the way from the top basically saying, this is how we're going to do things. And this is why it's not just because we want you to be on video, because we want you to figure out a space in your house. This is why we're doing it this way. You have to get them to buy in on it. And then you know, you have to train them properly and prepare them properly and not just throw caution to the wind be like it's easy. I mean, my 16 year old does it. Do that to people.

Jamaal Savwoir 34:45

All right. Greg, I've seen companies go so far as to offer ergonomic assessments, you know, to say, Hey, you know, we've we've, you know, ever we're in this together, we're going to help you we're going to assess your work your workspace, you know, take a few pictures. Send us in kind of like, you know, what is your environment look like, you know, maybe you need a riser for your desk, maybe you need a different chair, maybe you need better lighting. So they've been, you know, lots of like you said that the proper sort of transition plan makes all the difference. It makes employees feel like, Hey, this is this is part of my new work environment. The company wants me to not only be productive, but also be comfortable, you know, so it can, it can have a very different feeling from like, good luck.

Greg Irwin 35:26

I had employees that were literally working from the edge of their bed, literally with a laptop sitting on the edge of their bed. And they couldn't wait to come back to the office, where people who are loving working from home and mothers that are saying, I need I need a change of environment. Let's keep going here. And Jeanette, Angie, nice to meet you. Do us a favor, give give a little intro. You got a whole team of colleagues on the line here. Excuse me. Oh, Anjonette Anjonette, we'll have your audio. Let's see. Can you hear me now? Gotcha. Whenever you fix was, did it?

Anjonette 36:10

Okay, perfect. Perfect. I was saying Excuse me, I'm not being on video. But I definitely appreciate the dialogue. definitely interesting, because it always seems like, hey, our business is aligned. I also have another team member on Ron. And so I am one of one of the deputy directors and I oversee support services operations. So we have about a slightly under 800 state staff and we have a third vendor that actually helped us through our our high peak call times from a work from home perspective. And I'll listen if you have any specific question. Let's start

Greg Irwin 36:49

with the basics. Just it did I hear right 800 agents at a peak? We have usually at peak is about you know Anjonette, sorry, your audio keeps coming in and out. I don't know if it's a headset or or what? We can hear you when it when it's good, but then you kind of fade out a little bit.

Anjonette 37:12

Okay. Yeah, I'll have Ron jump in from my team.

Ron 37:16

Okay. Okay, thanks, Angie. So this is Ron. So I report to Angie, Branch Chief over our workforce management unit, and also our what we call our administrative support unit. So and I saw Angie put it in chat. So back in March of 2020, we had zero we had 0% working at home. And we're just in a, you know, matter of weeks, we transitioned our two service centers, we have one in Sacramento, one in Fresno. You know, that's about 800 staff. There's also additional staff at our headquarters area, but I'm just I'll just kind of focus on our service center. So we have about 800. And then we have a surge vendor that supports this during open enrollment. And they go anywhere from three up to 1200. Staff. So they had to, they had to do the same thing. But But as Angie was mentioning was interesting listening and especially Laurie were very, very similar to to, you know, a lot that she was talking about from the hotelling process. We do have hotel stations set up in both our centers. For folks that Internet's down, they're doing maintenance on my home or my apartment. We also have on site staff that have been on there have been working on site the entire time, our our we're in kind of an emergency telework situation, but not mandatory. And so we do have staff on site, we have about a total of about 16 out of 800 employees that are working on site. And so they have they're not sitting in their normal desk, we kind of have them grouped together, we had, um, you know, following the social distancing rules and things like that. But we do have, you know, the 16 network on on site, and then we're trying to figure out, what's it going to look like going forward our our kind of long term telework plan, and we're not there yet. Our executive director has announced that we will be at home through September, for sure. And then And then from there, you know, by division, we have to kind of figure out what that's going to look like. And again, it's not just Covered California, it's state of California as a whole. But, you know, I kind of put in chat, where we're using ms teams. we've purchased webcams for everyone in the organization in a while to get those I think at the beginning of the entire world wanted webcams and all kinds of equipment. So we do use that we, you know, we try to promote that that people use them as much as possible, especially when they're in an environment like a team meeting or the trainings. We've had to do a lot of our initial training online. We've been hiring you know, this entire time, so I really try to promote the use of the webcams.

