Novus Blog

comfort zone tablet working


Novus Non-executive director John Palfreyman muses on the question of organisational change amongst the backdrop of Covid-19. This piece was originally prepared for the Beaumont Bailey ‘workforce efficiency’ webinar in April. A few weeks into this terrible global pandemic, I’m working at home in the locked down UK and I receive the message shown below via LinkedIn. Humour is always good in challenging times, but this got me thinking about what’s actually changed? What’s not changed?  And how can we all change to be more efficient after the lockdown ends? Mobility and Efficiency ’Because we have always done things this way’.  How many times have we heard this reason for not trying new ways of working?  This most common ‘excuse’ for resisting change has certainly been broken by the current crisis.  But will this change be sustainable after the crisis? Or will we revert back to our old ways of working? At the start of the crisis when everyone rushed to work from home, many were worried about the technology infrastructure.   In practice, organisations I’ve worked with find current infrastructures coped very well with remote operations.  This was not too much of a surprise for me - at IBM I often told people I was based in LHR departure lounge!  And my productivity did not suffer. We all worried about video meetings - can we do them? Can we be productive when we are not physically together? In practice, we’ve found that these meetings - if well-structured and facilitated - work (albeit very different) and can be more productive - proving that sharing and collaboration can happen at a distance.  Now we’ve crossed this cultural divide of remote, efficient operations will we (a) maintain this way of working once the crisis is over?  Or (b) resort back to normal operations? Digital Culture kick The key to this is organisational culture. Over 30 years ago, Prof. Carol Dweck became interested in students' attitudes to failure, noticing that some rebounded while others seemed devastated by setbacks. She and her team coined the terms "fixed mindset" and "growth mindset" to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. This gets even more interesting when extended to business. In her work on Organisational Mindsets, Prof. Dweck observes “it's possible to weave a fixed or growth mind-set into the very fabric of an organisation to create a culture of genius or a culture of development” In his 2018 HBR article "Successful organization change begins with mindset" Reed Deshler observes that “Transformational change starts in the mind. One of the most critical roles leaders play in any change management situation is to build a success mindset throughout the organization.”  Reed explains that this can be really challenging because “change involves taking people out of their comfort zones - the things they are good at - pushing them to do things differently. Comfort Zones Comfort Zones can explain the reaction of an individual to organisational change. Things feel familiar when we are in our comfort zone. We are at ease and feel in control of our environment. When we are asked to do things differently, perhaps by downloading and using an app to record our time each day rather than filling in a paper timesheet each week this can change, moving us outside our comfort zone. This can push us into the fear zone, where we are tempted to make excuses and feel self-conscious - thinking that others can already do this, hence undermining self confidence.  There are two ways to go from here.  Either back to filling in the paper timesheet and complaining about the new app (the comfort zone) or adopting a growth mindset and moving into the learning zone. Covid-19 REMOVED the comfort zone for everyone, at once giving us an unprecedented cultural kick. The key to answering to my initial question: “Now we’ve crossed this cultural divide of remote, efficient operations will we (a) maintain this way of working once the crisis is over?  Or (b) resort back to normal operations?” is to completely understand organisational culture and be proactive in maintaining the ‘shock’ changes that enabled efficient remote working under Covid-19 conditions.  Cultural insight is the first step in this endeavour. Insight through information In their book "Building Digital Culture", Daniel Rowles and Thomas Brown introduce the following framework: This framework can be to assess organisational readiness for digital transformation, and also to fill the gaps needed to make the transformation a success. Gathering information leading to insight into the organisation’s culture and its readiness for ‘being digital’ can give us useful pointers as to how to ensure that the organisation does not resort back to ‘the old ways” after the crisis. Through this approach smart organisations will be able to maintain the efficiency and productivity improvements offered by selective remote, flexible and on-site collaboration in a post-crisis world. Join the conversation We always encourage you to share your own thoughts on any of the articles we share. If you would like to do so, please use the comment section on our LinkedIn or Facebook page.
