COVID-19 RESPONSE FORUM - WEEK 3
MINIMISING THE STRAIN ON LIMITED RESOURCES
There’s a challenge around getting customers to use digital channels at a time when channels like voice and email are limited because of homeworking and reduced staff numbers. Many organisations are actively encouraging their customers to engage with apps or digital options by sending out communications inviting people to register or reminding them of digital availability, or altering their IVR options to point consumers towards digital.
Much work is ongoing to identify what core business processes really are in this fluid and unprecedented situation, and to focus resources in these areas. Some back office or maintenance activity may have to be put on the back burner at the moment, whereas there’s a lot of focus in other areas such as fraud in financial services institutions as a result of opportunistic crime.
Many businesses are closing down their contact centres for the time being, considering it difficult to justify having non-essential workers being physically present. Some businesses have received visits from authorities asking why they remain open, suggesting that going forward this may not be a viable solution.
In terms of financial services, all frontline staff are considered keyworkers, so reduced hours are in place across most of the sector, but colleagues continue to report to work. The next stage is likely to change from encouraging customers to make use of digital channels to forcing them to do so.
THE EFFECTS SO FAR
It’s not clear yet exactly what the impact on everyday business processes are – contact levels are up in some business areas because of concerns around the impact of coronavirus, whilst repeat calls are also on the increase because of poorer home connections. However, other business areas, particularly insurance and non-essential retail areas, have reported drops in contact because these are no longer at the forefront of consumers’ minds.
Abandon rates for many are on the increase, with a commonly-quoted figure being 30%. Absences for many are also sitting around the 30-35% level as frontline colleagues are affected by self-isolation measures or the virus itself. Upselling while on calls has also reduced, as has demand for retail products.
Certain processes are much more difficult to perform remotely than others – organisations with significant postal channels, for example, need to keep their physical sites open in order to deal with this.
ASSISTANCE FOR COLLEAGUES
Several organisations have reported that they are adopting measures such as shorter workdays in order to ensure that fewer key workers have to physically report to sites, and also to ensure that those essential workers who do need to come in are able to avoid the busiest commuter hours and crowded public transport.
There are other measures in place too, such as physical distancing keeping colleagues at least 2 metres apart at all times and access to self-service food and drinks to limit contact. Some organisations are also paying for their employees travel expenses.
Free tea and coffee and heavily discounted internal canteens are other popular measures which have been put in place both to encourage workers to remain on-site for the duration of their work-day, and to increase morale. Other measures, such as bonuses for those essential workers who have to continue to come in to work, can also prove helpful but equally can present a potential challenge when workers have been instructed without choice to work from home.
There are continued challenges in maintaining colleague engagement and morale, as well as mental wellbeing. Relaxed regulations around breaks, or an extra fifteen-minute slot during which frontline colleagues can relax and unwind before returning to their families can prove helpful in maintaining normality and morale levels.
Legacy systems can cause problems when it comes to homeworking: particularly in the public sector, it’s difficult to provide new technology at very short notice to every staff member, and many are working with machines and software which are under the ideal level – but ongoing communication with frontline colleagues, keeping them updated with software fixes or new hardware progress can make a big difference.
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