Great Places Housing, one of England’s largest housing associations, has made a seamless leap to cloud-based mobile comms to solve a crisis during Covid and in so doing been fast-tracked to a smarter long-term solution.
Working closely with mobile telecom specialists RingCentral, who featured at Manchester Tech Week, Great Places is now using a full-service cloud communications platform with confidence and looking to the future.
A profit-for-purpose housing association, Great Places Housing Group provides more than 20,000 high-quality, affordable homes to residents across the North West and Yorkshire.
The organisation’s 600-strong team provides home rentals and tenancy services, as well as assisted-living care to promote independence and wellbeing, for some of society’s most vulnerable people.
So, when the COVID lockdowns forced Great Places to close its offices and transition its entire staff to work from home, all of the association’s important work—and the lifeline they offer to customers—was put at risk. The organisation needed a mobile solution for business communications, and they needed it right away.
Spinning up a mobile telecom solution immediately
Prior to RingCentral, Great Places’ telecom infrastructure consisted of an on-premises phone system, with physical phones on every desk, and a separate contact centre management system. The two solutions worked relatively well together, but they did not provide mobility. Employees had to be in the office to dial out from their business numbers, and contact centre staff had to be at their desks to receive customer service calls.
Stuart Shepherd, Head of IT Operations at Great Places, explains that the company was actually prepared for most disaster recovery scenarios. If something went wrong in the Manchester headquarters, the contact centre team would transition to the company’s secondary location in Oldham.
"Unfortunately, with Covid, we didn’t have the option of relocating everyone to our disaster-recovery site,” he says. “We had to send all employees home, and that meant we needed a mobile solution for our general telecom needs and our contact centre.”
“The proactiveness and speed of the RingCentral team was a breath of fresh air. Within four days of me calling the company, we had a mobile telecom solution up and running, supporting all of our contact centre staff at home.”
A smooth, painless implementation and onboarding
The implementation process was quick and relatively seamless. “We had video training sessions for our contact centre staff and made those video recordings available to them afterwards and that was about it,” he recalls.
To make the transition to RingCentral, all the Great Places contact centre staff had to do was download the RingCentral app on their mobile phones and the softphone app on their laptops. Then they could log in, join the appropriate call queues, and start taking customer calls.
And because this migration to an entirely different communications platform had the potential to be so disruptive – particularly with everyone working from home – Stuart was relieved that RingCentral offered 24-hour support. “It gave great peace of mind.”
James McGough, Managing Director of Imago Techmedia, the organisers of Manchester Tech Week, said RingCentral had demonstrated pace and efficiency in a crisis and changed the future direction of telecoms for Great Places.
He said: “With more businesses under pressure to mobilise cloud-based communications platforms faster than ever before, speed is often vital to success.
“Covid added to the challenge and much like Great Places, many organisations found themselves in immediate need of cloud-based telephony systems activated remotely. In these moments, it is simply a case of ‘now or never’ and the value of agile response and best-in-class support from providers like RingCentral is clear.”
Stuart Shepherd agreed: “This was a significant and sudden shift in how we operated, from working in the office to being at home, yet the transition had only a minimal impact on our business operations.”
Discovering operational benefits of cloud communications
Stuart and his team have found many reasons to feel vindicated about switching to RIngCentral’s cloud communications platform.
The contact centre managers use RingCentral’s wallboard feature to display the call-reporting dashboard on their screens, so they can see which people are online, how quickly they’re answering calls, and other stats. This is helpful not just for operational reasons but also to make sure Great Places is meeting its service level agreements for government contracts, particularly those with local councils.
Great Places is also seeing a downward trend in its telecom capital costs. Stuart again: “We’ve had a big drop-off in users contacting us about phones and handsets that need to be fixed or replaced. Everyone is using a laptop and mobile phone, so there’s less hardware to worry about buying and repairing.”
What makes the Great Places team truly grateful for their new cloud communications solution is how well it enabled them to continue serving their customers at the time they needed the organisation most.
As Stuart explains: “Our customers often view us as an emergency service. Sometimes when they’re not sure where to go for help, even for something unrelated to housing, they call us. Moving to RingCentral helped us help some of the most vulnerable members of our communities during a very difficult time.”