At the beginning of March, Justin Yu was working his regular shift at the flagship Microsoft Store in Pitt St Mall in the heart of the Sydney CBD, which sees an average of 5 million customers visit annually. At work, Justin observed the COVID-19 prevention posters around the Store, sanitised his hands regularly and helped customers from a safe distance to limit the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus.
When the physical Microsoft Store temporarily shut down on March 16 — along with every other Microsoft Store location in the world — Justin and nearly 60 other Store associates quickly pivoted to remote work, continuing to assist customers as they transition to remote working themselves.
The transition to work-from-home environments has been a logistical challenge for many businesses, including Microsoft Store, which reaches more than 2 billion customers from 190 global locations via its physical locations and online Store. The Store’s goal has always been to support customers wherever they are — families, small businesses, large enterprises — with product advice, customer support, trainings and community events.
With many organisations forced to work remotely during the outbreak, the need for virtual training and support has been greater than ever — a call eagerly answered by Store associates. Nearly 90 per cent chose to work from home 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.
“We are using our own solutions to empower our customers to reach their maximum potential. In some ways, it feels even more fulfilling to use a broader range of Microsoft tools to achieve what we do day to day in Store to help our customers, and in many ways, we are reaching a wider audience than ever before”, says Justin.
For Jimena Pintos-Lopez, Corporate Services Manager of Girl Guides Australia, the support provided by Microsoft Store associates enabled her team to deliver a remote training model that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. “Training our staff, volunteers and members on Microsoft Teams was paramount to supporting the continuation of Guiding during the COVID-19 pandemic. With almost 800 people requiring training, we couldn’t have implemented a safe and inclusive alternative delivery of the Girl Guide Program without the assistance of the team at Microsoft,” says Jimena.
In the last month, Store retail associates have virtually trained 7,400 people in government, health care, education and finance using Microsoft Teams. Demand for the Customer Success Training programs has surged among customers looking to transform their remote work environments, including the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Girl Guides Australia and the Departments of Education in NSW, VIC, QLD, WA and Tasmania.
“This has been a highly stressful time for schools across Australia – as educators moved to remote learning. Many teachers needed, and still need, ongoing support translating Microsoft services such as Teams, to a remote classroom environment”, says Microsoft Australia’s K-12 Director Jane Mackarell. “The Microsoft Store associates have been incredible, working closely with our Learning Delivery Specialists to run various virtual sessions for educators in government and non–government schools across the country, focused on best practice usage of Microsoft Teams for Education and OneNote in the classroom“.
To date, flagship Microsoft Store Sydney team members have conducted over 70 training sessions with The Departments of Education, which support hundreds of thousands of educators and students across the country.
The Store associates have helped to keep the joy of learning alive for children at home by rolling out Microsoft Store virtual coding workshops for kids, helping parents to keep their children entertained and stimulated.
Many associates can deeply relate to customers adapting to new environments, having traded gleaming storefronts for workstations now squeezed around home, spouses, kids and pets.
Shifting all of Microsoft Store Sydney’s associates to remote work was no easy task. It involved setting up new priorities and workflows, assigning associates to activities based on skillset and providing compressed virtual deep dive trainings for new skills.
Store associate Jasmine Zhang has gone from helping customers on the Store floor to training a number of Australian enterprises from her living room via Microsoft Teams. “While I miss interacting and engaging with customers in person at the Store, I’m happy we still have the opportunity to provide the same impact, and empower as many customers as we can, regardless of location,” she says.
“I feel the move to remote working has given me new opportunities to grow and test my skills, including leading virtual training sessions in English, Mandarin and Cantonese – something I’ve never had the opportunity to do before”, says Jasmine. “It feels great to make a real contribution to so many people and businesses across Australia. The ability to empower others only empowers the team to continue the work we’re doing in this unsettling time.”
To register or learn more about the various Microsoft Store virtual trainings and workshops on offer, head to the events page on the Microsoft Store website.