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Helene Ruda Jul 21st, 2020

CX Call Centers: The Virtual Workforce a Critical Key to Resilience


Woman working at home | CX call center

 

The virtual workforce is here to stay, and more important than ever. Not only have work-from-home capabilities been an essential tool in keeping people safe while working, we’ve found that employees might even be more productive in a virtual environment. 

Even though virtual workforces make sense in several ways, they aren’t without problems of their own. Balancing the needs of employees and customers alongside the ability to provide excellent service is tricky and will require nimble thought and action.

As one of the leaders in WAHA (Work At Home Agents), Transcom has been following the developing trends in the virtual workforce with their CX services model. Recognizing the need for a virtual workforce, as well as the benefits it brings, we have been successfully navigating those changes with our customer experience employees and those they serve over the past several months.

How can my company improve customer experience in a pandemic? 

Leveraging experienced outsourced providers who have deep experience with virtual workforces and omni-channel, digital systems which provide companies with the CX resilience required to maintain human-to-human contact that’s critical for ongoing client satisfaction.

An Experience Like No Other

So, what about the customers? What about their experience? What does the future of outsourced CX call centers look like? How will the customer experience change in the age of a virtual workforce? 

“Changing over to a purely digital customer experience will be the big shift many companies seek to make,” said Don Berryman, Transcom’s Chief Commercial Officer. “Digital options, like chat and email, use lower bandwidth. They can be handled more easily by a larger group of customer service experts, and they are much less dependent on expensive networks and technology. A growing segment of customers use and expect this option when dealing with companies they do business with.”

Digital customer care channels also make it easier to get customers to the proper service resource. Since many interactions are simple enough to be handled digitally, channeling those interactions the right way will be crucial to taking advantage of a virtual workforce. That enables those customer interactions that require a live person to have greater access to your team. 

“Outsourced customer care, like what we provide here at Transcom, has experienced changes, as well,” according to Don. “Transcom has done a great job of adapting.” In the Philippines, for example, Transcom paid for hotels, dorm rooms, and even trailers to provide enough safe distance for call center employees to live and work.

Those kinds of investments in people, and that commitment to a new way of doing business, are what is required right now. Only through human ingenuity and commitment will we be able to endure these strange times. A digital solution allows an agent to work in an office one day and from home the next.  The virtual workforce is a perfect example of that spirit at work.

A Dramatic Shift

Most of the world was stunned by the pandemic. For many people, it seemed that everything changed in an instant. For some, their jobs moved from downtown high rises to home studies, living rooms, and back porches. For others, as their stores, shops, restaurants, and bars closed, many jobs simply disappeared. 

Nevertheless, those who could, went home, plugged in, signed on, and got to work in a whole new way. 

“It’s really been amazing how much people have embraced this new working environment,” said Don. “At first, obviously everyone was concerned. Working parents weren’t sure how they were going to take care of their kids, and a lot of people just didn’t want to bring work into their home. But it was amazing how quickly things started changing.”

According to a recent global consulting firm, their study showed nearly 80% of people want to continue working from home at least one day a week. Compare that to only 6% who reported never wanting to work remotely again. People have adapted their lives around working from home and say they are now happy and will continue when things get back to normal.

When attitudes shift like that, when people start to really embrace a whole new way of doing things, it’s exciting, a finding concluded in the report.

Does “Virtual” Mean “Better”?

The migration to remote work and the transition to a virtual workforce were necessitated by an emergency. In a very real way, we can say this change has kept people alive. Any conversation about the benefits of working from home must start there.

As time has worn on, though, other benefits have become apparent. This article describes many of them. Here are a few: 

  • Increased productivity: In many countries, both companies and individual employees are reporting a significant increase in productivity. While it’s not necessarily the same all around the world, it appears that a more relaxed, comfortable environment at home may be helping to spur people to do more and better work.
  • Better work/life balance: Spending time in the office isn’t the only sacrifice work requires. Many around the world commute long distances (or for a long time) to their jobs. With no transition between home and office, employees can spend more time working — and more time with their loved ones. 46% of the people polled in the above global research on this topic said they started or restarted a workout routine and felt healthier.
  • Reduction in work absences: In a virtual workforce, virtually every employee begins each day at work already. With fewer barriers between home and work, employees have better overall attendance records. 
  • No office distractions: As much fun as it is to talk with our colleagues, laugh at funny stories, and share a snack in the breakroom, those kinds of activities can add up to major losses for the company. A virtual workforce eliminates those distractions.  Many companies and groups have started “a virtual water cooler” activity to schedule time just to talk with your colleagues.  