Greg Irwin 40:05

From what you're talking about already, over the next 12 months, what is that? What are you? What are you trying to do with our environment? It sounds like, I appreciate the rundown in the overview you've got, you've got a lot of pieces. Is there an improvement you're chasing? Yeah, well,

Ron 40:23

um, you know, right now on the the telework thing is just to, you know, it's just true try to, you know, figure that piece out there. As far as, you know, what we're going to do there, we have another kind of unique challenge to and President we have a brand new building that we were in the process of transitioning to, right when we sent all of our folks home. And so, you know, again, I was, I think I was seeing it in the chat or having personal items on a desk, everybody took their personal items home, because the plan was when they returned, they'd be returning to a brand new building. And, and so, you know, figuring out the whole telework piece, or, you know, our business is, you know, where the marketplace for California, for covered, you know, health insurance, and, you know, priority is the consumers, making sure that we are available to that consumers, you know, so that we can help them, you know, obtain health insurance and, and, you know, we're preparing right now for this will be our second open enrollment in a work from home environment. And, you know, so we're just preparing for that. And that'll be the, you know, the main thing that, you know, the systems can handle the calls, I mean, we take millions of millions of phone calls, hitting our IVR. And, you know, making sure that we can do that and making sure our staff, you know, have the right equipment and, and, you know, to handle the calls as well. So that's, that's always kind of our number one priority is just, you know, taking care of that consumer. For sure. Ron,

Greg Irwin 42:01

how do you integrate with teams? Do you do a maybe what's your underlying system they use for your call center?

Ron 42:10

Um, well, we have we have multiple systems that we use, I mean, we, you know, we're using, you know, office and then you know, Outlook, we've got teams, we've got a proprietary system that we use for our enrollment database.

Greg Irwin 42:27

operation, whether you're, well, I'm sorry. MST, yeah, we're an eight by eight shell.

Ron 42:33

We're Ms. Teams is what we're using, along with webcams. Oh, interesting.

Greg Irwin 42:39

So I've got to ask that because I never thought of Ms. Microsoft Teams. Even the PBX as a call center application. As an ACD or IVR.

Ron 42:50

Oh, no, not not for ACD or IVR. No, I'm sorry. I'd have to have, you know, get someone from it to probably speak on all the different systems there. So, okay.

Greg Irwin 43:02

Yeah. Got it. Got it. Yeah, cuz that's what Ms. Teams is a phenomenal chat collaboration. Right. And the question is, how does it tie into voice and video particularly for contact centers? I think that's, that becomes a pain point. Yeah, we're

Ron 43:21

just using it internally. We're not using that with externally or anything

Greg Irwin 43:26

like that. Got it? Got it. Well, excellent. Ron, and Angie, thank you both for for joining. Let's, let's keep going here. Um, how about Ed canard? Ed, would you care to join in and share share a story with the group? I'm sure Hello, I'm

Ed 43:47

kind of a little confused. While I'm here. My name is Ed. We're a testing company in Iowa. Um, like my testing my kids? Yes, they actually we are the ACT test. So when your kid takes to go to college, that's us. But in a good word for him. Okay, there you go. Now, I actually handle a product of ours called WorkKeys. Which really is an employability test. Um, we have two tests that are personality based, six that are foundational skill based or your cognitive skills. Okay. I've been listening to you guys. And this is really kind of takes me back because I actually ran our contact center for seven years before I took the job I'm in now. So all the problems you guys are talking about is exactly what I went through. So it's really interesting. kind of takes you back a little bit.

Greg Irwin 44:40

But you were invited. I think you've got a It sounds like you're exactly the right guy except maybe you're in a different role. Right. Are you Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Are you work from home collaboration space right now?

