Unshackling your staff from the restrictions of landlines can be great for business.

The phones aren't ringing in Safety and Apparel Ltd's customer service centre in Hamilton – and company director Geoff Day couldn't be happier.

In mid-January, the supplier of specialist workplace safety clothing and personal equipment became a 'digital workplace' by switching over to Vodafone's One Business system.

Simply put, a digital workplace means having the tools to work effectively both on and off site meaning an entire team can make better use of their time with all the features of a traditional PBX on laptops and mobiles. It also gives staff the ability to work together with video conferencing and instant messaging – allowing them to share information and collaborate easily no matter where they are.

For Safety and Apparel, the major benefit is using a cloud-based platform rather than a traditional telephone system.


"We use Bluetooth headsets for the team in customer service, or handsets where you require a mobile device," Day says. Communication from the company's warehouse in Hamilton to branches in Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch are all linked: "It provides us with flexibility – we're not tied to cords."

Day cites the Vodafone system's 'Hunt Group' feature, which now includes staff mobiles, as an added benefit for customers and his company's reputation for service.

"We use an 0800 number that points to a Hunt Group. If someone's busy on a call, the incoming call will go to the next person down the line, and so on through the Hunt Group until it gets picked up. We've found it very efficient - we don't have phones ringing all the time and guys pick up calls instantaneously."

Day says: "You certainly notice it's a lot quieter office. You're not having so many landlines ringing all the time. It's a pleasant surprise."

It's not only the 30 customer service, warehouse and distribution staff who use the system; Safety and Apparel's nationwide sales force of 23 are linked up as well.

Another company which has switched over to the system is Iveco Trucks NZ, based in Wiri, which imports and distributes light, medium and heavy trucks and vans. The company has a large parts distribution centre at Wiri and sales staff around the country. In all, it has 26 staff using the system.

Country manager Ian Walker says Vodafone presented their One Business digital collaboration system to his company about 12 months ago, before its launch, and Iveco became one of the "guinea pigs" to trial it.

"Everybody likes it. We like the transparency we get, we like the reports we get, we like the control we have."

Because Iveco's sales staff are dispersed around the country, the My Room feature – which allows a virtual team meeting to take place with people from a number of sites – is particularly valuable. "We've got remote-based staff in Tauranga, in Christchurch and New Plymouth so we can have very easy sales meetings through our screens."

Walker says he'd recommend the system to other businesses – no matter what industry they're in.

Colmar Brunton research in 2017, commissioned by Vodafone, offers New Zealand-sourced data to support these company's initial experiences with their digitally-led workplaces.

It showed:

• 84 per cent of Kiwi businesses agree a great service experience is just as important as great deal.

• 76 per cent agree the effectiveness of your technology is as important as the effectiveness of your people.

• 79 per cent agree providing tablets, laptops and mobiles are a necessary cost of doing business today.

• 31 per cent agree attracting and retaining skilled talent is their top challenge.

Vodafone's enterprise director, Ken Tunnicliffe, says the digital workplace means prioritising people and building technology solutions around them.

"It empowers every employee to become a connected employee, equipped with the right tools and technology and meets changing employee needs," he says.

"Flexible working will play a key role in attracting and retaining the best talent. Digital natives in particular expect to be able to connect and work from anywhere, but this is fast becoming a basic employee expectation more broadly."

People want this kind of flexibility and, when given it, their organisations become smarter, faster and better prepared for opportunities that lie ahead, he says.

"Digital transformation is almost universally accepted by businesses as something they need to do, but many find it intimidating, or downright scary," Tunnicliffe says. "It doesn't need to be; the important thing is to make a start on the journey."

As the Safety and Apparel and Iveco experiences show, small to medium-sized New Zealand businesses can take their first step into the digital workplace by moving to a cloud-based system that allows them to link all communication tools in their office – from mobile phones to desk phones to instant messaging.