The global Covid-19 pandemic is first and foremost a public health crisis – the gravest of our generation – and it is only right that the Government has taken decisive action to protect the elderly and most vulnerable in our society.
At the same time of course, concern around the economic impact of the outbreak is mounting. The guidance around self-isolation, social distancing, travel restrictions, remote working, and most recently, the closure of schools and leisure venues, is having a huge impact on businesses, particularly in the hospitality, leisure, entertainment, travel and education sectors. Many successful businesses – especially sole traders and SMEs – now find themselves fighting for survival.
Responding to the outbreak is also putting the critical public services upon which we rely so heavily during times of crisis under increasing strain.
It’s a worrying and uncertain time for everyone. People are concerned for the health and wellbeing of their loved ones and their livelihoods, as well as being asked to radically change the way they live and work.
As a critical national enabler for the country, everyone at BT is working hard to help keep the UK up and running during this difficult time.
Within BT’s Enterprise business, in addition to protecting the health and safety of our colleagues whilst ensuring business continuity, we’re focusing our efforts on:
· Accelerating our response to requests from the UK’s public sector – particularly the health service – to help them leverage our technology to better respond to the crisis and support citizens.
· Supporting businesses – from sole traders, SMEs, all the way through to large corporates – by giving them access to the best technology, flexible options and training to help them navigate through this challenging period.
Here’s a snapshot of how we’re stepping up to support the evolving needs of our business and public sector customers over the coming months:
Supporting the health sector:
We’re in constant dialogue with public sector bodies – particularly health and public safety organisations – to understand their rapidly shifting needs and how BT’s technology can help them manage their response to the crisis.
For example, one NHS institution is asking us to support them in enabling video communications between patients in adult intensive care units and their families, to help them stay connected when loved ones are unable to visit them in hospital.
Here are some other ways in which BT is helping to underpin the public health response:
· One of the lesser known facts about BT is that our people answer more than 30 million 999 calls every year. Our incredible agents are working flat out to support an unprecedented volume of calls, despite the setting up of a dedicated 111 Covid-19 number. To put this in context, we’re seeing volumes typically seen on New Year’s Eve (traditionally 999’s busiest day of the year) every single day.
· We’re working to provide Public Health England free access to our 500 Street Hubs (formerly known as InLinks) so the digital screens can be used to display the latest Covid-19 related guidance.
· More than 400 NHS bodies are using our Smart Messaging platform for use cases such as Covid-19-related patient communications and appointment reminders.
Flexible arrangements for small businesses:
Small businesses are at the very heart of our business, with BT serving around 1 million SMEs across the country.
We recognise it’s an extremely difficult and worrying time for small businesses and are working hard to find ways in which to support them by creating some breathing space over the coming months.
For example, for small business customers who may be struggling to pay their broadband, fixed voice or mobile bill, we’re looking at a number of ways to give them the flexibility to temporarily change the nature of their business with us to help them better weather the storm. I’d encourage any business who is concerned about their financial stability because of the impact of Covid-19 to contact us to discuss their options.
Enabling home working on a massive scale:
With schools closing across the country and staff being asked to work from home, businesses are having to support a greater number of people working from home so that they can stay operational.
Some businesses are coming to us to ask for assistance in enabling remote working across their operations for the very first time. Whilst businesses with established flexible working patterns require network capacity upgrades to support far greater volumes of remote workers.
We’ve responded by working with our partners to rapidly introduce some special offers, free upgrades and discounted pricing across our voice/video conferencing, unified communications and web collaboration products, to ensure that as many businesses as possible have access to the best remote working tools to support them during this period. For example, new customers can get our flagship web collaboration product completely free of charge for 90 days.
BT’s comprehensive hosted voice portfolio is already well designed to cope with the demands of home workers. For customers of these products, we have boosted our online help and support pages to make it easier for customers to take advantage of these tools.
And as part of our own business continuity plans, we’re enabling as many of our call centre employees as possible to work from home using the internet, their home landline or a mobile device.
BT as a critical national enabler:
In short, we want to reassure you that BT is doing everything it can to keep organisations up and running – across both the public and private sectors – whilst the country grapples with this crisis.
BT has a critical role to play in helping people, businesses and our incredible public services to overcome the unprecedented challenges that Covid-19 is throwing at us.