It was a little more than four months ago that I first wrote about Next Gear’s response to what was then an emerging COVID-19 pandemic. It’s all repeated below for your reference, and while much of it is every bit as true today—we’re still maintaining service levels for our customers, we’re still avoiding travel and working to keep our employees safe—we’ve refined many of our policies and made further improvements to our operations.
Next Gear employees are still, for the most part, working from home. Those employees that want or need to come into our offices to work are doing so, and their numbers make physical distancing within the workplace easy enough.
Truth be told, I’m both surprised and delighted at how well this arrangement has worked out for NGS employees. There’s not a CEO around, I imagine, that was excited about the prospect of 100% remote work across the personnel roster. And in a different company, it could have been a recipe for disaster with inefficiencies, dropped balls, a compromised customer experience, and depressed employee morale—but I’m proud to report none of that was the case here. Team Next Gear has risen to the occasion with remote operations that are succeeding across the board.
Our business continuity plan that long predated the COVID crisis was put into action, ensuring that the customers who rely on us for their day-to-day operations could continue entrusting us with a key component of their livelihood. I told our customers at the beginning of this that we had their backs, and it is with personal satisfaction that I can say we’ve upheld—and will continue to uphold—that promise.
Our amazing customer support team has provided world-class service 24 hours a day—not an easy feat when the teams are scattered and working remotely. In July alone, they tackled 4,903 chats; 3,153 calls; and another 3,094 emails. More than 92% of these were what we call one-touch tickets—an issue the customer support rep solved right there on the spot. And the result of more than 11,000 requests for support in a single month was a nearly 97% favorable rating.
We’ve produced numerous podcasts and webinars focused on helping mitigation and restoration companies cope with a fundamentally changed business environment, and many more are in the pipeline. We’ve had a discussion with an expert on stimulus funding, presented sales strategies that work in a virtual world, and shared numerous ever-evolving industry updates. One of our staff members even sits on the RIA, IICRC, and AIHA Joint Task Force charged with producing industry reports that help us assist clients in dealing with COVID-19 issues and minimize the health risks inherent in property loss mitigation services. You can check out the full list of episodes and resources here.
And more than just tread water, we’ve been moving ahead. We’ve made significant improvements to our apps in the roofing, water mitigation, and job management segments, welcomed three large-scale managed repair networks to the MICA platform, brought a new product to market that helps contractors stay connected with their customers while maintaining safe distances, and more. Did you know that each of our Next Gear customers has a solutions manager dedicated to their success? I encourage you to reach out to your SM to discuss what’s changed at Next Gear and explore how our new offerings might help your restoration business. And if you don’t know who your SM is, just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, the strength of our company ultimately rests on the success of yours, and so we remain committed to our friends and partners across the industry. Together we’ll weather this storm and emerge stronger than ever.
President & CEO, Next Gear Solutions
Original Post: Next Gear Solutions’ Response to COVID-19 (April 2020)
As the whole world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, our hearts go out to anyone affected and we stand ready to help, knowing our industry will likely be on the frontlines of the response to ensure properties and public spaces are safe. While we are focused on ensuring our employees are both safe and not contributing to the spread of COVID-19, we are also ensuring that our products and services remain available 24/7/365, including our support services. Details on all the actions we are taking are below, but if you are like me, this is one of hundreds of emails you are receiving on the topic and might benefit from a few high-level takeaways:
- Given the trust placed in us by our customers to support them in a variety of scenarios, we have a robust business continuity plan that predates this COVID-19 situation. We are putting many parts of it into action now and modifying elements as the situation warrants.
- We have closed our offices to protect our employees and communities; all NGS employees are working remotely.
- While our offices are closed, we were already set up to work remotely in a secure and seamless way so our clients will not experience any interruption or degradation of services.
- Like most of you, our team is not traveling but we are excited to meet virtually with our clients to continue progress on a multitude of projects.
- We have suspended planning of CONNECT 2021 for now and will plan accordingly once the landscape becomes clear. While we understand CONNECT is not top of mind for our clients, we feel advanced clarity that we won’t be hosting this event in January 2021 is helpful.
These are difficult times and require all of us coming together so we emerge stronger. The team here at Next Gear Solutions plans to do our part as we work through this global pandemic together.
I wish everyone health and good luck and welcome those interested to continue reading the details on our efforts to deal with COVID-19.
