COVID-19 RESPONSE FORUM - WEEK 7
Update on connection with government agencies and stakeholders
CCA is gathering lots of information on what a future model might look like – specifically learning quickly on how to operate a hybrid model. Some may have an increased level of homeworking, some have become much more digital and want to see that trajectory continuing, some may look to increase outsourcing with partners given the success seen to date.
Thinking to the future and the speed at which hybrid models were developed, if we were to begin reversing that approach now, what would the model look like? What plans are being put in place to adapt as measures and approaches will change? What good things and learnings will we keep and what else will we discard? Contact centre operations are leading the way and many other parts of the organisation will be able to learn and build in agility to future business models.
Are we ready to think about a ‘new model’?
Some members are working to management by desk capacity versus by customer demand which is likely to be a continuing challenge as social distancing measures are ongoing and may continue even as some lockdown measures may lift in the coming weeks.
Offshore work for some is being repatriated due to lockdowns in other countries. Prioritising back-logs over meeting customer demand is taking priority and will influence decisions going forward.
None of us know what the new ‘normal’ will be. Questions being considered include: how do we operate as a business? What different business models do we need? How do we retain hybrid models or potentially increase homeworking and retain areas of increased productivity where they are occurring?
Different creative thinking and use of technologies to support scoping out a range of scenarios and models will be required to understand our ‘new norm’. Lots of organisations and professions have hugely benefited from working from home so how can we harness those positive benefits with other requirements that require to be returned to the office/centre environment?
Prior to Covid-19 lots of businesses were looking at technology changes/upgrades etc and the impact of the pandemic has resulted in faster upgrades or a review of changed capabilities to better support working from home regardless of the role an individual person has in the business. This is particularly important as it’s expected we will have short-notice periods of lockdown as we work through the next year or so.
Operational measures post-lockdown
For many, operating reduced hours has become the norm – whether that is in centre, in the branch or high street and discussion considered whether these hours of opening would be retained as lockdown is relaxed or whether businesses would continue to work to reduced levels.
Vulnerable customer lines and NHS worker lines have been introduced in many organisations and for some, opening hours have remained the same to accommodate these calls.
Different opening hours have been changed (reduced or maintained) for some depending on the product line.
Priority is still on increasing the number of people working from home and supporting telephony at home to best support those centres that have an ongoing in-centre operation. As it is expected that social distancing measures will continue for the foreseeable future, this will impact the capacity in-centre to a max of 50%.
Where opening hours have been reduced, there has been no or limited negative feedback from customers. Businesses are now giving consideration as to whether they need to return to previous opening hours, particularly where this has been a 24/7 operation. How can businesses reap the benefit of the shift by customers to digital and capitalise on those shifts?
A changing view of the contact centre and operations
Feedback from participants on the view of the contact centre from other parts of the business has improved considerably. A significant change and appreciation of the skills, capabilities and ability of operations teams to respond quickly has impressed different business units and leadership and the value or stock of the contact centre has increased dramatically as a result.
Wellbeing and support to front-line teams
For many, robust systems were in place to support the wellbeing of front-line teams due the nature of calls being taken and much of the support mechanisms have been shifted to a digital/video environment to support colleagues working at home. However, many conversations have changed from not being simply about the call but to being about how they are coping and managing with working from home.
Some are working closely with HR teams to understand how additional support can be added or made available to teams including online and digital resources. Briefings are done at the beginning and end of days to capture any issues or concerns team members may have.
Additionally, mental health and wellbeing is not the only focus. Consideration of physical wellbeing is being looked at to ensure colleagues can operate in a safe and comfortable way eg a proper chair, different items of kit sent to colleagues at home. Mobilising kit from offices to home is a priority where it is needed, particularly as working from home is likely to be ongoing.
The process of managing people end-to-end has been an ongoing challenge and some are using the time that employees would normally use for their commute to offer particular support services. Whether that’s simply connecting and seeing fellow team members and having that social connection, through to ensuring team leaders and managers are supported also. Video has been helpful to have that visual connection but only where colleagues feel comfortable using it or feel their home environment supports its use.
For some teams, furloughed staff are struggling so some are creating support mechanisms for them to help retain connection to the business and add elements of structure to their day.
Other businesses are being creative in offering fitness and yoga sessions to employees to support their physical health and a forum for parents working from home to share problems/challenges and get support from each other was another initiative shared. Keeping an element of fun and social contact to best support mental wellbeing is critical.
Wellbeing teams are available for some organisations and can be accessed when team members have had challenging calls or need additional support. Others have additional, virtual team leaders who again can be accessed by employees when they need them. Mental health first-aiders are available virtually, customer service escalation teams and duty site managers are all available virtually including for those calls or contacts that fall outside regular opening hours.
Reasons to be proud was one initiative discussed where different colleagues – both in-centre, at home and even in store colleagues are profiled as going above and beyond. It helps people focus on a sense of purpose and feel a part of the whole process and contributing to keeping the country going.
A drive to move everyone one step closer to customer is gaining momentum as a positive outcome of the current situation and a better understanding of what it’s like to be ‘on’ all the time and responding where required. Different parts of the businesses have an improved understanding of what it feels like to be in this situation.
Many have asked to know what options are available to have a form of external validation that the steps and measures being taken to conform to government guidelines re social distancing etc are correct. CCA is working with its Global Standard assessors to adapt and build an addendum/criteria for this and this will be shared with members in the next week or so.
The Forum will convene online each Friday at 11am until further notice although the call will be moved to 7 May to accommodate the bank holiday on 8 May. Joining details will be issued weekly. To request these or for any other information, please contact Pauline Cochrane, Head of Research & Partnerships at CCA – firstname.lastname@example.org