COVID-19 RESPONSE FORUM - WEEK 4
THE PRESS AND CHALLENGES AROUND ADHERENCE TO SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES AND GUIDELINES
Negative press that some centres or businesses weren’t fully adhering to the guidelines around social distancing in centres has resulted in some MP’s questioning businesses’ response to this and legitimacy to remain open.
Some hadn’t had direct approaches but were aware this was an issue. PR teams are reiterating that centres were operating as normal as they were key services eg banks, retail, public sector services etc.
CCA has already had some interactions with government on the back of some of these enquiries mostly in relation to BPO services. There seems to be a disconnect between the government department supporting businesses to remain operational where they are required, and MP’s receiving complaints from constituents.
Government are aware of these issues and it is currently a big debating point. Additional details are expected soon but there is still clarity required about what is critical or key and what is not.
SOCIAL DISTANCING GUIDELINES
Adhering and implementing social distancing is still an issue being tackled with most centres and discussion centred on whether there was an external validation to reassure and verify businesses they were conforming fully to guidelines. This would also reassure colleagues that the business was fully adhering to outlined procedures.
Some businesses had used their internal health and safety experts to verify centres were interpreting the guidelines properly and doing what they needed to do including initiatives such as marking out 2m distances between desks, markers for queues in canteens and limiting only one person to a lift etc.
OPENING HOURS AND PLANS FOR THE COMING WEEKS
Many have reduced opening hours to better manage response to customers with the resource available. Some had closed their contact centres fully with the exception of critical processes such as card loss or fraud whilst ramping up homeworking operations.
Some public sector centres have had to extend their hours due to new workloads. Whilst staffing levels have reduced, extended hours have been introduced creating some challenges for resourcing who are now building in night shift patterns to the schedule.
Other parts of the business have been quickly trained up to support this where their regular work has diminished eg admin and back office now supporting front-line services. Other buildings have also been utilised where there is still a blend of homeworking and contact centre, particularly where these departments are now at home or the building or floor is currently empty. In addition, some recruitment has been required to support new services in some ways bucking the trend of private sector organisations.
For some the impact of reduced hours and reduced available resource has seen a significant growth in use of secure messaging/email by customers. This is a change of customer behaviour in channel choice. The branch network is being utilised to support this when the branch is closed to support the overall demand. Branches have also started taking calls utilising the hours outside the peak branch opening hours.
Some technology workarounds have had to be implemented to allow this to happen.
Others have also seen a change in type of demand, particularly where retail support would have been required, customers have shifted to requiring support on digital channels. Retraining has been undertaken – some virtually via video/online.
Businesses are working to best utilise any and all resource they can get access to across the organisation for supporting customer demands. Where call takers are now working at home, they are taking contact on other channels eg webchat, email where voice can’t be supported at home.
BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLANNING
The benefits of building business continuity plans in particular ways are now being realised as the implementation has proved to be straightforward and a smooth transition. The supportive business partnership with outsourcing providers have also proved beneficial in many circumstances mostly due to strong preparatory work.
CHANGE IN CUSTOMER PROFILE
For some businesses their typical customer profile has changed due to less of a requirement for some services eg insurance and many are re-utilising this available resource to deal with other demands. Some channels are showing dramatic increases in demand on digital channels - up to 500% for some on social media – where more customers are using these to make contact. Typical customer complaints channels have also changed as enquiries are shifting to other more direct channels.
More enquiries are also being received from customers as they attempt to set up digital services to self-serve in response to proactive campaigns encouraging customers to do this.
Changes to call pattern timings are also being seen and therefore resource requirements are shifting accordingly.
Increases in web traffic are also being seen where customers are looking for information and support online.
ABSENCE RATES AND RETURNING TO WORK
Some have 40% sickness rates and 30% of that total is related to the virus or colleagues with symptoms. Others have c20% absence and slowly increasing but not significantly for now. Some seeing absence reduce from 30% to 24% directly related to the pandemic.
Interestingly many who are working at home or have been self-isolating are now asking to come back into the centre to work. This is only being accommodated where people can swap out to maintain the level working in the centre to manage social distancing etc.
Where some have only just fully shifted all teams to homeworking, absence before was above 30% but now has reduced to nearer 6% as those that are self-isolating can and are fit to work at home.
Challenges around reduced workplace capacity are now presenting themselves as those that were initially self-isolating are now returning to work. In particular, this is proving an issue where their workload isn’t able to be undertaken at home and there is a finite number of seats available in the centre. Some are still working through getting telephony to be available for colleagues at home to accommodate social distancing measures.
EMPLOYEE REWARD AND RECOGNITION
Many organisations are exploring a range of options some of which have already been implemented eg free breakfast, lunch and refreshments; additional staff discounts; 10% salary increase for those having to work in centres for the duration of the crisis for the hours they have worked during that period. Some are still exploring what options they can work with outsourcing partners and what reward and recognition can be supported.
The Forum will convene online each Friday at 11am until further notice. Joining details will be issued weekly. To request these or for any other information, please contact Pauline Cochrane, Head of Research & Partnerships at CCA