customer service


The covid-19 pandemic has forced businesses to change the way in which they operate, particularly where customer service and engagement is concerned. Here, we look at how things have changed in the short term and how they are forming the foundation of customer service going forward. 1. Remote customer service The first change probably comes as no surprise. Since most offices were closed in March, the vast majority of non-customer facing staff are remote working. As their roles do not require a face-to-face interaction, customer service agents that predominantly work in call centres or resolve customer issues digitally have made a seamless movement away from the office environment. The successful implementation of remote working in this particular area of customer service comes as little surprise, as there are many flexible, off-the-shelf technologies required to facilitate operations. Additionally, it is hard to imagine that the change to staff working from home have had any impact on the standard of customer service levels generally – would customers even notice the difference? This does raise the question as to whether the bricks and mortar contact centres of the past will even return after the covid-19 pandemic is over. We recently discussed the idea of remote working becoming the ‘new normal’ in our blog. 2. Chat bots and artificial intelligence Many industries have been severely disrupted by covid-19, but the contact centres are being transformed by it. Even before the lockdown, the introduction of new technology such as chatbots, that are based on artificial intelligence, was well underway. Chatbots and other automated functions are automating tasks done by humans in the contact centre. Predictably, the lockdown in the UK saw a dramatic increase in online shopping, and since more people are preferring to use a live chat facility to resolve questions or issues, more organisations may opt for a chatbot facility. A chatbot is a useful tool as an initial touch point for the customer; helping to screen questions where the answer is pre-programmable, simple to retrieve, and does not require a human intelligence. As such, software like this can provide an effective means of managing the high volumes of inbound enquiries. Whilst it is likely to be quite some time before artificial intelligence could become sophisticated enough to replace a human customer service operative, there is a general certainty that owing to the customer’s desire for convenience, this technology will continue to improve and is unquestionably here to stay. 3. Covid safety measures as a customer service standard Will the standard of covid-security in retail and hospitality actually become a factor in the decision making of customers? For example, will a pub with more safety measures in place be more popular than one with a less strict view on being covid-secure? Will a hotel with a certificated cleaning regime provide greater confidence to the consumer to book a stay? Of course, we can only speculate at the answer to this question and there is a balancing act to be addressed between operating safely and delivering a pre-lockdown, ‘normal’ customer experience; after all many of us are opposed to change in any form. The businesses that get this balancing act right, might well benefit with greater bookings and customers. Because of the nature of the work that Novus undertake, we believe that safe working practices go hand-in-hand with customer service standards. Our clients and their customers rely on us to work safely and respectfully whilst in their homes and that’s why we’ve committed to the following procedures: Safe Distancing Where possible, operatives will maintain a social distance between themselves and others. Travel Where possible, operatives will travel to your home alone or in groups of two using their own transport or works vehicle. Hygiene Our operatives will regularly use anti-bacterial gel when working or changing tasks and clean down any surfaces they come into contact with. Tools Each operative will work with assigned tools, which (where possible) are not to be shared. If they do need to be shared, it is with one other operative only. Communication Before any work starts at your home, we will discuss with you how we will carry out the work and the measures we have in place to keep you and us safe. 4. Changing client relationships With any business, building and maintaining strong relationships plays a critical role in acquiring and retaining customers. In a socially distanced society, this can prove to be a challenge; you cannot currently visit their office in person or have a conversation over coffee, to discuss opportunities and challenges. This is where more frequent and honest communication, encouragement of a more collaborative approach with the client, can help mitigate the lack of face-to-face contact. At present, the common ground between suppliers, clients, and customers is the uncertainty surrounding the covid-19 situation. Sharing knowledge and working together to form best practice in light of the uncertainty, might help form a bond of trust that will pay dividends when the pandemic is over. 5. Feedback and learning In times of uncertainty, ascertaining what clients/customers expect from your business is vital to the its future success and a great way to form a ‘new normal’. Increasingly, businesses are relying on customer feedback to 1. Tailor service offerings to better align with their needs, and 2. Steal a march on competitors who don’t listen to customer feedback. The premise is simple, the better you understand your customer/potential customer, the better your customer service will be. The covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly influenced customers and clients in the way they live their lives. By extension, their product/service expectations may also have shifted in a short space of time. Everything from their physical needs, to the way that they consume marketing information (driven to become more digital), to their purchase motivating factors. Therefore, the value of customer insight has never been greater, and we can be sure to expect businesses to attempt to get even closer to clients and customers from this point onwards. Additionally, in the spirit of “never wasting a good crisis” the current situation may be the perfect opportunity to instigate change for the better. We are operating in a climate where people and businesses are more open to change than perhaps ever before, just look at the adoption of mass home working in such a short amount of time as a case in point. Join the conversation If you would like to give your opinion on any of the points raised in this article or want to contribute anything further, please do so in the comments section on our social media update for this piece on Facebook and LinkedIn. Thanks for reading and stay safe.
