Discreet Staff Communications: How it Can Drive Safety and Improvements in Business
Irrespective of what business sector you come from, it is almost guaranteed that specific parts of your business either already use, or would benefit from onsite and discreet communications between staff or customers. So let’s just consider a few areas where discreet communications are typical but not always so discreet in many businesses:
* Security systems onsite
* Customer handover between staff
* Complaints handling
* Emergency communications
And it’s very likely that you can easily come up with other areas of the business that use or might well benefit from discreet communications. The importance of these areas of business cannot be denied, but some aspects mentioned are not always obvious from the above headings, so let’s take a closer look at each area.
Long known for discreet communications, the security solutions on-site are essential depending on the exact circumstance. For example, it might be rather pointless having staff proclaim to the world that someone is stealing company property as that would undoubtedly alert the thief! But how many times have you seen a theft taking place in a business and the staff are simply using two way radios to communicate between the security staff? It’s simply not the best solution because on many occasions the radio implementation is incomplete so that even real customers can hear the communications going on. A better choice might be to use quality earpieces and microphones that can today be almost hidden from view but communicate incredibly well even in noisy environments without surrounding people listening in on the conversation. Recent alternatives include two way radios that have specifically programmed buttons for security issues that message other radio users without anything being overheard.
Another communication technology, namely on-site paging systems are increasingly being used to integrate to alarm systems so that staff can be notified of security issues discreetly. Staff will be aware of the problem but customers (or anyone else) won’t know the security position thus not concerning customers about the impending security event; customer communication comes later if the event gets escalated to a higher level. One solution comprises of a custom transmitter with 7 contacts that can be integrated in to most security systems. The unit can message relevant staff with a completely discreet note about current security concerns. Messaging can be triggered in many ways, including carefully placed push buttons that can trigger different messages to staff.
Customer Handover Between Staff
Have you ever noticed that in some businesses that customers are transferred between specialist staff or staff that perform a single task to other staff regularly. For example, in an opticians here in the UK, customers arrive at the opticians for an eye test, received by reception, are seated in the waiting area and when the optometrist is available the customer is taken to the test room and ‘handed over’ for their eye test by front of house staff.
After the eye test, many optometrists then leave the test room with the customer and ‘hand over’ the customer to what are basically sales staff so customers can choose frames and place an order accordingly.
But one very well known opticians determined that rather than having the optometrist walk out of the test room with the customer, it would be advantageous to have the sales staff collect the customer from the test room. But how could that be achieved? A push for service button that can send one of six messages is placed in the test room and the optometrist simply ‘calls’ the sales staff with an appropriate message to a convenient and discreet text pager. In fact, a number of members of the sales team are messaged, the first one to attend then ‘cancels’ the call to the room and the other sales staff are stood down to continue other work.
A key advantage of this solution in opticians is that both the ‘trusted optometrist’ and the ‘less trusted’ sales staff plus the customer all end up in the test room together which creates a perfect example of how to hand over customers in that sector. It increases the closure rate and increases the profitability of the company and importantly, customers are completely unaware that the system is in place.
It is likely that you could think of many other scenarios in business where some other similar situation could be improved as this opticians whole business of hundreds of sites was. All thanks to a very discreet paging system for staff.
Other examples include push for service call buttons to call sales managers over to ‘hot’ deals with customers in the car sales environment. Importantly, the customer is completely unaware that the sales representative has called over the sales manager as a ‘closer’ to the deal and the sales ‘manager’ then offers a ‘sweetener’ maybe carpets or a ‘tank of petrol’ to close the deal there and then. It could only be achieved with discreet messaging and the paging platform is perfect for those needs.
There is nothing worse in ANY business than customers complaining to management while surrounded by other customers. Let’s just say that complaining customers are not entirely compatible with a need of the business to have a great customer environment. While it’s pretty essential today with applications like Trust-pilot around to solve complaints immediately when they arise, a failure to do so can prove expensive to business in even the short term if bad experiences are posted on the internet in that way.
But the fact is, there are very few solutions that customers can use to firstly bring to managements attention that they are less than completely happy, and secondly to be able to resolve the issue without ‘making a scene’ in front of other customers. When did YOU last use one?
Historically there was a solution for restaurants (but could have been used in other sectors also) that was a survey device in the form of a tip tray (later updated to an iPad). When the meal was complete, the bill was provided on the tip tray and the customer was asked to ‘fill out the electronic questionnaire’. Key questions determined whether a customer was happy or not. For example ‘Would you recommend a friend’ and was the last question for the customer to answer. If the customer said that they would NOT recommend a friend then the manager received a discreet message telling him that the customer at table X was not happy.
The manager could then visit the customer in a non confrontational manner and ask if ‘everything was OK’; he then offered a discount voucher to the customer. Generally speaking that solved any issues, but importantly, the manager had the opportunity of ‘turning the customer around’ from an unhappy customer to a customer that would return. If customers leave the premises less than happy then the ensuing feedback can be very detrimental indeed. Sadly the survey solution as described was discontinued some while ago.