Ed 44:54

Oh, yeah, we in fact, that's where I'm at now. So I'm actually that's why I'm not on a video because I'm I'm working out of my basement. And I think it was Ken or Jamaal, that mentioned earlier people, you know, working from their bedrooms, and we're, you know, you're you worry if you're going live with clients and customers that are, you know, seeing what they see. And you know, you don't want your hamper in the background and stuff like that. And you know, and so, yeah, all of the stuff that you guys are coming up with, we've actually, we actually talked about this a number of years ago, just kind of under a contingency plan for, like disaster recovery. Primarily, for us, it was based around flooding, um, because we are, we're in a low Valley in Iowa. And when we get heavy rains, the interstate floods and nobody can get to work. And so we were always talking about it in terms of, well, what happens if nobody can physically get here? And we got to turn them on from home? What do we do you know, that that sort of stuff. So it's really interesting that to hear that and to see what you guys are going through and, and to kind of kind of hear the the ideas pop out.

Greg Irwin 46:07

So, Ed, I’ll ask you, here on the collaboration side of things, is there an initiative in AC T, to help improve work from home either for agents or employees or outreach to customers?

Ed 46:21

Um, actually, we are working from home currently, and it was a almost the worst case scenario. And I can mentioned earlier, they went from 10%, working at home to 90%, like overnight, yeah, we went from zero to 100. And it pose huge problems in our, in our group that, honestly, they're still trying to fix today. Um, even as we start to filter people back into our offices, we're probably not going to get back in there until at least the fall, if not, you know, next year,

Greg Irwin 46:57

as the as the have your teams that maintain their productivity or become more productive, or,

Ed 47:05

truthfully, less productive, I would say, and it's not based on the people, it's based on how they're doing things they've become so separated, especially in like my group, mile group, we were so dependent on each other. And so my group, my team worked as a group, they were a unit, right, and so I had, you know, 15 people on my unit, and they all work together. And it was, it was like a beehive in our, in our, in our call center area. Um, when that happened, and they split them all up and threw them to the wind. Now all of a sudden, you get kind of the shock value of it, right? Nobody knows what to do. Because now I'm by myself, and I'm alone. And I'm sitting here on the edge of my bed, you know, trying to figure this stuff out. Yeah, so we ran into that a lot. At the same time, we were outsourcing some of our larger from the AC actually the ACT test, just because we didn't, we couldn't physically hire enough people to keep the phone lines going. So we had to outsource a bit of that. And that that was a huge contributor to some problems that we had. We took a punch in the marketplace, because people weren't able to get through, we were having huge wait times the the agents were improperly trained, to be honest with you, they didn't know what they were doing. And so and it wasn't fair to them, because, you know, they just, they were just clueless, basically, and they were thrown to the wolves. And it really, it really kind of kind of popped us back for a little bit. Now they're starting to come out of it. They're starting to realize some of the things they're doing. Um, I like your idea of teams. I don't like it with videos with your customers. I like it for training and for team meetings. Yeah.

Greg Irwin 48:53

And perfect. I appreciate you. I do appreciate you taking some time and joining in. Let's let's go back to Erik, Bishop, and Erik, you know, and Ed a point that I think we can all recognize, which is it's the wait times, which means the agents, the agent staffing, which is by far the largest cost for, you know, for a contact center. So the question is, what have you seen some of your clients do to manage that and to manage it?

Erik Bishop 49:25

The biggest challenge that we're seeing period right now, period, staffing, my call center clients cannot hire agents. This is the biggest problem we're seeing in those in the space right now. Like by far forget working from anywhere work from home. These hiring call center agents. Yes, they're that they're getting paid more to stay home frankly. So a lot of them are doing that. The market is super competitive.

Greg Irwin 49:57

So what do you do about it? I guess my first thought Okay, I guess yeah. As to how to enable remote agents so that you can properly stamp?

