The coronavirus crisis turned collaboration models on their head overnight. Friederike Hoffmann, Head of Connected Business Solutions, explains how her customers are coping with the situation and how people are working at Swisscom.
Text: Romana Bleisch, Image: Friederike Hoffmann,
My mobile phone has always been very important to me. In the current situation, I notice it even more than usual because I want to be reachable on all channels and it is the same for our customers. Switching between phone calls, mail and chat functions has become smoother. All these channels come together on the mobile phone and it is the linchpin – now more than ever.
Friederike Hoffmann is Head of Connected Business Solutions and a member of the Executive Board of Swisscom Business Customers. She began her career at Swisscom IT Services in 2013 as Head of the Lead Management programme. Since June 2019, Friederike Hoffmann has been responsible for the Connected Business Solutions B2B division and is driving forward the seamless networking of people, buildings and machines from 2G to 5G.
Lots of customers had to make the switch in a very short time period. Models for home working had been introduced here and there in the past, but they were not used as extensively as they are now. Lots of people were thrown in at the deep end but our customers have made the switch with enormous speed.
Considering the implications for regulated industries such as banks, for example, this was an immense boost to digitisation. Within a few days everything was up and running and our customers could continue their work almost seamlessly. There has been a shift in infrastructure and culture.
Social cohesion: long-term relationships are easier to maintain online over a longer period of time than new ones. Enterprise customers have always tended to have a relatively high proportion of new employees and it is a huge challenge to integrate and support them well.
It is similar with customer contacts; it is easy to maintain existing relationships by phone but much more difficult to acquire new customers. Digital communication offers lots of advantages in this regard and we can now see how it has strengthened some areas, like online marketing and sales. Companies that had not yet switched to new marketing channels, however, are finding the situation particularly challenging.
The crisis is a catalyst for digitisation. Companies must ensure that they network their sites as quickly as possible and that employees can work from home easily.
The importance of connectivity has become obvious and this is exactly what we provide our customers. Many companies have taken a huge step forwards in just a few days that would otherwise have taken months or years.
Exceptionally important. I can’t imagine any other way of working because our clients and teams are spread all over Switzerland. We relied heavily on physical meetings to ensure unity between different regions in the past, but we see now that even meetings with lots of participants work smoothly online.
We will be able carry a lot of that forward into the future. Drawing on our own experience, we can show our customers how to deal with the changeover and take advantage of mobile working in an accelerated learning cycle.
There are lots of benefits. From board meetings and team meetings to social gatherings such as catching up for a drink or a coffee break, everything now takes place virtually and companies and employees can all see the benefits.
One team leader explained that telephone conferencing had created more unity in the team than there was in the past. “We have become closer as a team because everyone is now the same distance away, regardless of where we are based in Switzerland.”
Of course, whether at work or in our personal lives, virtual communication can’t replace physical contact. I miss my team colleagues and look forward to being able to see them again in person soon.
Our private and business lives have become very strongly intertwined and mobile connectivity is indispensable. People are even taking part in meetings while they walk the dog, which would have been unthinkable before. We are using time much more efficiently and whether we use a traditional telephone, Skype or Teams for this has become secondary. Mobile phones are accelerating this trend.
It depends on how longstanding the relationship is. Negotiations are still extremely focused even when they are online but other discussions can be much more personal. This is exactly where we can show that Swisscom is a strong partner; we are facing the same challenges and are happy to share our experience with our customers.
Use video calls as often as possible; people feel closer and more focused when they see each other.
Since we started working with video calls in the management team and with customers, we have developed much closer personal links with each other. You are speaking with someone sitting at their kitchen table at home, with a child jumping across the picture now and then. That is a completely different quality of collaboration and one I really value.
I will definitely work more from home in the future, which I didn’t like doing before, and I will reduce my travel. I expect our customers will make similar changes.
This means that our infrastructure will be in high demand. You need a network that works well, whether people are on the move, in company premises or at home. Having a good network is becoming increasingly important.
Online and videoconferencing was done very formally in the past. These have become much more informal with people enjoying virtual coffees and social time together. The formal character won’t return everywhere straightaway. I think we will use the opportunity to meet socially online to build team morale in the future.
Connectivity is important not only within the company, but all the way to the employees' homes. It is important to consider the requirements that enable employees to work efficiently at home using a planned and sustainable approach. Issues like compliance, data storage and system access are highly significant in this regard. There is also the matter of trust: many companies worry that employees will work less at home. It’s a new way of working that needs to be learnt.
“The benefits of mobile working were abstract before but are now plain to see”.
As a global company, mobile working is also very important to our customer Coca-Cola. In the video, the soft drink manufacturer shares its experiences and recommendations for working from home. Maté Varga, Country Manager Business Solutions and Systems Coca-Cola Switzerland, explains how the dynamics among employees and customers have changed and the conditions required for successful working from home.
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