hotel reception desk


Restricted occupancy, constant cleaning, and contactless everything; the covid-secure measures being implemented across the hospitality sector. Hotels perhaps face the biggest challenge to operate safely and maintain the high standards of customer experience paying customers expect. Restricted movement and occupancy Like all reopening establishments, there is a huge effort being undertaken to minimise touch points and maintain social distances. One-way systems are therefore likely to become a feature of hotels, in an attempt to reduce the number of close contacts. In the same vein, occupancy itself might be lower at least in the first few months. Fewer people in the building, means fewer customer-to-customer interactions. Additionally, a reduced capacity in the short term will help hotel staff with an initial period of adjustment. A new way of working normally brings with it new and unforeseen challenges. Furthermore, restricting access to portions of the hotel, ensures that refurbishments and covid-secure adaptations can take place before the hotel opens, or while the hotel is still operating. For those guests and staff within the hotel, the social distancing rules will apply. The guidance on social distancing actually differ from country-to-country; as we all know, this is currently 2 metres in the UK but in France for instance only 1 metre is required. Furthermore, at present there is considerable pressure from the UK hospitality sector to reduce the distance to 1 metre and a review is currently (time of writing) underway.  * Checking in From the moment you arrive at the hotel you will immediately notice covid-secure measures in action. At very least, the receptionists will be safely behind clear plastic screens and cash-less payments will be expected. Some hotels however may choose to roll out contactless check-in, instead relying on technology. The uptake of virtual key systems, such as the examples used by the Hilton Hotel group and Marriott hotels for some time, could feature more in most big hotel chains. In fact, Marriott’s Bonvoy phone app allows guests to access the hotel's services without needing to touch any surfaces or interact with hotel staff. The app can function as a room key, a check-in tool, a device to order food items, and even allows the guest to order extra towels to their room. One hotel director described the ideal planning app “to generate a welcome the moment you arrive at the hotel, to create a virtual key, for the lift to take you to the right floor without having to touch a button.” Room service and dining Room service deliveries will be made by hotel workers in masks and gloves and only during specific hours, again the assist in movement planning. This will be a similar story in the dining room where the waiting staff will follow suit. Many hotels are installing screens between tables in their dining rooms. Again, technology might assist here with greater adoption of remote food and drinks ordering through a mobile app (such as the Wetherspoons pub example) or tablet supplied at the table. This would go some way to limiting the number of interactions between customers and staff. And, it almost goes without saying that buffet-style dining options will probably not be making a reappearance any time soon. Cleaning Whilst both the amount of and frequency of cleaning regimes is clearly going to increase throughout the hotel at large, there is a consensus that individual room cleaning will reduce to minimise risk of spreading the virus. I.e. cleaning would not be done on daily basis unless specifically requested by the customer. The configuration of rooms might also change, so that they are quicker and easier to clean – more continuous or non-porous surfaces. Anti-microbial paints and coatings could be utilised to refurbish rooms, before guests are welcomed back into the hotel. As such, coffee makers and similar potential touch points might disappear from hotel rooms and any welcome package could soon contain your own supply of hand sanitiser, gloves, a face mask and a copy of the hotel covid rulebook. Novus are ready to help As always, Novus are ready to help you plan and refurbish to become covid-secure. We are a respected name within the hospitality sector and trusted by some of the biggest names in the business. Just a selection of the huge range of hotel refurbishment projects we have undertaken are available to view on “our work” page. Contact us today to see how we help >> *Update: Since the time of writing the 2 metre social distance rule has been reduced to 1 metre+
clothes at a store


The announcements made by Boris Johnson at the end of May were perhaps the most far reaching to date. Amongst them, the news that those retailers deemed ‘non-essential’ could reopen their doors on 15th June 2020. No doubt welcome news to business owners but what measures will they be implementing to keep their staff and customers safe from Covid-19? Readjusting the wheel, not reinventing it Although these non-essential stores are reopening their doors on 15th June, supermarkets and DIY retailers have been open throughout the lockdown period. As such retail owners aren’t really starting from a blank canvas when considering what measures to put in place. After an initial deep clean to make the space suitable for human occupation, common adaptations that have so quickly become part of our everyday lives: the 2 metre distance* markings on the floor, the clear plastic screens at the checkouts, the one-way systems around the store, sanitisation stations, and more frequent cleaning regimes etc. will readily transfer into almost any retail environment.  