Once in a Century
By Colin Taylor
We are now more than a year into the “new normal” and increasingly contact center organizations are recognizing this fact. I am often asked if I think that contact centers will ever go back to 100% “bricks and mortar”, and the answer I give is no, that ship has sailed. Organizations were forced by the pandemic to deploy work from home and it wasn’t, as many feared, dominated by staff sitting on the couch eating cheese doodles and watching “The Talk”. To the surprise of many senior leaders, productivity increased for many centers when they adopted work from home (WFH).
The other side of the coin saw agents achieving what many had secretly wished for, but found it was not all it was “cracked up to be”. WFH is isolating, stressful (with or without others in the home), and for many depressing. Many agents now wish to get back to a physical center, at least part-time. And that is what is most likely to occur.
Many organizations are now implementing or considering retaining a portion of the contact center staff in a WFH. This approach can allow organizations to eliminate some of the more challenging and problematic elements associated with WFH, including hiring, coaching, training, mentoring, sustaining culture, and engaging front-line staff. The processes and protocols we have in place in our “bricks and mortar” center to address these elements don’t work in a WFH environment, but if we rotate staff between the physical center and WFH we can address each of these when the agents are in the center.
Some who have many centers would be well advised to update their Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity plans to be better prepared for the next pandemic. Covid-19 has been called a “once in a century” event, and it did occur 101 years after the 1918 outbreak of the Spanish Flu. But I am reminded of how many “once in a century” storms or wildfires we have seen in the past ten years.
I suspect it won’t be a century until we have our next “once in a century” contact center crisis. So I advise organizations’ post-COVID centers to invest in the following two areas:
- Developing processes, procedures, and protocols that can support WFH agent hiring, coaching, training, mentoring, sustaining culture, and engaging staff. This will require investment in online tools and technologies.
- AI and automation to reduce the volume of contacts that need to be handled by a live agent.
WFH is a part of our new normal, and I urge organizations not to be complacent once they are back in the centers, as the time between “once in a century” events seems to pass before you know it.
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