If you needed someone to repair your refrigerator or fix a faulty electrical wire in your home, you’d probably consider it an essential service—even in normal times. But these days, while we’re all quarantined at home riding out the COVID-19 pandemic, those types of problems can be even more serious.

That’s where Neighborly comes in. The world’s largest franchisor of home service businesses, Neighborly operates an online platform that connects customers with a wide range of local experts: plumbers, electricians, appliance-repair professionals, air-conditioning specialists, glass-repair experts—you name it.

As more people found themselves under stay-at-home orders in recent weeks, Neighborly saw demand for its 3,900 franchise businesses increasing. But then the company had to transition its own staff—900 employees in dozens of offices—to work from home. How would this company stay operational and accessible to its thousands of franchise owners around the world?

They found their answer in RingCentral.

Conducting a pandemic dry run before COVID-19

When we all get through this, everyone and every business is going to have a coronavirus story. But Neighborly already has a remarkable one. As Preston Williams, the company’s Director of Network and Infrastructure, explains, just weeks before the outbreak he conducted what amounted to a dry run for a natural disaster.

“Being able to open one window on your phone or computer and make a phone call, join a meeting, send a quick team message—that’s really helping our team stay connected and productive.”

Testing how the company’s communications infrastructure would function if its support agents were forced to quickly set up call center operations in a new location, Preston sent a couple agents home to handle calls for a few days. Fortunately, Neighborly had already migrated to RingCentral’s all-in-one communications platform. The dry run showed that support agents could be just as productive working from home as they were in the company’s offices.

“We thought we were just doing a proof of concept,” he says. “Little did we know everybody was about to be working from home for real. But thanks to RingCentral, we proved it could be done—and now we’re really doing it.”

Working many miles away… but still great neighbors

Because RingCentral’s all-in-one cloud solution gave them access to phone service, audio conferencing, video conferencing, team messaging, and other services from any internet device, Neighborly’s employees were able to set up their home-based workstations without any loss of functionality.

Today Neighborly’s Help Desk contact center is fully operational, and support agents are taking calls as normal, handling employee and franchisee issues, even though they’re all working from home. In fact, because they’ve begun using RingCentral’s built-in team messaging app, those support agents are in some ways even more productive today.

“Even though we’re all stuck at home, we’re still able to grow our business.”

And while the employees are physically separated from each other, they’re also finding ways to stay close. “I see our team using RingCentral Meetings a lot for video calls,” Preston explains. “I think that’s a real positive in terms of teamwork, because you can see and communicate a lot more with someone when you’re able to look at each other.”

As Preston explains, agents can send each other real-time chats to make sure they aren’t duplicating tasks or send a question to the entire team if the matter is urgent. “Just being able to open one window on your phone or computer and make a phone call, join a matter, send a quick team message—that’s really helping our team stay connected and productive.”

Still training, onboarding, and growing during the pandemic

What’s also remarkable about Neighborly’s transition to a 100% remote organization is that this adjustment hasn’t stopped the company from onboarding new franchise owners from all over the world.

Neighborly typically flies new franchisees to its Texas headquarters to train and onboard them. Although the virus outbreak has temporarily made that impossible, the company has seamlessly transitioned to conducting these training sessions online, in a webinar format, using RingCentral’s built-in Meetings platform.

“We’re still able to do this training live, both one-on-one with our new franchisees and in a larger classroom format. That means even though we’re all stuck at home, we’re still able to grow our business.”