19/04/2012 12:01 BST | Updated 19/06/2012 06:12 BST

Business Continuity - Home Working During the Olympics

Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, is encouraging London's top financial firms to consider allowing their employees to work remotely during the Olympic Games, to alleviate potential transport problems and to ensure that London's businesses continue to function effectively throughout the summer. It means that many businesses are considering how to implement flexible and remote working facilities soon, and are also facing big questions about business continuity.

Many businesses have already embraced the mobile workforce management technologies which allow remote workers to have live access to secure company data, for them to take calls, emails and other enquiries at home, and for manager's to be able to closely monitor and review employee performance when they are out of the office. Plumbing agencies use mobile workforce technologies to keep track of their employees, which job they are on, how long they have been working etc.

If all the technology works as it should, then essential business functions should not be interrupted, but businesses are legitimately concerned about customer service, especially considering a recent report by Natterbox which showed that 6/10 people had ditched a company after receiving poor customer service over the phone. Calls are still the favoured method of communication for UK customers, with 64 per cent of respondents admitting they preferred to communicate with companies by phone. Pre-recorded messages, long waits and rude operators were given as the biggest frustrations for customers. The majority of respondents (39%) said they were prepared to wait up to five minutes for a customer service agent when using a call centre.


Image courtesy of Hi, I'm Kristiano on Flickr

While patching calls to office extensions to home phones or mobile devices shouldn't be a problem, increased waiting times is a concern for many managers who need to keep customers happy. Virtual receptionist services are one possible alternative. Phone answering can be outsourced in this way, and it doesn't have to mean simple note taking and passing on messages - virtual receptionists can take orders, update plans, manage schedules and ensure that business opportunities or sales are not being missed.

Out-of-hours call answering services are also available, so work calls don't have to be routed to a mobile number in the evening and at weekend. Virtual receptionists can process calls themselves or route particular types of call to another phone number. Businesses who want to retain and grow their customer base should ensure that they are providing speedy and responsive customer service whether the Olympics are happening or not.