The last year has seen unparalleled change in the contact centre, with the acceleration of remote working due to the pandemic and lockdowns. As the world continues to change and moves to more hybrid, collaborative ways of working, how can organisations ensure they are ready to better serve customers – and support their staff?
This hybrid future was the theme for our recent in-depth roundtable webinar. Featuring Jeremy Payne from Enghouse Interactive, Theodora Malmström of Microsoft and Ron Palinkas and Susan Orta from Hitachi ABB Power Grids, it focused on three key areas that are driving the need for hybrid working and greater collaboration within the contact centre.
Enabling contact centre staff to work remotely was an existing trend, particularly in large, global organisations such as Hitachi ABB Power Grids, where the Customer Connect team covers worldwide customer service across languages and time zones.
However, lockdowns made enabling remote working a priority for every business – 40% of those surveyed during the webinar now have all of their agents working from home, with 56% seeing a hybrid split between the office and remote locations. Just 3% had everyone working within the physical contact centre.
Given the tight timescales involved, businesses first focused on getting the basics in place to allow remote working. Often this meant bringing in technologies such as Microsoft Teams, initially for video communications.
Now they are looking to do more and evolve their capabilities and make solutions such as Teams central to more durable models that are fit for the future. Organisations need to focus on the flow of work and how they can create more human connections and share information on an ongoing basis. As Ron from Hitachi ABB Power Grids explained, while they initially looked at how to hold meetings between members of the remote team, they then moved onto how to share resources and ensuring that everyone is not just productive but fully engaged.
Agents are at the heart of delivering high-quality customer service and the pandemic has particularly increased the pressure on them. The overnight switch to remote working, juggling their role with other commitments and dealing with more demanding customers has put enormous strain on their lives – especially when they don’t have the support of being able to turn to colleagues sitting next to them in a physical contact centre.
Organisations realise that they need to focus on better meeting agent needs if new ways of working are to be sustainable. When asked what aspects of remote/hybrid working they were looking at improving, 30% of respondents chose agent wellbeing and motivation, second only to tools and technology (48%). Susan from Hitachi ABB Power Grids highlighted the importance of communication and collaboration to enabling wellbeing, while Theodora stressed that you need to train leaders to ensure they have the right mindset to manage in a hybrid world, supported by technology such as Teams.
Technology can also be used to support wellbeing – for example, real-time speech analytics (RTSA) monitors conversations and can trigger an intervention from a supervisor if issues arise. This essentially replicates the in-person support that would be provided in a contact centre from a nearby colleague, as Jeremy Payne explained. To build a sustainable hybrid organisation with motivated staff, contact centres need to combine the collaborative features of platforms such as Teams with new human-centric processes that ensure everyone feels involved and valued.
While businesses might have initially seen the closing of offices as a cost-saving measure that freed up resources to invest in wider infrastructure, there’s a growing realisation that having a physical space delivers benefits in many situations, such as enabling staff to recharge batteries and exchange ideas. So rather than thinking solely in terms of remote or office-based work, companies have to think of a hybrid model that best meets their – and their staff and customers’ – needs. Ron’s vision is that it should be impossible for customers to tell where the representative they are talking to is working, just that they are able to answer their query.
As Theodora pointed out “work is something you do, not somewhere you go to,” and that successful modern businesses are driven by a culture that embraces change and openness, rather than focusing on buildings and offices. Jeremy agreed – stressing the requirement to create services that are digital by design, optimising the experience for customers rather than simply moving existing processes from the physical to the digital world. Supporting this requires a collaborative, hybrid working model that is flexible enough to meet changing needs.
To watch the entire roundtable and to learn more about how Hitachi ABB Power Grids has created global, 24×7 post-sales support for its customers click here to access the webinar.