Why Remote Workers are the Smart Choice for Choice Logistics
This is part of a series of case studies showcasing how companies achieve their business communication objectives with Mitel technology
The move to virtualization enables an agile remote workforce and business continuity
Providing mission critical logistics services for the global market place and helping clients stay one step ahead of the competition requires a dedication to customer care and the use of leading-edge technology. Choice Logistics, a New York City-based global company that stores and delivers critical parts for major technology products, operates on six continents, in 80+ countries, and has over 400+ locations throughout the world. In order to keep operating 24/7/365 and serving customers regardless of location and in the event of natural disasters and power outages, the company deployed technology to enable remote workers. The company has deployed a variety of Mitel solutions, including those that provide communication and collaboration capabilities for desktop and mobile workers, as well as its contact center solution, and has recently virtualized their Mitel unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solutions for the data center and the desktop.
In 2011, Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc on Manhattan and shut down the transit service. It was impossible for employees, including the contact center agents who are essential for providing service to customers around the globe, to get to the office. Despite having a business continuity site in New Jersey with a dedicated room, it was a challenge for Choice’s agents to get to the back-up location. This helped Choice Logistics understand the value of having remote workers and to implement solutions that would enable employees to be able to work remotely.
Since that time, Choice Logistics has used Mitel’s contact center solution to enable some of their top contact center agents to work from home. These at-home agents provide backup in case of an emergency, and can be used to quickly fill in if any agents call in sick or get to work late. All that is required is booting up their computer and logging in.
The biggest benefit of remote agents has been business continuity. According to Fran Iuzzini, Vice President Communications & Facilities at Choice Logistics, “We recently had to vacate the building due to an explosion in the electrical room. We were able to use our home agents, while some people went to our warehouse in Long Island City and used Mitel’s hot desking capabilities to log in. We didn’t miss a call.”
After Hurricane Irene, Choice Logistics deployed a virtualized Mitel solution at its backup data center at SunGard, a business continuity site. The continuity site is an extension of the headquarters site and has the same capabilities, including directory contacts, speed dials, and all of the capabilities on the agents’ phones.
According to Colleen Mantella, Director Global Logistics Center Operations, “As a result of deploying the virtual solution, as devastating as Hurricane Sandy was, the following year, Choice was able to support the business with minimal impact to our clients.”
With the virtualized Mitel system at its headquarters, plus a virtualized Mitel system housed at SunGard, Choice Logistics is confident that their phone system will never go down. Iuzzini explained, “Three times a year the building performs electrical maintenance and shuts power to the building. In the past, we had to bring people to SunGard, but now we just tell people to work from home. If we ever have to vacate the building, and operate at SunGard, our employees can log into the Mitel phones at just like they’re logging in at their desks.”
Attract and Retain the Best
Since the company began using remote workers in 2011, a side benefit has been the ability to retain quality staff. Iuzzini noted that there were several occasions where experienced agents needed to relocate due to personal reasons. Rather than lose those agents, the company enabled them to work remotely, saving the company time, money and retaining essential skills and expertise. According to Iuzzini, “We don't have to hire a new employee and spend 2-3 weeks of training. Instead, we can retain these experienced agents that already know the business, which reduces our stress and overhead.”
Another benefit is that people are more likely to be willing to work off-shift hours if they can work from home rather than having to commute into the office late at night or early in the morning. In addition, the use of remote workers has helped reduce overtime costs. Iuzzini explained, “If someone lets you know at 03:00 that they won’t make it for their 05:00 shift, that gives you only have two hours to find someone who can come in, which is impossible in New York. Instead, agents working at home can log in and get on to the system immediately and fill in.”
The use of remote agents has been so successful that as the company looks to hire new contact center agents, they are looking at people who can work remotely if possible. Iuzzini noted, “Because of the 24/7 nature of our business and the need to answer calls and to keep the business running during hurricanes, train strikes, etc., we are pushing towards growing our remote workforce.”
Choice expanded its remote capabilities to field and managerial staff, and now has a large number of managers, executives, and sales professionals who work remotely in various locations around the globe.
According to Mantella, “Choice has been expanding our remote workforce to the West Coast, which has assisted with our late evening coverage. Having staff located outside of the metropolitan area also mitigates our exposure when an event happens in the local area, such as a blizzard or blackout.”
The company currently uses Microsoft Lync for chat and web/desktop sharing, which integrates with the Mitel phone system using a Mitel gateway. Choice is looking at Mitel’s collaboration solutions, rather than have two separate solutions, and will use Mitel for conferencing and other unified communications and collaboration capabilities.
Making the Right Choice
The use of remote workers is growing rapidly, with 20% of the global workforce currently telecommuting. Since 2012, there has been a 20% increase in telecommuting in the US.
Having remote workers is not for every company, and there are certainly some challenges, such as managing remote employees and ensuring that productivity is high. While some managers are skeptical when it comes to remote workers, as it is hard to monitor what they are doing, they will need to ultimately embrace this growing and inevitable trend. For companies like Choice Logistics, using remote workers is certainly the right choice.
This paper is sponsored by Mitel.
Also on UCStrategies.com in this series: