“We tried remote inspections about 18 months ago, and the client base wasn’t accepting of it. But then the whole world, in the period of several weeks, was forced into a different way of working and an acceptance of this is what we do now.”
Lee Mills, Service Director, Citation Group
A less dramatic, yet ultimately defining, example is our adaptation to lockdown. Aspects of life previously little-touched by the virtual experience suddenly disappeared from the physical realm.
Football matches were cancelled, pubs closed, trips to Barnard Castle were all but abolished.
The area of physical safety and security was forced to adjust. Citation Group, business health and safety experts, took the opportunity to put its video testbed into general operation.
“We like to innovate and stay on top of new trends. We try to be a market disruptor; we fail fast and learn from that, and keep moving forward, says Lee Mills, Service Director for Citation. “The RingCentral functionality allows us to do that quickly and try new things quickly.”
Part of Citation’s service is to conduct routine safety inspections of client premises – an operation that has traditionally been conducted by an agent on-site. The firm also supports clients in attending to unforeseen incidents to help them get operations back up and running as efficiently and safely as possible.
The need for physical distancing was a massive obstacle to conducting these forms of support. But Citation addressed the challenge with the next best thing: video conferencing would be their eyes and ears.
“We tried remote inspections about 18 months ago, and the client base wasn’t accepting of it,” explains Lee. “But then the whole world, in the period of several weeks, was forced into a different way of working and an acceptance of this is what we do now.”
As other sectors switched to video capability to keep operations up and running, Citation saw the opportunity to take its own industry forward, and found customers were much more open to the practice.
As Lee puts it, “We have the will and the way, and now we have a willing client base that understands we can be effective doing that.” It wasn’t a question of experimentation for the sake of it, he explains. “Part of why we do it over video now is for the safety and security of our client base. Given the risks of infection, especially in areas of vulnerability such as care homes, the last thing we wanted to do was risk the wellbeing of our clients or our client service users.”
Safety, of course, is key. Staff on both sides of the arrangement can be protected from potential infection. With a second wave in full flow, it’s likely this will be a necessary precaution for some time. Fortunately, the barrier to adoption of the technology is very low. As Lee again explains, “With RingCentral Video, there’s no executable. It’s embedded onto a device and less intrusive for clients who didn’t like us accessing their devices.”
The benefits also go beyond safety and security. Anyone who uses video conferencing regularly is aware of how quick and easy it is to connect with colleagues or customers instantly over any distance. “It helps us deliver better customer service – now when a client has an accident or urgent need, we can use video to respond immediately,” says Lee. “It’s a big benefit because the consultant can just do the hour of consultancy without the hours of travelling either side.”
The reduction of time spent travelling and its effect on the environment are key factors in attracting future employees to the company. “[Using video] is an advantage for our consultants,” says Lee. “Whereas before, they were on the road five days a week, now they can be at home one day per week doing installs, which helps them build a better work-life balance. It’s better for the environment that, as an organisation, we’re not travelling as many miles as we used to.”
At RingCentral, we’ve long advocated for remote work on the basis of access to a wider talent pool, and Citation is living that experience. “Before adopting RingCentral Video, we were potentially geographically limited in our talent search, because we had to be where our clients are,” explains Lee. “We no longer have that limitation, so the talent pool has widened for us.”
Another advantage is the higher productivity reported by firms that implement remote working in their modes of operation. As Lee explains, “At the onboarding stage where we show clients our Atlas platform and the system we developed for them, we realised: a) we can do that remotely, b) clients really like that because we can share the screen and use functionality around that, and c) it improves our productivity by 25-30%.”
Given the all-round benefits of building its service around the use of video calls, Citation is unlikely to go back to ‘business as usual’. Having demonstrated a better alternative, the company is ready to lead the industry by example.
“As work opens back up, we’ll blend the service going forward,” says Lee. “We don’t want to lose the cadence we’ve got already. One of our principal challenges is having the acceptance of any new initiatives we bring to the fore, and we don’t want to lose that. Our clients also don’t want to lose the cadence; their feedback around the technology and how we’ve implemented it has been exceptional.”
As many forward-thinking businesses have found, Citation’s initial investment has paid dividends in terms of business continuity along with unforeseen benefits.
“The investment we’ve made in technology, and in our culture and people, has really borne fruit, says Becky Weeks, CIO at Citation and CTO across the wider Citation group. “Clients are now more willing to take more digitised solutions and that can only work well for us.”
Beyond the technology, the success of the investment is in its implementation. Treating employees as customers of the business allowed Citation to demonstrate genuine investment in its workforce, which resulted in high levels of staff engagement and uptake of the new system. As Becky explains, “Culture is a really important aspect of our business. Our culture helps us stand out from the competition, and RingCentral is a good cultural fit for our organisation.”
Listen to representatives talking about their experience with video conferencing in this short interview:
Originally published Dec 16, 2020, updated Jan 16, 2023