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Extend UCC to the Field Worker: Fulfill Human Potential

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front line worker
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I’m sure we’re all feeling profound respect and admiration for workers who are operating out in the field during the COVID-19 outbreak. While doctors and nurses are perhaps the most visible heroes occupying the front line today, there are many others. From postal workers and delivery drivers to utility field engineers, warehousing staff, food production operatives, and retail associates – to whom we also owe a collective debt of gratitude.
These workers continuously leave the safety of their homes and unselfishly go to battle to provide us with the essential services that keep the economy and society moving. Let’s take a closer look at some of the tools that are helping to provide them with a safer, more productive, and more effective work environment. Let’s also endeavor to find additional ways of leveraging these solutions to improve the environments even further, and the personal benefits they may all receive. To help us do that, let’s first look at how these tools are being used today and explore where else they can go.
UCC in the field goes beyond keeping far-flung staff connected
From healthcare, hospitality, and retail, to transportation, logistics, and manufacturing, savvy enterprises for a while have been leveraging advances in Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) technology to strengthen their field worker support strategy.
That is because the value of UCC extends far beyond the technology it replaces – namely isolated ‘phones on poles’ and personal 2-way radios. UCC’s ability to integrate with enterprise applications, support teamworking with any colleague at any time, enable rapid access to shared knowledge, and much more, can be mobilized onto any smart device. It places field workers at the center, rather than the periphery, of what the organization does. And the importance of that in today’s climate cannot be overstated.
UCC in the field unlocks employees’ potential
While the focus on UCC roll-outs in many organizations has to date been on management-level personnel, there are a host of benefits to expanding the scope of UCC deployment organization-wide, from the C-suites out to the field. Field workers play a significant role as they interface directly with customers and service users – solving problems, collecting and relaying crucial information, and representing the brand to the public. Empowering field workers with tools that enable them to fulfill these tasks to a higher and more consistent standard improves an organization’s overall performance. It can also help unlock the front line worker’s potential by enabling them to develop subject matter expertise and become more autonomous in their roles, thereby delivering increased value for both customers and their employers.
The Apple Store ‘Genius Bar’ model celebrates the role of field workers as ‘experts,’ but this particular example requires a high-level of pre-existing knowledge. However, by leveraging UCC, organizations can enable workers in virtually any sector to accumulate that same high level of expertise. With UCC, field workers have significantly more problem-solving capability at their fingertips than they may have in their heads. Because they can add to their knowledge base by interacting with colleagues in real-time on a peer-to-peer basis or through a curated collaboration space, they can evolve over time from net consumers to net contributors of key information. In so doing, they’ll benefit successive new field workers while converting their value into greater personal rewards and employment prospects.
UCC in the field empowers a better customer experience, greater efficiencies, and more cost savings
It’s easy to recognize the customer experience value of being assisted by field workers equipped with real-time data and the organization’s total sum of problem-solving knowledge. However, in some sectors – like retail – the customer is looking for differentiators that give them even greater value. As such, savvy retailers are now focusing on making the customer experience seamless, which is no small task when customers can shop in-store, online, or on a mobile application. UCC is the glue for making the customer journey consistent and intuitive.
One of Canada’s biggest retailers had rolled out rugged mobile devices for store staff to carry at all times. Thus, providing its front-line associates with ready access to up-to-date pricing, inventory and shipping information, and enabling them to help in-store visitors much more quickly.
Separate to this initiative, the retailer released a mobile application that has proven to be popular with customers wanting to make purchases, view new offers, and locate their nearest branch.
Integrating these two digital investments has resulted in a dramatic transformation for the retailer. Now, when customers begin their journey via the app, they can then be routed through to an expert situated in the physical store to talk through their needs and complete the transaction online or at the register.
Other enhanced efficiencies can be delivered by tightly integrating UCC and field workers with the workflows commonly used in their respective industry sectors.
Another benefit of UCC is the capability to collate rich, real-time feedback from the front line and feed it back into centralized decision-making around new products and how they are sold and supported. This approach is resulting in decisions that are demonstrably well-informed, timely, and achieved more cost-effectively than by conducting lengthy pilot studies and market research.
UCC in the field accelerates corporate objectives
There’s often a physical and psychological ‘distance’ that exists between the corporate headquarters of an organization and the unique situation of field-based employees. In the most reputable companies, the risk of a ‘them vs. us’ scenario can be mitigated through good leadership, a strong culture of teamwork, and well-understood shared values. Even so, this can still be a significant issue for large, highly-distributed organizations.
UCC closes the gap between the corporate ‘mothership' and the ‘field,’ enabling closer alignment between corporate business functions and far-flung employees. What this means in practice is:
  • Consistent quality assurance across the business - by equipping all field workers with the same tools and enabling them to have direct interfacing with “corporate,” best practices can be implemented and sustained
  • Consistent use of the brand and its values – rather than observe their employer as some distant entity, suitably trained and empowered field workers are enabled to act as brand ambassadors
  • Safer and more inclusive working environments - field workers entering new, unknown or potentially hazardous situations aren’t alone with UCC, regardless of their location. Access to colleagues and information resources, and the ability to relay live video (“see what I see”), can enhance environments, minimize crime, and save lives.
  • Universal adherence to regulatory compliance - from data protection to a myriad of sector-specific compliance requirements, better, richer communications with the front line promotes standardized protocols and can help identify systemic issues for remediation
Field workers - we salute you!
Field workers of the world, we salute you most sincerely. Many are going into harm’s way so that the rest of us can enjoy some semblance of continuing normality. The fact that UCC can and is providing some material benefit to how they perform their duties will be celebrated by all those associated with this powerful enabling technology.
In those sectors where field workers are restricted from going to work until further notice, the transformative benefits of UCC shouldn’t be postponed unduly. The post-coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery is drawing closer every day, and opportunities to plan strategically for operating a better, more technologically-enabled business in the future should be taken wherever possible.