All the best,
President & CEO, Next Gear Solutions
Details on Our Response Efforts
Next Gear Solutions is closely following the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as we shape and re-shape our response protocols. We have activated elements of our business continuity plan to ensure our operations and service levels remain at full capacity and free of disruption for our customers—even as the severity of the outbreak continues to change by the day.
Steps Taken to Date at Next Gear
- Pandemic Response Team members have implemented the Business Continuity and Emergency Action Plan, and are continuously adapting the plan as needed.
- Established a virtual war room and are conducting daily executive briefings to review critical developments, set organizational priorities, and mobilize our action plans.
- Mission-critical positions have been identified.
- We have ensured that mission-critical positions have the information, tools and resources needed to work remotely, even for extended periods of time.
- We have also identified viable backups for these positions should the individuals not be able to work.
- We are coordinating with our vendors to ensure business continuity, including our IT service providers.
- All Next Gear employees have been instructed to work remotely for the foreseeable future. In maintaining our strong cyber security position, we have ensured that all employees have proper internet access, secure VPN connectivity, secure mobile devices, and that appropriate physical security measures are in place.
- All business travel has been suspended. Any personal travel is being reported and monitored.
- All employees are being encouraged to follow WHO and CDC best-practice recommendations:
- Vigilant health and hygiene practices.
- Prior to company-wide instructions to work from home, antiviral hand sanitizing gel dispensers had been provided to each office location to help prevent the spread of germs and illnesses.
- Employees have been instructed to practice ‘social distancing’ in order to limit the spread of the virus.
- Department leaders are closely monitoring performance metrics to ensure no service level degradation occurs.
The Pandemic Response team at Next Gear is actively monitoring the severity and spread of the virus and will trigger further business continuity actions as needed to address any threats based on guidance from the CDC, WHO, FEMA, and other agencies that include those local to our office locations.
We at Next Gear care deeply about our employees’ health and safety; we are equally committed to ensuring that we provide our customers and business partners what they need to continue their business operations. We appreciate your understanding as we collectively work through this situation. This plan is not intended to stand alone but is part of Next Gear’s Business Continuity and Emergency Action Plan.
FAQs on COVID-19
Q: Are employees being asked to work remotely?
A: Yes. In accordance with our business continuity planning, we have asked all employees to work from home for the foreseeable future.
Q: Are my service levels going to suffer as a result of this decision?
A: No. NGS has partnered with the world’s leading data center and technology providers who have themselves deployed extensive measures to ensure business continuity and secure and reliable service delivery. All services will continue without any degradation as a part of this decision to transition our teams to remote work environments. NGS management is closely monitoring service level metrics, increasing interoffice communication, and developing and deploying key employee backup plans.
Q: How are you ensuring that my data is safe during this time?
A: Remote employees are nothing new to Next Gear Solutions, and in fact our Technology Team already supports a widely dispersed and mobile workforce today which has given them the necessary experience in delivering secure systems and support to our staff. Our connectivity and workforce productivity tools have been thoroughly tested to ensure employees have secure and continuous access to our systems, data, and team members as all staff are now working from home. In keeping with our strong cyber security position, we have ensured that all employees have: proper internet access; secure VPN connectivity that requires multi-factor authentication; secure and protected mobile devices; that all system access is through encrypted protocols; and that appropriate physical security measures are in place. Additionally, NGS has partnered with the world’s leading data center and technology providers who have themselves deployed extensive measures to ensure business continuity and secure and reliable service delivery.
Q: How often should we expect to hear from you?
A: While we do not want to flood our clients’ inboxes with the same boilerplate updates they are receiving from all their vendors, we do want to keep lines of communication very open during this event. We will periodically be sending out updates to our policies as they are changing, and we will be looking for opportunities to continue or even increase the number of web conferences with you to keep communications flowing. Our support team remains available to help you 24/7.
Q: How will Next Gear adapt in the absence of industry conferences and onsite client visits?
A: We are looking at several opportunities to make the best use of our time while we are not out at industry conferences and visiting personally with clients. NGS is exploring ways to utilize our remote learning systems to provide high-quality and valuable training for you and your teams. We will also be looking at our development and integration pipeline and making fresh prioritization decisions and hastening product enhancements and services that will help your teams automate more and keep employees out of the field and office whenever possible. We’ll provide additional updates in the coming weeks.
Q: How will COVID-19 affect CONNECT 2021?
A: We understand CONNECT is not top of mind for our clients right now, but we wanted to provide as much advance notice as possible regarding our intentions. At this time, we have decided to postpone and have suspended all planning for our next CONNECT event. We will provide updates as the situation evolves.