Ringside: Interview with Claire Harris

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Ringside interview with Claire Harris

We’re expanding the circle. In the Ringside series, we’ve adjusted from talking to our own leaders to approaching our partners for insights into the challenges and solutions of the telecommunications industry. We’re curious to uncover a broader perspective on business communications.

In this episode we introduce Claire Harris, Director of Field Sales at BT Business. Claire has previously worked with Orange and EE, where she formed her reputation for raising standards within the medium, corporate and enterprise business arenas by removing barriers to sale and driving growth for business communication services.

Claire is passionate about building an engaged and collaborative culture, empowering and developing her team to be able to deliver the right solutions, at the right time for our customers. She is also driven by innovative technology that can transform businesses and increase their success.

Claire, what’s your role and what do you love about your job?

As Director of Field Sales for SME at BT Business, I lead a direct team of c140 and an indirect team of c1,000 staff across a network of 34 BT Business Local Business (LB) partners. Field Sales connects over 1M small and medium enterprises to help them to manage and grow their business.

I love the variety that every day brings, as myself and my team adapt to the many differing requirements of our SME customers. The BT Business LB model is a very unusual sales model, that enables our customers to be serviced by SME sized businesses, whilst being supported by one of the countries most trusted brands. The varied combination of leading direct and indirect sales teams on a collaborative journey to mutual success, makes every day an exciting one.

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In what ways has business communications changed over your career?

When I think back to how we communicated 30 years ago, it was mainly by corded telephones and fax machines, and communications tended to be formal and at a much slower pace. Technology advancements have provided new levels of communication that were previously only imaginable and technology has become the most important communication tool as we have evolved from traditional to digital.

It’s estimated that approximately 70 billion WhatsApp messages and 23 billion text messages are sent each day worldwide and around 300 billion emails are sent and received each day.  These figures show the incredible ability we have to communicate with our colleagues and customers instantaneously at any time, anywhere around the world. Our customers’ expectations have changed, with responses and results expected much faster than ever before. 

For our colleagues, connected devices and social media encourage innovation and collaboration and the flexibility they allow also impacts on efficiency, productivity and wellbeing.

Communications are changing at an incredibly fast pace and in business we are continuously adapting to maximise the opportunities and benefits they bring; I still find myself learning new skills every day! The recent situation has demonstrated the importance of remote communication and I’m really proud and fortunate to be a part of the support we can offer to the UK economy.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to a business wishing to improve its communication?

Take the time to use your investment in technology to its fullest capacity by understanding its full capability. This isn’t just about understanding the tools you invest in and how they integrate into your infrastructure, but also about understanding your workforce and your business processes, and how your technology can enable productivity.

Adoption is critical – there’s no point having tools that nobody uses. So find out how your technology can truly support your employees to deliver, and demonstrate how it empowers them towards success.

How do you see the partnership with RingCentral and the product BT Cloud Work fitting into the BT Business proposition going forward?

Our partnership with RingCentral has been in place for five years, and over those years we have seen stronger demand for features such as live reports, team messaging, call analytics, quarterly product updates and plug-and-play integrations from our customers. In 2020, in the midst of COVID-19, partnerships with cloud UCaaS providers like RingCentral have turned out to be a game changer for BT Business and our customers. It would be difficult as a SME to survive the lockdown without proper communication tools, and BT Business brings our core strength of being the UK’s best fixed and mobile provider and our industry leading network capabilities to the partnership. RingCentral brings their cloud UCaaS industry leadership and expertise. I look forward to helping more SMEs navigate this interesting time with partners like RingCentral, who are just as committed to our customers’ success.

As we prepare for the next 300 billion emails, we thank Claire for her insights and wish her success in the uncertain second half of 2020. Look out for more episodes in this series of Ringside, and remember – there’s lots of advice and information to support your business remote working if you need help on anything from infrastructure to self-management.

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Originally published May 29, 2020, updated Jan 16, 2023

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