By Aaron Lumnah, Senior Manager, Marketing Demand Generation
Over the past few months, organizations across every industry sector have had to weather the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The short-term scramble to facilitate business continuity has seen organizations adapt at an impressive speed to tackle a range of both workforce-related and technical challenges.
That’s especially true for business-critical operations like the contact center. Here the fast-paced implementation of remote working measures has ushered in new practices that may redefine what the world of work looks like once lockdown comes to an end.
One thing is for sure. The current crisis has prompted the world’s biggest home working experiment ever. In the process, it’s given companies an unprecedented opportunity to implement and stress-test remote working models for real, and at scale.
For many contact center leaders, the lessons learned from this experience will inform future responses to unexpected events. Others will use these learnings to optimize the rollout of new and more sustainable working practices on a permanent footing.
Let’s take a look at some of the key areas that will need to be addressed to assure the smooth operation of the contact center in either of these scenarios.
1. Technology enablement is just the start
Facilitating the rapid rollout and provisioning of platforms and technology will be critical. Contact center leaders need to be certain they can scale digital resources up and down as required, so that they can get agents up to speed fast.
New channels, structures and habits will need to be put in place, and technology can dramatically ease the burden on agents who need to get productive fast.
To support them, regularly updated and centralized knowledge hubs will prove a useful resource for providing easy and fast access to updates on company policies or best practice learnings.
2. Management practices need to adapt fast
Many of the companies that already had the required tools and infrastructure in place to support agents to work at home are only now beginning to truly realize the full potential of these technology investments.
They have also discovered that managing a virtual workforce at scale requires a different set of leadership skills to maintain productivity and assure employee wellbeing. These include engaging in frequent and regular communication and feedback rounds – alongside utilizing data-driven analysis tools that deliver deeper insights into agent performance and engagement.
Smooth operations depend on roles, tasks and spans of control being clearly defined and communicated, so that everyone is clear exactly where their responsibilities begin and end.
Implementing virtual ‘buddy’ or mentoring schemes and regularly re-assigning individuals to different ‘virtual teams’ will help foster a wider feeling of belonging and collaboration between colleagues – while enabling learning to flow across the contact center.
3. Optimize workforce schedules
Adapting to changing workforce availability due to illness, technology mishaps or unexpected circumstances will be vital to continuing to deliver the expected quality of service. Utilizing what-if scenario planning will enable the accurate modelling of the correct number of agents that are required, at different times of the day, to cope with anticipated swings in contact volumes.
Those organizations that build-in resilience within their workforce planning strategies will be best positioned to pivot decisively, and at speed.
4. Initiate ‘business-as-usual’ capabilities
Initiating remote working can create regulatory challenges around critical business-as-usual processes, like securely handling telephone payments.
Maintaining compliance with regulations like the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the General data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) among others will be essential to protecting customer and company data and preserving brand reputations.
Solutions like Cardprotect Voice+ and Cardprotect Relay+ not only keep sensitive customer information out of the remote worker’s environment completely, they also streamline and strengthen an organization’s data security and compliance processes by keeping payment data segregated, encrypted and routed directly to the payment service provider (PSP).
Alongside shielding agents from sensitive payment data while enabling them to stay in full voice communication with callers, customers also appreciate the added security of being able to use their telephone keypad to input their card payment details.
In the coming weeks, organizations around the globe will be evaluating their COVID-19 response strategies and re-evaluating their resilience planning in the light of lessons learned. In a bid to future-proof their businesses, they will be assessing everything from the availability of core infrastructure, such as networks, to technology platforms that enable the virtual workforce to perform effectively.
As part of this process, contact center leaders will be assessing what steps they will need to take to optimize the smooth running of key operating procedures and mitigate risk. Assuring that payment processes stay PCI DSS compliant, no matter where agents are working, will be a top priority.