How Can the Channel Help Customers Get Back to Work Safely?How Can the Channel Help Customers Get Back to Work Safely?
Is there an opportunity for partners to expand their portfolios and increase their revenues?
September 30, 2020
Last week the British government announced that anyone who could work from home should. It was part of preventive measures in the face of a predicted second wave of the coronavirus. This is despite a few weeks previously encouraging employees to go back to work to help bolster the economy.
Nevertheless, partners are still trying to get their customers back to the office or physical premises safely and securely. This is because for some organisations, having employees work from home just isn’t a practical option.
Stan Lequin, SVP and GM, digital innovation at Insight, contends working from home isn’t a one-size-fits all solution.
Insight’s Stan Lequin
“There are myriad reasons for many teammates to return to work in a physical location,” he said. “But every company’s priority should be to do so as safely as possible. Safely bringing teammates back to work means making smart decisions that reflect government and official health guidelines.”
Safety won’t just depend on smart decisions — smart building technologies are likely to play a bigger role in the future. Lequin said Insight already is working with customers to safely bring workforces back into the office.
“We can use smart cameras with two lenses to check both temperature and detect people moving within six feet of each other and whether they are wearing a mask. RFID-enabled employee badges can also be used to monitor social distancing or link up to smart hand sanitizers. This is especially useful in hospital or health care settings. There are myriad technologies and solutions available to employers,” he said.
“We are rolling some of them out and bringing that knowledge and experience to the work we are doing with clients.”
This move to smart building technology is confirmed by IDC’s COVID-19 research. The analyst found 27% of European firms plan to invest in touchless fixtures. These include door sensors, automatic sinks/soap dispensers and voice-activated elevators. These seek to eliminate frequent touchpoints within the building which could be hot spots for spreading germs.
Firms that monitor the movement of their staff can focus activities such as cleaning in areas with the highest congregation. This allows firms to prioritize virus mitigation activities in areas of highest risk, said Matthew Wilkins, senior research manager, European services at IDC.
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IDC’s Matthew Wilkins
“Firms which have already implemented such technologies on their premises will have an advantage in understanding areas for prioritization. Firms which have not deployed such solutions represent opportunity for partners with buildings management solutions,” he said.
However, businesses aren’t solely concentrating their efforts on smart building technology. IDC found that 30% of European firms plan to invest in temperature sensing and other health monitoring technologies.
“We have seen offerings from vendors such as heat detection cameras that measure the temperature of staff as they enter a building,” said Wilkins. “[They are] capable of immediately raising an alert when an individual has a high temperature — a leading indicator of COVID-19. While this financial investment could have a limited window, some offerings … include a normal camera allowing continued operation beyond the pandemic.”
Insight’s Lequin believes COVID-19 might push companies to act now, but the ROI can be ongoing with the right solutions.
“An access control camera panel can be deployed with thermal screening but still be useful post-COVID-19 for building access. Like Apple’s FaceID, but for buildings. In a restaurant, your initial objective might be to ensure employees and guests are fever-free. But over time it can still be used as …
… a convenient and effective way to let people into places.”
New Revenue Streams
Partners need to weigh up their current level of investment when it comes to new technologies. However, distribution is lending them a hand.
e92plus has created a new division, e92worksafe, to help launch the OneScreen GoSafe. It’s a safe access control system that incorporates body temperature and facial recognition scanning. The firm claims it goes beyond basic solutions by incorporating AI and free, unlimited help and training from live agents.
e92plus’ Neil Langridge
“Our experience in working with tech companies meant we were able to identify some new product launches and startups. This seemed a great opportunity,” said Neil Langridge, e92plus’ marketing director. “It addresses one of the most fundamental challenges for many businesses. How can we open our premises safely and securely, and give reassurance to our customers and staff?”
Elsewhere, Tech Data is helping partners build their expertise around technologies like cloud, IoT, analytics, AI, collaboration and cybersecurity. It has accelerated its development in its Practice Builder programme to help partners gain the technological and market expertise they need.
Heather Haworth is European programme manager for Practice Builder at Tech Data.
Tech Data’s Heather Haworth
“The hope is to help partners that have relevant technology and expertise,” she said. “But not necessarily the market knowledge and access, to provide customers with the technology they need to stay safe, connected and productive.”
Partners may still be wary of expand their product portfolio at this time. Langridge acknowledges that partners are postponing projects or scaling them back. However, “GoSafe gives partners the opportunity to keep building their relationship with the customers. It helps add value to them and provide an alternative revenue and margin source.”
So, is the opportunity to add a potentially profitable new revenue stream one that partners should take?
“Launching products or services during the pandemic which directly address key areas of demand is recommended, but must be done in a sensitive and careful manner.” That’s according to Wilkins, who warned that “charging a premium runs the risk of being seen as exploitative. [That’s] something that could damage the reputation of the partner, not just in the short term, but in the medium term.”
One channel firm that has diversified its offerings is London-based Transputec. It has developed Thermavis, a multiperson thermal scanner which can read the temperature of up to six people at once. VP of sales Rishi Sehgal says the firm expects new revenue streams in retail, construction, health care and transport.
“This technology provides customers and workers with the peace of mind that the environment they are operating in is COVID-19-secure. [This], while remaining discreet enough to not disrupt everyday operations. This puts the health of consumers first, whilst simultaneously ensuring that businesses can confidently proceed with everyday operations,” he said.
A People Business
Partners have an opportunity – if handled correctly – to help cement their relationships with customers during an anxious time. For this, they should rely on their abilities to understand not just technology, but people and processes.
“Any integration of smart solutions should be widely communicated and needs to be worked into HR and compliance regulations to protect people’s privacy,” said Lequin. “Are screening procedures discreet enough so that if someone does show signs of a fever, they can be pulled aside without undue attention for further testing or rescreening?”
In addition, he says some IoT devices like thermal cameras can seem scary or intrusive; therefore, making it approachable is important.
“We are using things like a ‘panda cam’ that are less daunting, especially for schools, doctor offices and theme parks. Communication and transparency with customers and workers are key, so they understand that measures are to prevent the spread of viruses,” said Lequin.
There may be an opportunity to help ensure your customers get back to work safely, while generating new business. But moreover, customers are more likely to remember those partners that go the extra mile to help now, long after the crisis passes.
“Now, more than ever before, the channel’s role as a trusted adviser to their customers is critical,” said Haworth. “Reputations will be forged by how you support your customers through this crisis.”
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