And there are many other benefits, as well. So, yes, virtual workforces have much to argue in their favor. Overall, it seems these past few months have taught us that employees can be more productive and more satisfied at work by working remotely. 

Nothing is Perfect

The flaws of a purely virtual workforce are also becoming apparent, unfortunately. Employees and employers are both having to adjust rapidly to changing circumstances, and there are still problems that need to be fixed.

Among the negative consequences of a virtual workforce are:

  • Increased isolation & lack of face-time: Humans are, of course, social animals. We need each other. While we can get a lot of the interaction we need from video meetings and conference calls, we’re still missing something. The office is a great socializing environment, and socializing is a huge component in a person’s well-being. Working from home can place that at risk.
  • Risk of overworking: One of the great advantages of commuting to work (or otherwise working outside the house) is the way it separates “home” from “work”. Without that separation, some people can become lost in their work at home. This leads to too many late nights, which causes stress and increases the chance of burnout.
  • Workplace disconnect: The office, warehouse, school, or factory serves as a unifying force for all employees. That place of business is a central location in all their lives, and the connections they’ve created at work are meaningful. Without that reinforcement of company unity, and without daily connections, some workers might start to drift away and lose focus.
  • Lack of universal access: One of the biggest problems with a virtual workforce is its practical limitations. While folks in many countries like the United States have easy access to the technology necessary to work from home, a great deal of the world’s population does not. As it stands, too many people are excluded from the virtual workforce by their circumstances.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives an idea of what employees and employers should keep in mind. The virtual workforce is not without its unique problems.

What About the Future?

We are all more aware than usual of how rapidly things can change in this world. Still, there are some trends we’ve observed, and some insights we’ve discovered.

“Different industries are facing big questions about their customer experience going forward,” said Mark Lyndsell, Transcom’s CEO of the Global English Region “Perhaps the biggest question is: how do we balance safety with quality customer care as well as prepare ourselves and our employees so we are never caught in a situation like this in the future?”

Some institutions which may benefit from the switch to a virtual workforce — and all the changes that brings to CX — are banks. “Younger generations, who are becoming a bigger part of the economy, expect a more digital experience. So, they’re actually happy to see the switch to more digital channels, and more nimble CX.” Says Scott Bell, Vice President of Business Development at Transcom.

“If the days of standing in line for the teller are over, in order to keep people safe and healthy,”  Scott continued, “the banks and other businesses that embrace the switch to digital CX and outsourced CX call centers are going to be the ones who lead the way.

To serve your customers more fully, even despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, the secret to success is omni-channel CX.

“Omni-channel” means that all your channels of customer interaction work seamlessly together. Not only does that mean your customers will have access to multiple touch points with your CX team, it also means they will be able to go from one channel to another without losing any progress on their service request.

Moving to that experience promises exciting benefits. “I think customer service and CX are much more valuable now in this virtual environment,” said James Whitty, Transcom’s Vice President of Business Development. 

“With people shopping less, traveling less, more of the value will come from how they interact with a company. Those businesses that put more value into their customer experience will be the ones who thrive.”

With complete omni-channel support, your customers will know you are there to help them no matter how they need to contact you. That reassurance is invaluable in this day and age.

Looking to the future, Don Berryman explains, “We have learned a great deal during this pandemic from our clients, our employees and our innovative global team.  One of the biggest is that no one wants to repeat what we have been going through the past four months and in many cases remain in the middle of.  We have already started to adapt and are finding a blend of a virtual workforce and digital channels are what is needed to keep us all safe, productive and providing the best customer experience for our clients and their customers.”

To learn more about making your brand resilient with an Omni-channel CX approach with a partner who has been recognized for their excellence in remote and digital customer care, contact Transcom today.

In this blog, we discussed:

  • The shift to a virtual workforce caused by the pandemic, and what that means for the customer experience.
  • The value of CX call centers and omni-channel CX, especially now.
  • How those businesses that embrace these customer care channels will be the ones that thrive through and after the pandemic.

 

Contacts:

Donald Berryman, EVP - Chief Commercial Officer, North America: don.berryman@transcom.com

James Whitty, Vice President, Business Development: james.whitty@transcom.com

Scott Bell, Vice President, Business Development: scott.bell@transcom.com

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