What CompuVision Has Learned During COVID-19

Lessons and advice from our first pandemic

Like most Canadian businesses, in March CompuVision was faced with its first pandemic. As we continue to explore these uncharted waters, we wanted to share with our community some of the strategies we have tried. Some have worked and some haven’t, but they have all shaped our understanding about what our post-COVID-19 reality might look like.

Our Situation 

Not all businesses look like ours, and every business will have its own unique set of challenges. CompuVision has more than 200 employees working in Canada and the United States. During the pandemic, we have provided essential technology services to help customers leverage their technology while working from home. Our president, David Bridges, had a sense early on that COVID-19 would affect our operations, so we set up a pandemic response team at the beginning of March. We were probably two or three weeks ahead of others in terms of planning. Our employees were working from home before our clients were. When it was announced in Alberta, where we are headquartered, that public schools would close indefinitely on Sunday, March 15, we had our first call that night to help with a work-from-home-transition. We were able to move 5,000 of our 10,000 users to work from home in the first week of the pandemic. 

30% of clients needed a work-from-home project completed immediately, as they didn’t have infrastructure or support to work from home effectively.

86% increase in support calls in March 2020 compared to March 2019.

13,470 service tickets were managed in the first month of the pandemic, compared to an average of 5,000 in a non-pandemic month. 

What Went Well

Initial Approach

1. All hands-on-deck: As soon as it was clear that the pandemic was going to affect us in a major way, everyone at CompuVision stepped up to help. All staff were taking calls and tickets. No one complained that it wasn’t their job. Everyone rallied around the cause to provide the support we needed for our customers. Serendipitously, a few weeks before the pandemic hit Canada we had rolled out Kindness Training for our staff to help them deal with high-stress calls. This was a bit of luck, because since then we’ve had the highest call volume in the history of our company and our staff were prepared for it.

2. Introduced new digital strategies: We formally rolled out an Automated Ticket Counter that we had been beta testing. This technology digitized the way we distribute and respond to service tickets. This really helped us when calls were incredibly high those first two weeks. 

3. Created a self-help portal: When we started talking to technicians, a lot of the issues people had at home were simple things to fix, they just needed some guidance. We created a self-help Resources Portal with articles for quick fixes like setting up webcams and setting up a printer. On the first day of launching the portal, 9,864 people visited the page. We’re now averaging 20,000 people per week. We responded to a need, and now that it has been successful we are continuing to add articles to it. 

Overall Strategy

1. Led with empathy: We want to take care of our people as we have been isolated for a long period of time, and we recognize that not everyone has an ideal work from home situation: some people are trying to teach their children and simultaneously work, some people do not have a dedicated office space. It is important to focus on fostering human connection in isolation. Sometimes constant video chats just does not cut it. We continue to focus on our team’s safety, morale, mental health, and wellness. We’re checking in with people more often than ever before by using a method called “7 Ways, 7 Times.” We communicate seven different ways including email, Sharepoint, Microsoft Teams, newsletters, and virtual team meetings. We want to provide transparency and make sure everyone feels informed.

2. Prepared for the worst, hoped for the best: When we heard about the pandemic, we didn’t want to wait and see. We spent time modelling different scenarios including worst case scenarios: losing customers, generating no revenue, and layoffs. This helped to assist us with and informed decision-making process.

3. Asked for input from our team: Our team had amazing ideas as we moved through different stages of the pandemic. We rallied our leadership team on all levels and created a crisis management team. We ran this like it was its own project, and this worked really well. Even though it’s a very busy time, it has been worth it to focus on pandemic response strategies. 

4. Communicated early and often: In all of our communication, whether with our employees or customer, we lead with facts and transparency—even when it’s negative news. But frequent communication became really important, and now we provided at least weekly updates. 

5. Kept it simple: People in general have a hard time keeping things organized in the best of times, so clear communication to help shape the perspective and gain alignment was really important.

6. Prepared for the emotional dip: As the pandemic lingered on and frustrations grew, we had to ramp up communications, and make sure we had the proper resources in place, like benefits and mental health supports, to help our employees carry on in this kind of setup. 

What Was Tricky

1. Managing clients and internal leads at the same time: There were a lot of competing priorities.

2. Addressing complicated work from home needs: Some employees had less than ideal setups like slow WiFi, no dedicated office space. This is something we had to help with, and will have to address in the new hire processes going forward: what are people’s needs in order to work from home?

3. Managing the transition across two countries with different measures in provinces and states. 

4. Trying to keep a routine or balance between managing pandemic-related issues. During the first week some employees logged 100 hours and that is not sustainable. We had to recalibrate and focus on making sure everyone was prioritizing nutrition, sleep, and community so everyone could find a rhythm and not feel that they had to be always “on.”

What Would We Do Differently Next Time? 

1. Communicate more effectively externally at the beginning, instead of just internally. It’s become clear that we need to share more information about our decision-making process. One of our construction clients was confused about why we were taking precautions so early. We should have communicated the “why” better.

2. Develop a crisis response playbook or manual for each department. While we have contingencies for software and hardware issues, we need contingencies for non-digital items like our people.

Preparing for a New Normal 

1. The digitization of products and services will survive and thrive moving forward. There will be a need to scale down touchpoints and move to automated or voice-activated controls.

2. Communication with external and internal communities will continue to be key. Our people should not feel surprised when they come back to work. It will not be business as usual and everyone needs to know what to expect.

3. As there is a transition back into physical workspaces, it will be important to evaluate touchpoints, have thorough cleaning, and inspect electrical, mechanical, etc. to ensure continued safety. 

4. At CompuVision, we have taken a staged and phased approach to our return to work plan in order to assist with physical distancing. Many of our teammates continue to work from home. In our offices we have implemented one-way traffic, sanitation stations, and have closed communal areas. The health and safety of employees and clients should be top of mind for everyone, and day-to-day routines may need to change as the situation evolves. Flexibility is key.

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