OPERATIONAL MEASURES UPDATE
At the beginning of the pandemic there were significant impacts on operational measures. Now that we are into week 9 of the crisis, we reviewed the status of different operational measures.
Different customer groups are presenting different patterns into centres. Some are seeing two- and three-times volume from customers and also an increase in use of digital channels where before they would have used other channels eg in store or in branch. This is also increasing handling time as customers are looking for additional support in their move to digital, so call lengths are increasing.
Some retraining has had to be undertaken to support increased inbound traffic, quickly identifying what they need to get to acceptable competency levels. For some two thirds of training is now being done remotely.
Absence levels are ranging from 2% (working from home is allowing those self-isolating etc to continue to be available) up to 30% where additional challenges are presenting themselves. The impact on some who use outsourcing partners that have furloughed some of their staff has had an impact on wider service levels.
Average speed to answer is varying from less than 10 seconds up to 700 secs. Factors influencing this include expected, regular peaks in the month, changes in product offering etc aligned with reduced resource and impacting on time to answer.
Many are now into the pattern of ‘new normal’ working from home and operational measures are levelling out and in some ways, productivity has actually increased and proving to be beneficial to the business. Some are almost back at pre-Covid levels in terms of SLA’s now that new ways of working are settling down.
Some members are looking to be more pro-active in guiding customers through their shift to digital and explaining and handholding them with the aim of reaping the benefits of this further down the line. Conversations have accelerated this drive to digital and capitalise on this for future service offering.
Processes are being reviewed to understand what would have normally driven contact into the contact centre, and how things can be changed to prevent that demand in the future so that these activities can also be done digitally.
Satisfaction scores are not necessarily being impacted negatively and some are seeing an increase in transactional NPS. Customers are appearing more tolerable and appreciative that they can still access service despite things such as reduced opening hours but the question now being posed is whether reduced hours will continue and whether this goodwill will remain as patterns shift.
Where some businesses have field service teams eg service engineers, different services are being stopped and others being prioritised where vulnerable customers for example need additional support. Pre and post visit calls are being scheduled by the customer service team to prepare them for the teams arriving in full PPE kit and to make sure that everything was ok during the visit.
Additional financial support and signposting is being done by some businesses where some customers are facing challenging times.
UPDATE ON STATUS OF HOMEWORKING
Some are still struggling to build their work from home strategy as technology capabilities and access to laptops etc is proving challenging meaning that operations are primarily still in centre for some but spread across additional sites (including continuity sites) to comply with safe distancing etc.
Many employees are reporting that they are feeling challenged with working from home and missing the social interaction they have with colleagues.
Some businesses are beginning to map out capacities and reviewing shift patterns etc as restrictions may be lessened to understand what volumes can operate safely.
Some businesses, particularly those in health, are working on future modelling to understand the longer-term impact of the pandemic where people haven’t been able to access health services and the consequence of that on demand as people have delayed diagnosis or become sicker. Whilst the initial response to the pandemic is for most working from home, the longer-term impacts are being considered as demand may increase in the months to come and how should that be resourced – in centre, at home or blend of both? In addition, if there was another spike or secondary increase in Covid-19 what would that bigger picture look like? Also, what response will be required as businesses stop furloughing staff and what might their financial needs be thereafter.
For others consideration is being made of offshore models and the impact of lockdown in other countries – what might be the longer-term effects of this be?
Some businesses are focused on 100% homeworking. Where their BCP might have had an element of homeworking, now the shift has been so successful, some are looking to continue this.
For many, returning to an office or centre environment in the short-term is not being considered and often senior authorisation is required for that to be permitted currently.
Some benefits being seen from working at home in the wider business sense includes, quicker decision-making, better work/life balance benefits, less unnecessary meetings etc.
New business habits and behaviours are emerging. Some will stay and some will adjust or be dropped as the current working model will evolve.
Customers will also drive change. From an outsourcer’s perspective the changing behaviours of their clients will also drive change and different behaviours too.
Changes in the retail environment will be significant in the ‘new normal’. What does the office actually look like now? Services such as ‘drive through’ and/or ‘click and collect’ in stores will continue to be restricted due to safe distancing. Any return to stores will be in small numbers.
Identifying areas that will be prioritised for returning to office is ongoing. A blend of factors are affecting decisions including type of work being carried out eg data entry, fraud and security, and also where some colleagues are struggling to work at home either from a mental health perspective or where their home environment isn’t optimal.
Many are reporting that some colleagues don’t want to come back to work until a vaccine is available - levels of anxiety are high. The importance of getting clear views from employees was stressed and an understanding of what they expect and will accept as they return to an office or contact centre environment is important.