2020, a year fraught with uncertainty, drove unprecedented changes for people and companies around the world. Some industries suffered while others flourished. However, the one thing they had in common was the magnified need for customer support.
Whether in an industry like food delivery that experienced accelerated adoption, or in one like travel and tourism that encountered record-breaking change requests, Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (HBRAS) found that 54% of all organizations saw customer contact volumes increase amid COVID-19. So, maintaining CX operations became business critical – all while rapidly shifting their workforce to a remote, work-from-home environment.
Much like the impact from COVID, some companies fared better than others when it came to migrating agents to a home-based model. Millions of employees worldwide were transitioned in record time, exposing and magnifying technical and operational deficiencies.
So, HBRAS invested the latter six months of 2020 examining and diagnosing these business successes and failures through in-depth, primary research. Having interviewed industry experts and companies around the world, spanning a variety of industries, many key learnings and shared trends emerged, including the following examples.
Companies with a pre-existing work-at-home footprint were able to accelerate a broader implementation
Because key technologies and specific remote work processes and policies had already been implemented for a portion of their workforce, companies with a pre-existing work-at-home footprint were able to migrate their larger workforce more rapidly – like media and technology conglomerate Comcast. Having already established a virtual agent model prior to the pandemic, they were able to accelerate their shift after the onset of COVID-19 by migrating the vast majority of their frontline customer support workforce – moving more than 1000 agents to work-from-home per day.
Companies who partnered with a CX provider (BPO) experienced tangible advantages
According to HBRAS, entities that had partnered with a private CX provider were able to achieve what they otherwise couldn’t have on their own. Likewise, HBRAS also found that the crisis has prompted many companies that had previously managed their customer support in-house to consider alternative sourcing models as they plan for the future.
Companies should maintain some portion of work-at-home CX to ensure long-term flexibility
As many realized during the COVID crisis, pre-established processes, policies, and technologies can help to accelerate broader work-at-home implementation when the need arises. So, maintaining some sort of remote CX model is critical for ensuring ongoing business agile and flexibility. While it’s unlikely we’ll encounter another global health crisis like COVID-19 again anytime soon, it’s prudent to plan for other unexpected events (like natural disasters) that can threaten operational continuity.
Companies should address remaining operational deficiencies and leverage emerging work-at-home advancements like Cloudshoring
While organizations had initially focused on getting work-from-home models up and running, HBRAS found that contact centers are now shifting to optimizing their remote operating models by revising processes, policies, procedures, and technologies to improve effectiveness and efficiency. One emerging innovation is a cloudshoring approach, through which agents work from any number of locations using cloud technologies and remain connected via a centralized hub of supervisors and support teams (either physical or virtual) with tools and processes solely dedicated to optimizing the remote work environment.
Having led the global, work-from-home CX revolution, these HBRAS findings are consistent with our own experience. By May of 2020, Teleperformance had moved a staggering 220,000 active employees to a remote model to ensure operational continuity for our clients. And, as we close out the year, 80% of our active workforce has remained in a home-based environment – both for the continued safety of our employees, and because many of our clients have recognized the many benefits a work-from-home model can offer and have chosen to adopt it permanently. In doing so, many (like Grubhub and Samsung) are also choosing to embrace our next-generation Cloud Campus solution.
Cloud Campus was purpose-built from the ground up in 2019 to enable a fully cloud-based, remote work environment anywhere in the world. Wish, a US-based online marketplace, implemented the model in late 2019 and, when the COVID crisis hit, they were able to transition 80% of their workforce to work-at-home in less than 24 hours.
Contact us to learn more about Cloud Campus, and download the full white paper for additional HBRAS findings, as well as a personal note from Teleperformance Founder and CEO, Daniel Julien, on the critical importance of delivering meaningful human interactions during times of crisis.