Three Trends That Will Shape The Way We Sell Services In A Post-Pandemic Economy
You could say that the last few months have been a test laboratory for transformation. Our investments in smart technologies and network capacity have paid off as public and private enterprises asked us to help keep their employees connected. And many of those same people have also turned to us to stay personally connected once their workdays came to an end.
Now as the U.S. begins the delicate process of returning workers to their offices, shoppers into the marketplace, and students to their classrooms, we need to ask ourselves how changing customer expectations may impact the way we position the value of the solutions we sell.
In some ways, CenturyLink has a head start. We have spent the last few years experiencing our own transformation as we shifted our focus from selling products to ensuring customer experiences. We have adopted a vision built around simplification, automation, analytics, and self-service. Based upon their feedback, many of our customers appreciate how much of that vision we managed to deploy in real time during the pandemic crisis.
Of course, success does have one drawback: it leaves you with no place to hide. Some of the things we did during the crisis might not be sustainable in normal times. At the same time, we also saw the rise in a number of trends that we think will change the way everyone will sell, deliver, and support solutions.
The Rise of Trust: Internal processes and bureaucracy do not appear overnight. They usually grow over time to reflect a company’s natural instinct to insulate itself from human error, especially when it sells complex, digital solutions. Processes bring value when they balance the needs of both the vendor and the customer, but they become counterproductive when paperwork replaces what should be trusting, internal relationships between operations, finance, and sales. The pandemic allowed CenturyLink to put that trust to the test, and so far, the results have been good. Internal trust allowed us to cut through standard processes and deliver in a few days (and in some cases, only hours) network upgrades that normally took weeks. As enterprises continue to demand speed and agility from its network providers, we need to adjust our processes, so they are designed with customers in mind.
The Rise of the Home Office: During the crisis, we saw consumer broadband sales grow 25% as thousands of employees in the United States shifted their center of work to their home offices. We have remained productive during this period, even with 75% of our own employees working remotely, and there are growing indications that other enterprises generally experienced similar levels of productivity. All of this activity put pressure on the thinnest parts of our network as we moved away from metro-based, commercial internet infrastructure and pivoted to ensure our fiber-based home networks could support this new capacity. It did, establishing an entirely new view of what we consider “last mile” connections to business locations. If remote working becomes the new norm, then we may find ourselves redefining what “business” provisioning really means and where it will take place.
The Rise of Managed Services: The pandemic has forced corporations to have serious discussions about what is truly “essential” and how it can forge stronger partnerships with carriers who can provide the managed services that they need. They are taking a closer look at their vendor lists and support services to identify where outsourcing truly makes sense. In certain cases, we have even hired furloughed employees to provide services back to their former employer. Our ability to manage infrastructure, provide security and help ensure connectivity will become more attractive as businesses establish new priorities in a post-pandemic world.
Technology is playing a heroic role during the crisis, but so are human beings. Even in times of stress, I’m seeing so many acts of kindness and empathy that it reminds me of the old Aesop fable about the Lion and the Mouse. A lion catches a small mouse but chooses to let it go free as an act of kindness. Later the same mouse returns the favor, when he frees the lion by chewing through a net that traps him. Aesop concludes, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” The pandemic showed the business sense behind that ancient moral, a win-win approach that I expect will remain sustainable into the future.
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