The situation we find ourselves in today, of managing our businesses through the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 virus, is unprecedented. We at Vodafone Business want to help our customers - from large multi-nationals and critical public services through to small and medium businesses - work through this difficult time.
We’re working around the clock to help people stay safe and connected. I want to thank all Vodafone Business employees for the devotion and resilience they have shown during this difficult time as they juggle a new routine. In particular, I want to recognise our Service Management team who have worked tirelessly to keep services running for our customers, delivering service upgrades and changes in record speed, as our customers move the majority of their employees to working remotely.
As we all adjust to this dramatic change in the way we run our businesses and live our lives, we’re talking to our customers to ask how best we can lend our support. I wanted to share some of the actions we’re taking based on their feedback:
Keeping our people safe
Smart working is an integral part of Vodafone culture and a valuable tool to help maintain business continuity as people reduce their movements.
We stopped international and local travel some weeks back and working from home is mandatory where possible across all our markets.
However, not all of our employees are able to work from home. Today, only those involved in the delivery of business critical services, such as those who work in our data centres, are allowed on our premises. And they are following strict health and safety guidelines on physical distancing and hygiene to ensure their wellbeing.
Continuing to deliver services
As well as our own people, we’re helping more than 3 million employees of our large business customers work from home for the first time. With this we’ve seen an increase in demand for mobile broadband modems and devices to keep business functions running from people’s homes.
As routines have changed, technology such as videoconferencing and cloud and hosting services prove their worth, allowing employees to securely access and share information quickly. With virtual meetings taking place across the globe, using audio and video has become a priority to keep remote workers communicating.
As well as the usual meetings, we also see training, workshops and customer meetings run virtually. We see this in our own business, with an enormous one million minutes of video conferencing taking place across the whole of Vodafone in a single day last week.
This has driven a rise in traffic across our networks and the networks that we help our customers manage. For many customers we are upgrading capacity to support higher demand. And just to reassure you, our networks have plenty of headroom to cope.
We’re also seeing an increased demand from businesses to help them answer queries from consumers. For example, we have helped one organisation move a 2,000 seat customer service centre from being based in one location to remote working for all staff.
We base our business continuity strategy on geo-redundancy, using all the tools wherever possible to make work a thing that we do, not a place we go.
Our technology teams are focused on ensuring we have sufficient capacity, working round the clock to make sure our networks are resilient and can absorb these new usage patterns. We’ve invested billions improving our networks around the world over the last five years, and in recent weeks we’ve been adding capacity and minimising congestion to ensure we can meet growing demand.
We’ve set up dedicated teams to support our business customers big and small, to quickly provide additional services they need to keep their business running during this challenging time. We have tech teams ready to provide additional fixed and mobile network capacity quickly to critical organisations when required.
Alongside this, we’re working closely with governments across our markets to help minimise disruption to society. In the UK, for example, we will now prioritise critical national infrastructure, including blue light emergency services, with immediate effect.
We also welcome governments’ various actions to address the financial challenges, but we too worry about the problems that many are facing, especially micro and small enterprises. That’s why we’ll make sure that all new orders issued to our micro and small suppliers across Europe will be paid in 15 days, instead of the usual 30 to 60.
We are working hard both internally and with our supply chain to deliver in-flight customer orders, including those with the national incumbent Openreach in the UK, who have halted new connections for all but essential services. However, as we prioritise critical national infrastructure and blue light services, this may mean delays to other orders.
Globally, we are in regular contact with our suppliers to have clear visibility of any potential impact on our supply chain. The status is broadly positive, with strong confidence across network, IT and handset outlook over the next few months.
We continue to deliver our services without interruption as well as accept new orders. We’ve increased stock where possible in preparation for any potential cross-border or shipping delays, particularly SIM stock levels.
As well as monitoring the situation daily, we’ve asked our critical suppliers to demonstrate their own business continuity plans.
Looking ahead, together
Every business has a part to play as COVID-19 evolves and we take our responsibility to our customers, people and partners very seriously.
As the situation evolves, rest assured that we are doing everything we can to keep our employees safe, our customers supported, and our networks resilient.
We also have experts on hand to offer advice on smart working technologies, which may help your team and customers in this challenging time.