Well that moved fast.
- Last weekend I was certainly aware of the Coronavirus but life was largely proceeding as usual. Our church decided not to hold its service “out of an abundance of caution”, and quite a few folks felt it was an overreaction.
- On Monday the stock market crashed. Really hard. And then kept crashing. Boy that hurt.
- As recently as Tuesday I was in Minneapolis attending the Minnesota Telecom Alliance Convention and Trade Show. I was carrying hand sanitizer around in my pocket, but having a good time talking to clients and it didn’t feel crazy to be there.
- Wednesday morning I flew home on Southwest and all the middle seats were unoccupied (hooray!) but still the plane was at about 65% capacity.
- On Wednesday night President Trump announced a ban on all travel from Europe to the US.
- On Thursday night our local elementary school announced that it was best if the kids stayed home (but school was still open).
- On Friday night our school district closed the schools fully for two weeks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they really mean “until August”.
- On Saturday our church again said there’d be no service. This time no-one was remotely surprised.
Wow. What. a. week.
I won’t belabor the potential human cost, and the importance of washing your hands and social distancing – it’s all very important, but you’ve heard all that elsewhere.
Economic impact for telecoms?
Instead I want to take a moment to consider what this means for our work lives and our businesses.
Today I find myself very grateful to be working in boring-old-telecoms. I have many friends who are professional musicians (my wife’s a violinist) and in many cases their income is headed rapidly to zero. All concerts are cancelled for the foreseeable future. That’s really rough.
Thankfully, the world of telecoms is largely unaffected economically. In fact, we can be pretty sure that people are using their phone and using their internet more than ever.
Remote working became popular really fast. Zoom Video conferencing (embedded in Accession Meeting, if you use Metaswitch) is growing like crazy. (The graph below shows how many people are searching for the word “zoom” on Google – it’s quadrupled in about a week.)
What should telcos be doing?
To an extent, I think life for service providers will continue much as before – our industry will be relatively unaffected by all this.
However, there are some things we can be doing, some changes we should make, as the world reacts to COVID-19 over the coming months.
- Take a look at your trunk usage stats and consider how much spare capacity you have. You know how phone calls spike on Mother’s Day? Maybe we’ll experience a perpetual mother’s day for the next couple of months.
- If you can easily expand capacity on your trunk groups (e.g. if they’re SIP trunks) then talk to your carrier to make sure you have the necessary head room.
- Do you have overflow routes configured?
- Check in with any hospitals or medical facilities in your service area. They’re likely to need extra capacity – let’s get a jump start on that now.
- They may also struggle to answer all their incoming phone calls. Are you able to offer an improved auto-attendant option so they can clearly communicate to callers and triage urgent calls. Even if they already have an IVR they may appreciate some help updating the menu system.
- Do you have enough 911 trunks, and what happens if they’re all in use? Should calls overflow to the local sheriff or police department?
- Do schools have a good method of making automated announcements to families – to announce closures or re-openings? Do they need help with that?
In addition of all of these external concerns, we also need to think about local staff and their needs and safety. Do you have a good corporate VPN option to allow people to work from home? Even if only some people work from home that will help with social distancing.
Anyway, I’ll wrap up there – it’s best to keep this short. Drop me a line if there’s a particular topic you’d like me to write about, or if there’s a change you’re seeing in your day-to-day operations that I missed from the above list.
Stay safe everyone, and let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.