Learning during lockdown: How associates at the flagship Microsoft Store in London are continuing to help customers

The pandemic has affected people in every corner of the globe. From Australia to Asia, Europe to America, and everywhere in between, the current crisis has changed billions of lives.

For those lucky enough to have escaped or recovered from virus, there can still be issues around caring for relatives, home-schooling and working from home.

This has a huge knock-on effect on companies, too, as they help their staff adapt to a new way of working. Rolling out a way that people can work from home, communicate with their colleagues and share information can be especially challenging for global companies, who are dealing with multiple languages and time zones.

How do you move thousands of staff who are based in different parts of the world and speak different languages to a new platform that will help the company continue working?

This was a challenge faced by UK insurer Aviva and skincare retailer The Body Shop.

“How do I deliver training in Microsoft Teams to all our staff across the globe?” Lou Dean, Global Adoption Success Manager for Office 365 at Aviva, asked herself this question as she worked from her home in England.

Lou Deane at Aviva works from her home

Lou Deane at Aviva works from her home

Staff at Aviva use Office 365 tools such as Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and Yammer to communicate and collaborate while they work at sites across the world. However, Lu needed to ensure that people were able to use those programs quickly, easily and effectively from home, without the help of an IT department just down the corridor.

“We have around 44,500 staff across the globe – Canada, Europe, Singapore – so we deal with a lot of markets and languages. We were already using Teams but wanted to accelerate the rollout to ensure it was business as usual for our customers. We turned to Microsoft to help us get everyone up to speed.”

Aviva staff were helped by Chantelle Dopper, a Services Advisor and one of the Microsoft Store team using Teams to assist customers in making the most of technology. Some of the Microsoft Store associates are working in a new Emergency Remote Operations model covering five areas: serving small and medium-sized businesses and education customers; training enterprise customers; selling Surface, Cloud and Microsoft 365; supporting customers of all types; and delivering virtual community workshops.

Dopper organised a call for around 670 Aviva employees. The “Introduction to Microsoft Teams” webcast was conducted in a range of languages, so participants in a number of countries could join and listen in whichever language suited them.

“Teams training is really popular,” Dopper said, adding that Teams usage at Aviva has increased more than 200% since March. “We offer training to help with adoption for customers who are either picking up Teams for the first time or using it for a couple of months and want a little more support on how they escalate that adoption in their organisation.

“We have been assisting Aviva with their adoption of Teams. They had already been using Teams, but they wanted to make sure that people felt more comfortable with the software as they weren’t all sat next to each other in offices. We ran the initial sessions in English, French and Italian.”

Dopper doesn’t speak French and Italian but Microsoft Translator automatically translated any questions, submitted via the Teams chat window, into English. She could then type her answer into the chat window in English and Microsoft Translator would translate it back into the participant’s language.

That was hugely beneficial for Dean at Aviva. “Our user base can get the most out of Teams if they can use it in their own language, but we have a small team so we couldn’t have done that translation ourselves,” she said.

Aviva have now lined up advanced Teams sessions and OneDrive tutorials with Microsoft.

It’s a similar story at The Body Shop, which has its headquarters in the UK but employs staff in other parts of Europe, as well as North America and Asia.

The retailer, which sells a range of skincare and beauty products for men and women, rolled out Teams – which now has more than 75 million daily active users – last year, and uses it alongside other Office 365 tools.

Elizabeth Romaine, Portfolio Manager at The Body Shop, said Teams had helped staff collaborate.

“It’s given staff more visibility of what other people are working on,” she said. “People are posting regular updates on their work and getting responses much quicker.”

Josephine Munz, an Inventory Control Expert at the flagship Microsoft Store, was part of a team that ran virtual training sessions to help The Body Shop use technology more effectively.

“We held an introduction to Microsoft Teams and looked at how The Body Shop can best utilise the tool, particularly now that their staff are working from home,” Munz said. “We offered some tips and best practice on using Teams, and how it’s really good for communication and collaboration.

“We also delivered a more advanced session for people who had the basics of Teams down. They wanted to know how Teams could put all their workstreams together. In those sessions, we also talk a bit more about how we use Teams in the London store.”

Romaine said the sessions were “incredible”, with more than 100 members of staff dialling in to learn about Teams.

“It made them aware of features they didn’t know existed,” she said. “They could ask questions and was really well delivered by the store team.

“We have also had one advanced session and are looking to schedule another. We also want our America and Asia Pacific teams to join, too.”

The webinars were delivered in English and Spanish to cater for people in Southern Europe who wanted to join.

As well as helping companies to continue to serve their customers, associates at the Microsoft Store in London wanted to give something back to the local community who have made them feel welcome since the Oxford Circus outlet opened in July last year.

Jade Alogba, a Community Development Specialist at the store, was part of the team who worked with local councils and housing associations to offer LinkedIn Learning workshops for apprentices, interns and graduates.

Attendees were helped with personal development, building their LinkedIn profile to appeal to companies, using Microsoft’s accessibility tools and using Teams when remote working.

“I started my career working in housing, within the local authority, so it’s been really fun to be able to give back. The workshops support people who are in the same position that I was in.

“We provide free training to them, so they know how to build their profile on LinkedIn so they can shine as best as they can. We also did a workshop on Microsoft’s accessibility tools and taught them how to master working from home, just to make sure that they feel fully equipped to be able to adapt to this new situation that we’re all in.”

Associates at the flagship Microsoft Store in London are holding a range of virtual trainings and workshops in the coming weeks. Click here for more information.