Erik Bishop 50:08

Absolutely. Yeah, you can't hide. I mean, here's the thing about saying, okay, we want our agents to come to the brick and mortar, well, they have 20 other places that are hiring them. One of the perks that they're using in their hiring process is, hey, you don't have to you can work from your house, you can come to our office wherever you want. Yeah. And the flexibility, right, we'll call it that the flexibility is, I think, something that every organization that has a contact center, better offer if they want to retain or bring in talent, because like you said, Greg, do you have people working from the edge of their bed, they're miserable. They want to go into an office. But there's tons of people that have the opposite issue, right? They have, you know, kids, they want to be home to see, even if they're working, at least I can keep an eye on my kid across that, you know, house or whatever. You know, these are, there's a million different options, right? There are reasons but the reality of it is, is as an organization, the biggest perk you can offer to a call center. Rep right now is flexibility. Yeah. And I think that's the name of the game. And I think that's

Greg Irwin 51:17

why it's become so competitive, pre COVID, we were talking about Uber, and just companies taking advantage of employees, where you can basically pit one driver against another and bring down the fair so that they'd have to, you know, basically work two or three jobs to put together a reasonable wage. This one thing that's been so surprising is I've seen the pendulum swing this year, where employees have had more leverage more than they ever had that I can remember. And it feels like you have to have these tools and capabilities available. If you want to build a build a workforce.

Erik Bishop 51:59

Yeah, I don't think there's an option. I think the environment is as competitive as it's ever been. I mean, I'm seeing it firsthand, across the board with my call center clients down here, and the biggest pain point they have right now is I can't hire people.

Greg Irwin 52:17

Yeah. Well, look. So Erik, great, great, great point. Let's I've been looking at Kirk. Kirk is out in in LA. Can I get you involved in this one? I'm curious if you have a if you're actively involved here on the collaboration tools. Morning, correct. Pacific time, it's Good morning. How are you guys pay folks doing? Excellent. Just break.

Kirk 52:46

I'm so so Greg, I started a new role. And so yeah, we we kind of like a lot of folks on the call, we basically the the campuses went from, you know, be make making sure people were on campus and 100% participation to basically go and completely remote. And we're just now starting to get people back for the summer, the summer, quarter, and then kind of gearing up for the fall semester. But because we have a bunch of legacy phone systems in the campuses, yeah, we, we basically adopted zoom and teams quite heavily in regards to how we're trying to reach out and collaborate with everybody. But there's not like an overarching kind of x Cass type project. It's as like with a lot of things we're, you know, being an educational institute, where they're just trying to really work on pivoting, with what their future is going to be. So it's not like they have an immediate plan. It's more of a long term plan. is Google a part of the environment, I always think of Google in education. Google and Chromebooks are part of the environment, Greg, but I think like a lot of legacy companies, we have legacy apps, and a lot of those legacy apps don't really like to work on Chromebooks, rdrp systems SAP, and it just doesn't. It really likes a Windows endpoint. So Chromebooks and Mac books, unfortunately, as many as we have, don't really run our SAP software very well. So SAP at La community colleges, Oh, my goodness. Also, the SCP side is all the HR. Okay, so it's really all all the on the HR side that we're running. So that's, that's kind of that side of it. And then on the student side, it's running Oracle PeopleSoft for the student information system. So there's really two worlds of the administration. The folks like myself that are better in the administrative roles, but then there's another world where There is a faculty and the students live in regards to that, that set of worlds but we're going through a transformation in which there, the nine community colleges within the Los Angeles area are going to centralize it model. And so some of these decisions are now being driven by Central it, which I'm part of, but on the same note to like a lot of things that they while they've done this on paper, the budgets don't necessarily reflect those changes. And again, shifting nine different PBX is into something else. That's something still to be determined, I think short term we're going to be working on just resolving our end of life of PBX systems before we start talking about, you know, x casts or eucast.