Careful planning into the reconfiguration of their premises to accommodate these systems might however present the first significant challenge. Considering that the majority of retail units in the UK are under 1000 square feet, the supermarket model will need to be miniaturised down from the (typically) 20,000 – 60,000 square foot system. Need help with your retail space adjustments? Give Novus a call or email us >> Controlling occupancy In accordance with social distancing rules at present, where practically possible, each person in the store will always need to be 2 metres* apart. When you factor in merchandise, display units, and only one route around the shop, the available space might become rather tight. Marks & Spencer and Ikea have already said that they will impose restrictions on the numbers of customers entering their stores and we can expect to see very tight controls on the amount of people allowed in the shop at any given time across the board. Perhaps the one-in-one-out policy that we’ve seen from smaller retailers during lockdown, would be adopted at entrances to shops and shopping centres. As everyone else will have to wait their turn outside the store (socially distanced of course), this presents an issue for passing foot traffic. Councils such as Cardiff City are considering extending pavements and removing pavement furniture to help pedestrians stay the 2 metre* distance away from the people queuing to get into shops. It may also be worthy of note that there is increasing pressure to move from the 2 metre* separation to a 1 metre gap, which mirrors the guidance from WHO and the approach adopted by other countries. The calls to adopt this change are currently loudest from the hospitality and leisure sectors, and would almost certainly be welcomed by those retailers struggling for floor space. Clarification on this matter may well be forthcoming from the government before the 15th June. Virutal queuing Could technology provide an answer to the issue of street overcrowding outside stores in the form of virtual queuing? If you’ve ever visited Disney World on a peak day or walked into a restaurant without a reservation on a Saturday evening and been handed a buzzer, you’ve probably already been part of a virtual queue. How does it work? Well, instead of customers waiting in long queues, they would be given their position in a virtual queue and alongside a wait time estimate. Depending on the sophistication of the system, they might be able to track their position in the queue in real-time on a mobile phone app. This way, the customer can run other errands or visit different stores whilst they wait their turn. Supermarket giant Asda has already launched such a system. Customers login to the queue via their mobile phone and wait in their cars to enter stores. Will my temperature be checked? Many businesses that have returned to work following the easing of lockdown measures have mandating temperature checking for their employees (Novus have done this on their construction sites already) Whilst retailers are set to implement the same controls on their workforce, are some even considering testing customers before allowing them to enter their premises? The answer is yes. Two weeks ago (at time of writing), global technology giant Apple became the first major retailer in America to require customers to have their temperature checked before entry and it is reported that other retailers are considering the move. With the 15th June reopening date fast approaching, it remains to be seen whether UK retailers will opt to include this in their own covid-secure safeguards. Click and collect Of course, online shopping and click & collect has been on the rise for some time before the Covid-19 outbreak. And, there is a feeling that this method of shopping might see an increase as consumers might opt for click and collect to reduce their potential exposure to Covid-19. For this method to be a safe and appealing option to the customer, there would need to be a contactless way of collecting their items without having to wait in line. This might therefore see increased usage of facilities such as the Amazon locker either outside the store or with a separate entrance. Don't try before you buy In the interest of getting customers back through the door, there seems likely to be an unavoidable trade-off in customer experience. For the most part, the notion of ‘try before you buy’ is temporarily suspended as clothes shops close their changing rooms and close contact areas such as make-up booths in department stores remain closed. Other retailers are attempting to find ways around the problem. Shoe retailer Kurt Geiger are planning to quarantine all shoes that have been tried-on for a period of 24 hours and similarly, books that have been touched and unpurchased from Waterstones will also undergo quarantine for 72 hours. Novus in retail As a business, we are trusted by some of the biggest names in retail to carry out their in-store works. Novus are well equipped to help your business navigate these uncertain times with our range of Covid-Secure services and adaptations, as well our usual plethora of retail services. Contact us today to see how we can help you >> *Update: Since this article was written, the 2 metre social distancing rule was relaxed to a 1 metre+, which came into effect on 4th July.
Hannah O'Brien
Telephone: 07854 781631


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