As businesses across Australia took stock of lockdowns and restrictions, and their impact on customers, workforces and operations, national property valuations provider WBP Group faced the possibility of not being able to provide its services at all.
WBP Group CEO Brendan Smith shares how the business innovated quickly to operate remotely, and how it had built the culture of continuous research and development that was critical to its adaptation.
At the beginning of this year, property valuations had to be carried out in person to be considered valid. So, when restrictions and lockdowns looked likely, there was a real fear that we’d just have to shut up shop.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, though, and people still needed to be able to buy property, banks needed to be able to lend money. The key players in our relatively small industry worked with the sole professional body to map out the different scenarios COVID-19 might present. We collectively agreed that virtual valuations could be used as a crisis protocol in the event accessing a property became impossible.
This provided us and the other valuers the opportunity to explore virtual valuation technology. Fortunately, the WBP team had already laid some of the groundwork.
WBP Group has a culture of continual innovation and we’re always exploring what’s next. We’d already been working on using a video cloud platform with augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) capabilities that’s within the Salesforce agent console, SightCall, in our business – we’d been piloting it on training, quotes and day-to-day interactions, and had started to explore virtual valuation inspections.
When COVID-19 forced the point and meant we had to move very quickly, we had a good headstart with our piloting, use cases and training.
We immediately implemented SightCall into our workflows – in a matter of days in mid-March, the implementation was complete and the technology was available for use in valuation inspections.
This was a significant relief for staff, knowing we could still operate if the country or particular states went into lockdown.
User adoption and training is crucial in any technological implementation in business, so even with time pressures we needed to help staff understand what the features were, put training manuals together and get on with the training. It was definitely all faster than it would have been if it was business as usual.
We really did lean on our people of influence, who we purposefully picked, to help the process. We got through the initial training in a week and a half or so, primarily through video, but it’s still ongoing – the learning process doesn’t stop.
When you have a culture of innovation and consistently think about different products and different uses for those products, it’s easier to find a solution to a new challenge quickly. That’s why innovation should be just business as usual and time should always be dedicated to research and development projects.
Finding the solution quickly meant that, although we had to move quickly, there was no need to rush the implementation too much or skip steps – like developing training manuals or appointing change champions to advocate and assist others. If we’d done that, our solution just wouldn’t have worked to the same degree and our pivot would have stalled.
We’ve already identified further uses for video – it enables valuers to quickly collaborate and share intelligence, for example. Instead of preparing a written document, a 30-second video can add a lot more value in a quick, productive, interactive and personal way.
We’re considering what’s next, now. We know where the business is going and continually strive to simplify processes, so any technology we bring in or solution we adopt – pandemic or no pandemic – needs to simplify our processes to add value, improving both employee experience and customer experience.
Businesses that were able to pivot quickly offer great insight into the processes, tools and cultures that breed innovation and build resilience. We’ve collected those lessons and insights in How 12 organisations in Australia and New Zealand built trust and resilience.