Greg Irwin 55:47

What's one project you've got on the bus or the next, the next moment? Whether it's right here? Or maybe it's an adjacent or maybe it's totally unrelated? But what's what's one project you're working on giving you this? Oh, well,

Kirk 56:03

I'll be honest with you, as we're on a zoom call, whether I loved her hates hated zoom, zoom is here to stay. And so we're doing a ton of work in the hybrid classroom space. And so with that said, we're also doing a lot, a lot of work in the zoom, zoom room meeting space. And again, it's no disrespect to Microsoft Teams, we still use that quite heavily. But you know, because part of the the Los Angeles Community College District is bond funded, that really keeps us on our toes. And so there's a separate unit that just completely works on that on that area of basically, a full PMO. And, and a total different group of outside engineers that are that are in construction management, that are really working on on kind of building the new the new buildings were before it wasn't involved. And now we're really heavily involved.

Greg Irwin 57:01

Yeah. All right. Well, Kirk, lot's of luck and congrats on the new on the new role. And great, great to speak with you again. All right, thanks. Great. Let's we're nearing the end of the hour here. So I'm going to grab back to First I want to recognize Todd Todd, give a quick intro and then I'm going to close with Jamaal. Todd, thanks so much for joining. You're in the middle of collaboration with Logitech. That's right.

Todd 57:26

That's right. Todd. I'm the Global Head of alliances. So when you think of all of the investments that enterprises are using, choosing between teams, a by eight, all these wonderful services out there, you know, that piece of hardware and looking at you really makes a difference. And I want you to just think about that investment and what needs to happen there. No plug in Logitech, but I think it makes sense for all of you to really think about how our high definition, collaboration gear at the end of that camera on top of your laptop or in that room, really transforms conversations really focuses on business continuity, allows that employee engagement to happen, that hiring process to happen. How do you get that field especially within this pandemic? You know, we've been able to really go over that. So thanks a lot for that time.

Greg Irwin 58:11

I have one question. Shoot, on average, enterprise and enterprise with 5000 employees goes and wants to arm their end users with a camera. Yep, the average price point of that camera. With a conference camera or a personal camera on this little the little, little HD camera that I've got on my Is it an A? Is it a $20 camera? Is it a $50 camera? Is that $100 camera?

Todd 58:37

Is that $150 HD camera, if you're talking to an enterprise needs to talk with themselves, but also close deals?

Greg Irwin 58:46

Yes. $150 plus the webcams. Oh, I you know, I'm going there. What's the cost of the headset? What's that headset cost me $100 $100 personal clap kit will be 250. Awesome. Todd, thank you very much. Appreciate you joining us. All right, Jamaal. That was that was a lot of fun. Thank you so much for co hosting with us here. There. There are a lot of takeaways. I was sitting here jotting down. What's one or two that you that you that you took away from?

Jamaal Savwoir 59:19

You know, I love all the focus on employee engagement, right? I mean, that one of the great things about the way these tools have evolved is it benefits the community of benefits. People that are trying to get things done in organizations that can focus on the transition plan can really benefit their employees and improve all those important things like C sets and NPS and all those things that kind of resonate with their consumer bases. But the focus on the employee and their transition plan is key, especially when you look at trying to manage attrition rates are trying to do hiring. You know, we've been involved in a couple of these forums at places like CCW icmi, and those supervisors were so engaged around How do we keep our employees? How do we find ways to hire people out of region. And I think all of this pandemic stuff is really accelerated those transformations and really made it possible to accelerate and really engage with employee. So that's the part of it that excites me. I'm a sales engineer, but I'm more of a technology interpreter. I really like to see the technology benefit, benefit the people. So this has been really engaging and thank you very much to all the people that

Greg Irwin 1:00:24

participated. You know, we don't do enough sales pitches here, but we did quite intentionally, but I think it's Jamaal was probably underselling the differentiating integration that 8x8 has been working on with with teams, because it's it's pretty much a game changer in terms of everyone's bought in to teams for collaboration. But how do you buy it back? How do you basically bring it back into the overall Collaboration Suite? that's what that's what I've been working on. Thank you very much. And Erik, thank you very much. Thank you all for for a fun session. I learned a lot and it's great to meet so many, so many new people here. Lori, Todd, Ken, alka everybody. Thanks a lot, and you'll see a problem. Take care everybody. Thanks for Thank you.

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