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How close did Countrywide come to not being able to let staff work from home?

UK's largest estate agency group reveals just how unprepared it was for the home working revolution that followed Coronavirus and how it gave its telephony supplier just seven days to get ready.

Nigel Lewis

Countrywide has revealed how unprepared it was for the home working revolution that has swept the industry following the arrival of Coronavirus.

As the company furloughed nearly 80% of the estate agency’s staff, it then had only seven days to find and implement new technology to help its remaining 2,000 staff work from home mainly in property management.

It then gave tech firm Olive Communications the job of deploying a home working telephone system across the branch network.

Like many agents, home working had not been part of the plan at Countrywide and it then had to executive a rapid U-turn as the expected Coronavirus lockdown neared.

Olive Communications is lucky that the home working phenomenon has taken off during the crisis; although it had been involved in upgrading the company’s existing branch telephone system, Countrywide late last month announced that it had put its overall company IT upgrade on ice in order to save money.

“It’s critical that Countrywide property management teams are available and responsive to manage our tenants essential and emergency housing needs,” says Colin Tigg, Head of IT Procurement at Countrywide.

“The COVID-19 crisis presented a huge challenge to the business as it required us to operate our business-critical functions from home, with minimal service interruption to our customers.

“Countrywide prides itself on delivering an excellent customer experience, and with the help of the highly adept and agile team at Olive, we are able to continue to support our customers and business operations efficiently and effectively.”

Read more about Countrywide’s furlough.


May 13, 2020

One comment

  1. On the 25th of February in the Daily Telegraph I wrote that proptech providing solutions and efficiencies will be the new face of real estate. Some of the article.

    ‘A personalised tech-based service – with connection across digital platforms and smart phones – means there will be less need for hundreds of branches …

    Stanton says that Countrywide’s failure to embrace the proptech revolution has left it a financially wounded dinosaur.’

    Given that the telephone was invented in 1876, by Alexander Bell, 144 years ago so not exactly a modern bit of tech, and yet Countrywide with its at least 690 physical branches and over 8,000 staff had to find a way to communicate with its teams let alone it’s customer base, is on a par with Primark, who entered Covid-19 with no online platform, and so have sold zero merchandise and may not endure as a brand.

    Is it me or can the Dinosaur club in the C-suite of Countrywide just be allowed to destroy this once glorious brand. One of the top functions of the c-suite is to plan against and for major problems. It is what I do for companies on a daily basis ‘risk management’ instead of being a monthly or twice monthly concern, given the speed of technology should be a daily exercise.

    Also I know for a fact that many have been to see the pale stale pale brigade with really good tech strategies over the past few years, and their wisdom has fallen on deaf ears. I only hope the financiers holding the purse strings moving forward invite them back in and start to listen, when the next chapter unfolds.

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