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Digital-first is the new normal as Vodafone NZ embraces remote working at level one

Newly developed technology helps the company adjust including employee remote working app, retail app, enhanced digital customer service and expanded online shop

As Aotearoa returns to a sense of ‘normality’ under COVID-19 Alert Level 1, Vodafone New Zealand is focusing on embracing the massive rise in digital adoption as a result of lockdown measures. New digital technology, brought in to reduce disruption during the past few months, will continue to be used both for Vodafone’s employees, and to enhance how the digital services company interacts with customers.

Vodafone NZ CEO Jason Paris says the way New Zealanders work and interact has fundamentally changed over the last three months and businesses need to adapt to “business as unusual.”

“The pandemic has accelerated digital adoption by at least a couple of years, which is an opportunity for New Zealand organisations. More businesses are now set up to operate remotely, people are using video conferencing tools more readily for work, learning and personal conversations, and retailers have embraced online shopping as physical distancing became the norm,” he says.

“These changes will have long-lasting impacts and many will not go back to how life was ‘pre-COVID’. It is the businesses that recognise this and double-down on digital investment that will do the best through the recovery and rebound phase.”

Technology assisting flexible-working

Vodafone NZ’s phone application for employees, Vlife, was used as a ‘wellness check’ for employees to provide daily feedback while working remotely throughout Levels Four and Three, and expanded to include contact-tracing capabilities under Level Two.

Now, Vodafone NZ Chief People Officer Jodie King says the Vlife app will be a key tool to manage Vodafone’s flexible workplace.

“Our people have long enjoyed Vodafone’s flexi-working policies and remote working capabilities, and we expect that even greater numbers of people will continue to appreciate the benefits of it post-COVID, likely 20-40% of their time,” she says.

“Our wellbeing check is now a part of every Vodafoner’s day, allowing them to flag where they are working from, book a carpark and a desk if in the office, and putting them in touch with their people leader should they have any concerns with their health.

“This technology will enable greater visibility of our workforce whilst allowing our people to continue to enjoy the flexibility they need for a healthy work-life balance. We’ve even had requests from customers so are looking to shortly offer the app as a white-label solution for other Kiwi businesses.”

Queue management in stores

Deemed ‘essential’ under COVID-19 Alert Levels Four and Three, Vodafone continued to sell devices and offer repair services to customers via its online store and key ‘Essential Connectivity Hubs’. The company’s network of 67 stores opened once more under Level Two, complete with a contact tracing app, InQ, that allowed customers to book appointments.

“The app allowed our customers to wait in a virtual queue,” says Carolyn Luey, Vodafone NZ Consumer Director.

“Customers could enter their details then continue their shopping or grab a cup of coffee elsewhere while they wait with the assurance they will receive a notification when it is their turn to meet with one of our retail staff.”

At Level One, Vodafone NZ retails stores are allowing free-flowing entry to stores once more with no need to book an appointment, however Vodafone is currently exploring the use of the app to help customers short on time.

“Being able to book an appointment with a retail staff member was really convenient for a lot of our customers as there was no need to wait in store to be served. We plan to use an updated version of this booking app again in the near future,” says Luey.

Online support with a community touch

Vodafone NZ retail staff, redeployed to support customers online under Alert Levels Four and Three, are once again able to assist customers in-store at Level Two. However, with greater numbers of customers now preferring to shop online, the business continues to ensure retail staff are still available to help customers online on a rostered basis from home and from stores in quiet times.

The ‘Local Virtual Store’ includes extended hours to 9pm, 7 days a week, and the faces and names of retail staff members currently online are displayed on screen, to offer a more personal level of digital service.

“Although we have seen a rise in customers using digital channels to engage, many are still wanting human interaction. Our new Local Virtual Store offers our customers the best of both worlds,” says Luey.

“Not only will our customers have a face and name to go with the expert customer service experience, but shortly they can choose to be connected with a customer service agent based in their locality. This brings a community element to the interaction – someone who knows the area and can assist at that local level.”

Greater self-service capability for customers

Vodafone NZ has also expanded its online shopping experience to cater for business customers’ digital appetite. Along with purchasing handsets and mobile phone plans, business customers can now purchase their fixed broadband services online, through the easy self-service e-shop portal.

“Business services often require a certain level of nuance meaning they need to go through an agent when purchasing their broadband,” says Vodafone NZ Business Director Lindsay Zwart.

“However small to medium businesses can now purchase our Office Net Unlimited+ broadband service easily through our online store meaning they can get themselves connected at a time that suits them. In fact, one of the first purchase orders we received through this new service came in at around 4am, which is indicative of how hard SME owners often work.”

Digital focus set to continue

“Throughout the NZ COVID-19 lockdown, technology was key to keeping in touch with loved ones, operating our businesses, ordering our essential items and keeping entertained,” says Paris.

“The threat of COVID-19 may have dissipated in New Zealand but it leaves the majority of us with more advanced digital skills, and a greater appreciation for technology than ever before. Continuing to build on the momentum we have created and adapting technology to peoples’ needs will be essential for survival in a post-COVID world.”

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