Almost every employee at SociaalPlus has a so-called ‘distance from the labor market’, although they prefer not to call it that at SociaalPlus.

“Due to a psychological or physical disability, the standard way of working does not suit them well,” says director Ronald van Esch.

“But it is my deepest belief that anyone can work, add value and get paid pro rata. With a few adjustments we come a long way. This can involve adapted screens, speech software and Braille rules, a shielded workplace or adjusted working hours.”

After a long career in business, Van Esch acquired SociaalPlus three years ago. The idea that anyone can add value to a company appealed to him.

“I came here more or less by accident, but was immediately sold. The attention for what someone can do is very motivating. Thinking in possibilities sounds almost cliché, but we just do it. We are also not a sheltered workshop and have no other subsidies than those that every company can make use of.

By fully focusing on customer contact, we have grown five times in size in the past three years.”

SociaalPlus 2

Adapting systems to the way of working

This would not have been possible without the technology and support of Steam-connect . When Van Esch came in, SociaalPlus was working with an outdated system with telephones on the desk and separate computers to look up and enter information.

Making reports was difficult and fine-tuning per customer was too. “That had to be different. Better adapted to the sometimes different way of working of our people and better adapted to the wishes of our various customers.”

“We entered into discussions with various providers, but Steam-connect stood out on several fronts. First of all, the flexibility, the cost price and also the possibilities for training. But especially their motivation and commitment to help set up the system and adapt it to our way of working.”

Integration of speech software and braille display

“The integration with other software is easy and the helpdesk of Steam-connect is really great. There is always a quick response and they are more than willing to investigate further. They would rather we call twice too much than once too little.

Together we have found the best way to integrate the speech software and Braille display. That’s something that other organizations in our industry don’t have much to do with, but we do.

Every now and then we find something that doesn’t work right away, then we puzzle together until we find what it is and Steam-connect ensures that it is adjusted.”

With Steam-connect, SociaalPlus can fully customize the service for each customer.

“We manage this completely in-house for all our 80 customers. Being able to switch quickly is extremely important. We can adapt much of the work to the limitations of our people, but not everyone can do everything.

Incoming call traffic is not feasible for completely blind people, they do not know quickly enough on behalf of which organization they have to answer. But we also have outgoing calls and that fits perfectly.”

Responding to crisis together

Thinking along in possibilities is not only limited to the software. For example, Covid-19 also created challenges at SociaalPlus.

During the first lockdown, the nature of conversations sometimes became different and more intensive. Answering residents’ questions about the corona measures took a lot longer than making an appointment to renew a passport and they are paid per call, not per minute.

Other companies had to close, which also resulted in part of the work being lost. SociaalPlus chose to absorb this from its own resources, as a form of solidarity.

“And thanks to Steam-connect, we were able to help one of the municipalities we work for, for example,” says Van Esch.

“Their own outdated telephone exchange is not suitable for working from home and their people who work with it directly could not keep enough distance at work.

Steam-connect has ensured that they could call via our environment, via a modified routing. Without extra costs.”

Growth but with added value

Social Plus certainly wants to continue to grow. “But only with clients where we can add value by helping their clients substantively.

These are, for example, organizations with many repeat questions that we can take over so that the organization has more room for more specific matters.

Steam-connect grows with it, we will soon be switching to a next version so that we can make adjustments even more easily and we run even less risk of system failure.

We use the slogan ‘with a distance the best’, but that certainly also applies to our collaboration.”

Text: GDP Media | Photography: Pure Image