‘Sometimes nothing happens for decades and sometimes a decade happens in a week’ is a quote I came across last week whilst on my staycation in St Andrews, Fife. It struck a chord with me as, like many of us, I sometimes struggle to make sense of the current situation we all find ourselves plunged into. 

Those of working age in the UK probably haven’t faced the horrors of war or the misery of widespread incurable infections, although of course globally this is not the case. We are instead used to a breath-taking pace of progress in scientific and medical developments where AI and other technological miracles have created an illusion that we are indestructible as a human race.

I am struck by the varied reactions of many to the new rules and codes of living which we are all subjected to. The psychology of how an entire population can so quickly become compliant with things, which had they been described a few months ago, would have been laughed out of court as being crazy nonsense. Some have grumbled and protested but most have gone along with what’s been prescribed.

What is becoming clear is that our personal and professional success in the future depends not on the situation itself but how we react to it. It is tempting to think that there’s not much we can do as it’s out of our control, but so many individuals and organisations have proved the opposite, instead choosing to look at the journey ahead and lay foundations for the inevitable next normal.

Most of the discussions in the CCA network have focussed on how to preserve the positive changes that accelerated decision making has provided and avoid slipping back into deep footprints that inhibited innovation and empowerment for better customer outcomes.

The big question is what will be the changes for a million or so front line professionals who work in all sectors of customer contact operations, answering health concerns, solving tax and benefits problems advising on travel, dealing with bereaved relatives, handling complaints and sorting technology issues to name but a few responsibilities.

Many have been relocated at home and many will remain so, however many more have been in offices each day since lockdown as key workers handling the woes of a worried nation without necessarily getting any recognition, which is a great pity.

The degree to which their new ways of working and greater empowerment will continue post pandemic is a huge issue, as is an understanding of the new skills required to be effective in leading new models of work.

This industry was ripe for disruption over the last decade, and much of the current change was forecast for the years ahead in countless research with the CCA Visionaries group. But so much has changed in days, weeks, and months instead, and all this learning is gold dust which must be preserved, challenged, and used to get to the next level whilst there is a mood for agility and flexibility. Equally some decisions made in haste may not stand the test of time and these should not go unchallenged.

Some things however won’t go out of fashion, clear consistent communication is something we all need during difficult times whether we are in the shoes of customers, employees, or citizens. So much can be misunderstood in our world behind screens, so it’s probably worthwhile communicating more than we think is necessary and it still may not be enough.

Well my week unfortunately didn’t feel like a decade, it went by all too quickly, however switching off from the incessant bad news on TV was for me quite blissful, I’d highly recommend it.

If you are setting off on a holiday or even just chilling at home, I hope you get a chance to unwind and think about the good times - this too will pass as they say.

Anne Marie