There are applications around today though for mobile phones that can allow customers to fill out a similarly designed ‘survey’ and if the customer is unhappy (by use of similarly careful key questions in the survey) then the manager will receive an SMS to his mobile phone; but this solution is less ‘immediate’ than the original on-site solution mentioned above and could sometimes be slow at notifying the manager; and the customer might have already left the premises. Other issues could be that there is no phone coverage on-site and of course other problems for example that the customer will not install the application (particularly relevant in the case of over 55’s because only 25% ever install apps) on their smart phone.
There may well be other solutions in the marketplace but they have yet to be seen in any volume it seems. It’s certainly food for thought and these comments about customer complaints handling offer at least something to consider.
It’s a fact that resources for emergencies on-site that are available are critical to saving lives. Consideration for things like staff shortages, power failure, fire, flood or other negative aspects that could affect the efficiency of any emergency service is essential. And with today’s sources of danger who knows what emergency teams could end up having to handle… terrorists, fire, personal injury, flooding, building collapse, explosion or any of a hundred other scenarios. And let’s not even consider nerve agents! Are you ready? Could your solutions really meet the needs of all of these incredibly difficult emergencies?
But if you operate a small business, a school or other area where people need to be kept in environments that can handle personal safety then it’s likely that only some of the above might apply, only you can decide. Take a case where someone is injured during their everyday work. It’s usually vital that help is at hand very fast and that’s proven over and over to save lives. Solutions like emergency call buttons that message emergency teams are proven to be effective in the UK and have literally saved lives on many occasions.
Thinking of schools in a lock-down situation which is more relevant than ever. There could be many reasons for a lock-down, dangerous dogs on-site, dangerous or threatening people (even parents!), fire or many other aspects of what schools and universities go through regularly. Academy Lockdown has a number of solutions that can be used to effectively shut down the school or university and keep children safe. NaCTSO: The National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) is a police unit that supports the ‘protect and prepare’ strands of the government’s counter terrorism strategy and has a government website offering advice.
Most establishments have some input from local councils too regarding lock-down and evading threats. Generally council’s offer guidance to help develop a sound procedure that will work. Please check with your local council for their guidance on these subjects.
There are a whole plethora of communications options available that are suitable for almost any situation and those are generally summed up as:
* Wireless two way radio
* Paging systems
* Internet and ‘internet of things’ related systems
These days wireless two way radios can be harnessed for far more than simple two way radio talk. Solutions available include radio to telephone (whether land line or mobile), radio to email and much more. In fact there has been a recent explosion of features that newer digital radio handsets have started to include as standard. Its also possible to secure any transmission with effective encryption that is nigh on impossible to be encrypted by third parties. Wireless radios have a multitude of features including alarm handling, tele-connect, nurse call, radio management, web interface, access control and IG/GPS, vehicle monitoring, fleet management, remote monitoring, signage integration, live updates, power monitoring, social monitoring, valuables protection, temporary alarms, lone worker protection and of course internet of things where radios can become an integral part of any solution ‘internet of things’ based.
And any radio system based on specialised things like TETRA or SEPURA are some of the most secure systems of wireless radio communications around; while those solutions are usually used for fire and emergency services (or even councils) these solutions could be used in larger organisations with the obvious benefits and all can be very discreet depending on the exact equipment being utilised.
Pagers are deemed by many to be ‘old technology’ and in many respects that’s true, but today things are different. With the advent of cloud based communications things have moved up to the 21st century especially where security and lock-down is concerned. It’s true that a ‘pager is a pager’ for sure, but those are generally merely receivers with few exceptions; more important is the ways in which a message could be triggered to a pager rather than the pager being the focus; the pager is the last unit in the communication chain and simply displays what’s received whether encrypted or otherwise. For example equipment is available that can monitor an ‘open or closed’ connection and that product might well be ‘internet of things’ based. The messaging could be carried out over the cloud and back to other on-site equipment and end up as a message on a simple encrypted pager to all involved. The advantage of course is that the messaging is extremely discreet. There are literally so many options in systems that they are beyond the scope (or limitations) of this document.
But the internet and the ‘internet of things’ has rapidly moved forward in the area of security and even emergency monitoring and lock-down. And those systems with the right technology like BLE Bluetooth Low Energy (Version 5 and above) are leading the way. Historically, Bluetooth technology was very limited in particular with range, and even today there are many products based on the older technologies of Bluetooth. In the much improved and newer BLE that limitation of range has moved from the old 30 metres of range to more like 200 metres of range typically and that changes everything; BLE systems can now track assets, people, change of state of a given device, humidity, water ingress, G force, sound, vibration, location, attitude to horizontal or vertical.. you name it and BLE technologies with cloud based infrastructure are an incredible cutting edge solution for business. The relevance of BLE cannot be underestimated and there is no doubt that BLE technology will be seen much more in every sector of business that you could imagine including yours!
Careful consideration about exactly what you need to achieve, what technology choice you use and of course the financial constraints all add up to what is often a very difficult decision to make for anyone that is not informed about the technologies available. Hopefully this article will at least help to inform readers about some of the options available.