The New Normal in the Contact Center
Performance-driven organizational cultures embrace a change mindset in every aspect of their business. This mindset is central to growth and innovation, and how these organizations remain nimble and successful in pushing themselves outside their comfort zone in unique situations.
This ability to change and grow was integral for all companies, especially in the contact center industry, when word of COVID-19 started to spread throughout the world. Those contact centers that had already invested in technology and a people-first culture were more flexible and were prepared for multiple scenarios for both their team members and client programs success and well-being.
WHAT WAS LEARNED
Contact centers who invested in technology and redundancy processes, such as an established private cloud and VPN architecture, were able to adapt and transition their entire workforces to secure at-home models faster, minimizing further impact to their client program’s service levels during this rapidly changing time.
Over the months that have followed the first COVID-19 wave, contact centers with globally-centric organizational structures (like 24-7 Intouch) have pivoted to empower regional campus leadership teams to ensure their team members around the world continue to be safe, existing client programs are operating successfully, new agents are on-boarded and trained virtually, and new client programs are implemented quickly. Active lines of communication in this rapidly-changing time were also integral and allowed for a consistent flow of information in real-time from leadership all the way down to agents and client partners around the globe.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
A cautiously optimistic approach is needed as contact centers adapt and respond to the shifting business landscape that has developed around COVID-19. Companies will need to continue to leverage work-from-home models alongside new rapidly developing capabilities to their fullest potential.
Eventually, there will be a return to brick and mortar contact centers. In what timeline and capacity will be determined differently in each geography, with all local legislations taken into consideration. A return to campus does not mean a return to business as usual. Several changes need to be made to ensure the safety of team members and the overall success of the client programs in it. Therefore, a ‘Work From Anywhere’ approach is recommended in this transition.
Work From Anywhere, or similarly a ‘Hub and Spoke’ or hybrid model, allows a phased-approach to transitioning at-home agents back to campus. It also ensures the right balance between community culture and maintaining program performance. Some ways in which this approach works is by having coaching, Academy Bay, and up-training of agents conducted on campus. Agents who hit speed to production and become top performers would then have the ability to work from home.
A Work From Anywhere model needs to leverage cutting-edge work-from-home capabilities and an innovative mix of on-campus community, brand and culture elements. Having technology that can bring all the benefits of on-campus recruiting and training methods in a virtual environment allows a continued people-first approach to culture. Virtual self-directed training via video conference, chat, and various Learning Management Systems meet required developmental needs of new agents. Remote Academy Bay, led by video conference and screen share, allows for a higher ratio of support.
Because every brand program is unique, the split of on-campus and at-home agents can vary. Companies can work with their contact center provider and play around with the best ratio that suits their program, whether that’s a 50/50, 60/40, or even 90/10. There is really no blanket magic number.
As contact center providers work with their clients to find a new normal for their programs, team member safety needs to be the top priority. A phased approach back to campus not only keeps your agents safe, but it provides the security and redundancy needed in preparation for future environmental risk.
Some ways contact centers are operating in this new normal include:
- Significantly increase agent workstation distance and reducing campus density for many months to come.
- Limiting on-campus work to essential services/critical channels only
- Increasing separation and physical-stancing throughout campus
- Dedicated workstations and equipment
- Enhanced cleaning & sanitization protocols
- Continued mandatory employee and visitor declaration policies and protocols
- Provide PPE and mandate increased frequency and education of hygiene measures
Finally, companies must be mindful of the personal impacts that COVID-19 and other unprecedented events have on their team members. Adjusting workforce staffing models to accommodate child care and school closures, those who are caring for the health of loved ones, program seasonality and growth, and mental health is often a second thought. However, in the new normal in the contact center, it will become just as critical to everyone’s success and well-being.
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