As businesses faced the challenge of complying with strict distancing requirements, it has changed operating models and organisations have had to respond to new ways of working. Some valuable lessons in our journey so far:
- Work from home is possible and can be easily deployed.
- Disaster recovery plans were nowhere nearly as effective or as far-reaching as they needed to be for the current crisis.
- New technologies can be rapidly deployed and with remarkable outcomes.
- Global reach and operating models may need to be reconsidered as multiple global geographies were impacted by the global pandemic.
- Previously convoluted processes can be streamlined to deliver effective and efficient customer outcomes.
- Communication strategies, particularly proactive ones, can and should be reviewed as core to business strategies.
What do these lessons mean for future plans?
Work from home is possible and can be easily deployed
A recent Gartner HR survey of 229 HR leaders found that 81% had approximately 50% of their employees working from home. In Australia, thousands of people now work from home and Zoom meetings are now the new norm for many of us. During the crisis, many call centres have been deployed to a work from home model to ensure continuity and consistency of customer support. Will companies revert back to bricks and mortar contact centre models or will work from home remain a norm for even more organisations?
The work from home model has been a stop-gap and many companies may not yet have completed reviews of just how effective it has been. Questions will remain as to whether or not the disciplines required to deliver effective and efficient outcomes are robust. However, this strategy requires considering a return to a normal model for some key and very important reasons:
- Costs of setting up and managing sites can be expensive.
- A work from home model can provide employees with the work/life balance often discussed but may not deliver it.
- Reported benefits of working from home include increased productivity (67 per cent), improved morale (64 per cent), reduced employee turnover (57 per cent), and operational cost savings (51 per cent). 2019 Indeed Survey
Disaster recovery plans were nowhere nearly as effective or as far-reaching as they needed to be
A clear challenge for many businesses has been to enact a disaster recovery plan and many have found them severely lacking in detail and solutions. Moving forward, it will be necessary to revise these plans taking on board the lessons learnt during this pandemic. Most importantly, the ability of technology to stand up fast and effective solutions will become more critical (see next point). Creative yet practical DRPs are required and will be a key focus for businesses as we emerge from this challenge.
New technologies can be rapidly deployed and with remarkable outcomes
Many organisations have deployed new technologies to assist with the challenges of increased customer demand. For some, services have moved from face to face to online channels. Some remarkable and emerging technologies have been deployed and in record time. Take for example the myriad of Virtual Assistants which have been deployed to support information for customers, and indeed employee, enquiries.
In the past, lengthy internal approval processes, testing regimes and conflicting priorities have slowed the implementation timeframes for these new and emerging technologies, this crisis has shown us that fast deployment of new technologies with quality outcomes is possible and indeed probable.
Technology has not just been used to engage with customers. Organisations have utilised new technologies to interact and support their employees and these can be expected to continue into the future. Gartner HR survey found 40 per cent of organisations have set up additional virtual check-ins for employees with managers and 32 per cent of organisations have introduced new tools for virtual meetings. How we utilise these moving forward will form part of our business as usual approach and indeed disaster recovery planning.
Global reach and operating models may need to be reconsidered as our core destinations were also impacted by the global pandemic
Some companies have struggled as their contact centres faced major shutdowns across the globe severely limiting resource availability. The knee jerk reaction is to rebuild onshore capabilities to combat the future possibility of this occurring. An additional strategy to consider is building effective DRPs for your total contact centre networks so that all of your contact centres, regardless of location, can maintain functionality and deliver to your customer needs.
DRP for your geographically dispersed centres is as important as your onshore ones. Strategies are similar – working from home, resourcing local facilities such as hotels to provide short and medium-term accommodation for your employees and online networking tools for both local and international employees.
Some of what we used to do (and convoluted processes) can be streamlined to deliver effective and efficient customer outcomes
During times of crisis, we focus on what is important and urgent not what is nice to have. Businesses have had to focus on what is important and for some, processes have changed to be simpler and more direct.
Similarly, some of our processes, especially within the contact centre space were simplified or removed allowing organisations to engage customers in what mattered.
Communication strategies, particularly proactive ones, can and should be reviewed as core to our business strategies
Demand from customers particularly for basic information such as opening hours, order tracking and much more have increased exponentially. Organisations have responded with more proactive communication or have used virtual assistants to deliver the necessary information.
In this remote, work from home environment, new forms of communication have been deployed and used to better inform customers. As organisations move out of this environment they need to consider what can be learnt about the customer and how they proactively communicate with their customers in a business as usual environment. Throughout all the research into customer expectations, keeping them informed is often a key element of great customer service.
Similarly, as we engage our people utilising new and virtual engagement models we have created new paths to employee engagement.
All of the above will have impacts and create new possibilities for future working environments and customer strategies. How we identify the best elements and design a future which is more attuned and aligned to the needs of customers and employees, is where the greatest challenge and the greatest possibilities exist.