Planning for a ‘new model’?

Organisations have been looking now for some weeks at what a new model of work may look like as operations have begun to settle and as businesses prepare for potential easing of restrictions. For some absence rates have reduced or stabilised as current lockdown measures are taking effect in reducing contagion but what are the key considerations for planning for when colleagues return to work and what capacities will be manageable for different centres and sites.

Where services have been operation at reduced hours and where customers have been directed to self-serve or use digital channels, what will be top of mind regarding services and operations that will be retained versus others that will be offered in a different way? 

How will we reverse out the compromises put in place as we start to consider changes that have been implemented? Some services that were implemented to respond to the pandemic such as a dedicated service for NHS and keyworkers and also for the over 70’s will now become permanent. Prioritised lines for vulnerable customers are also likely to be retained.

For many changed opening hours are likely to be shorter than before. Homeworking models are likely to continue to be part of the mixed model of operating but on a more permanent and structured way versus a quick response to the pandemic.

Considerations are also being made on how the canteen is used and how social areas are used by employees. For many canteens are open but colleagues are unable to use the seating areas. Similarly, for other social areas, these are not permitted to be used currently but options are being discussed as to how this could change taking safe distancing measures into account. Consideration is being given to putting screens between banks of desks so that it allows more desks available and more flexibility for returning colleagues to the work environment in a safe way.

Many employees are particularly enjoying being at home and thriving in a new way of working whilst other colleagues are keen to return - this could be due to their personal circumstances at home where they perhaps don’t have the best set up, or if they live alone then they prefer to experience the social elements of being at work.

From a customer perspective, organisations are trying to understand if new habits of using digital channels will be retained as we come out of the crisis or will customers return to using services as they did before? A lot of calls at the moment are supporting customers to move to digital but what will call types look like as behaviours and requirements from businesses change over the coming months.

Using branch and retail networks is proving particularly successful despite reservations prior to the pandemic as to the effectiveness of this model. Highly likely that this will continue when these colleagues are in quiet times in the branch or store and can make themselves available to answer calls directed from the contact centre operation.

Changing recruitment considerations are also being made as most are likely to retain a level of homeworking – some more significant than others – but this will potentially result in changed recruitment practices and profiling of colleagues specifically recruited to work from home.

Reviews of buildings and estates and how they might be used in the future are being considered and potentially reduced or used for other purposes versus having customer service employees all based in centre or office. For most this is at a very early stage. In addition, recruiting working from home colleagues also opens up diversity opportunities offering new and valuable skill sets.

Some businesses are also working to identify which products or services are better suited to being delivered at home.

Businesses are also thinking about how people get to work comfortably and safely, on public transport where required, and if they need to come in at all. Measures then need to be implemented re staggered shift patterns, policies for entering and moving around buildings, consideration for who should be coming back to the office as a priority versus others for example, people who are living alone or feeling anxious about working at home or their home environment isn’t optimal.

Using video to talk to customers

Whilst there are few that have used video extensively, an example from one of our retail participants has just launched a new video service to support their purchase and is particularly directed at more vulnerable customers who need additional support. The live chat link is offering helpful support that’s being welcomed by customers.

Others who have used it reported that it has become a preferred channel of choice for many customers.

Executive and team communication

Company intranet pages with a current key story with supporting links to colleagues and keeps teams up-to-date with any changing policies. CEO blogs are also being used to keep teams up-to-date with corporate issues also and for some guest blogs are also being featured to cover specific issues for teams. Daily buzz sessions are being introduced for colleagues working from home to ensure they feel included and can ask specific questions.

One participant shared their CEO hosted a live Q&A session for employees (many non-Covid related) and allowed an opportunity to direct questions and raise issues of concern – getting to the heart of what people want to know. It also helped provide a sense check for the mood of employees and the sentiment of how they are feeling at this particular time.

Another CEO has been randomly joining team manager calls to offer a personal thank you to teams which has been really well received.

Other examples given included a team manager that had tagged all of his team members so that he can see when they have connected in the morning. Not to specifically monitor what they are doing but simply to say hello – the same way that they would if they passed their desk at the beginning of a shift.

Other instant messaging channels are being used particularly for colleagues taking challenging calls and need that immediate support that is more challenging to give in a remote environment.

Reward and recognition

Many businesses are continuing to offer complimentary drinks, lunches and discounts for teams.

Offering bonuses and other financial incentives are more problematic to implement as some businesses don’t want this to be seen as an incentive to return to work but at the same time want to offer recognition to colleagues that are coming into the centre. Some are unlikely to be offering bonuses at all due to challenging financial circumstances.

Less formal initiatives include regular ‘shout outs’ at the end of the week where managers are highlighting particular things colleagues have done as a simple recognition of additional efforts.

Service levels

Some are seeing shifts in service levels that had begun to level off. Where abandonment and call waiting had stabilised to a form of BAU, there are changes in this some of which might be due to financial concerns around payment holidays for example. Others are seeing increased demand on some particular services eg bereavement services, which is impacting the need for training on colleagues who have to now respond. Expectations are there will be at least another 6 weeks of fluctuating service levels and demand until restrictions are eased or things change.

Also for many customers, they have more time to talk so are taking longer on a call that they might ordinarily.


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