W@H Is Important, But The Future For CX Is A Hybrid Model
Throughout the Covid pandemic of 2020 there was a common theme endlessly repeated by business commentators and experts - the office is dead and in future we will all be working from home.
It’s true that many companies successfully managed to transition their people into a work at home model, ensuring safe social distancing by not requiring people to come into the office for work. At Transcom we moved thousands of people from contact centers into a work-at-home-agent (WAHA) environment and it was quite a smooth transition because we already have extensive WAHA experience in the US.
Back in June, the Denver-based research and advisory company 5th Talent asked over 4,000 contact center agents how they feel about working at home. What I think was most interesting about this research from last year (at the height of the pandemic) was that almost nobody said they want to return to a traditional Monday to Friday complete day shift in the office. However, almost nobody also said that they wanted to work 100% from home all the time. The agents wanted flexibility.
More recent research from 5th Talent, conducted in December 2020, focused on 41 contact center leaders, rather than the agents. There was a strong theme running through the management observations:
- Most employees are now experiencing work at home fatigue and indicators such as absenteeism are on the increase indicating potential future problems
- Employee development is proving more difficult to manage remotely
- Most leaders see a mix of contact center and some home working as the future for their business
Other feedback and best practices reported to 5th Talent include managers asking much more often for explicit feedback from their team to better understand their working experiences, reduce reporting ratios, and training that focuses on the challenges of working at home.
As the 5th Talent research suggests, the WAHA model has become extremely important for customer service specialists, including Transcom. We were taking it seriously long before Covid forced every company to start planning how to continue delivering for their clients with their team based at home.
Transcom was the first service provider to achieve COPC CX Certification in a Work From Home environment in 2019, in support of our goal towards sustaining global leadership in the virtual work space with a built-for-purpose ‘future of work’ delivery model. It is particularly relevant in the ‘new normal’ environment of 2021, that we were designing high quality business continuity plans long before the pandemic made it essential. The COPC CX Standard is the most prestigious and widely used performance management system for customer experience operations worldwide.
Our experience before the pandemic was that a hybrid customer service solution offers more flexibility to the team - they can avoid the daily commute on some days of the week. However, they can still use the office environment for training and meetings that work better in person. Creating this hybrid allows the best of both worlds rather than a dogmatic insistence on working 100% at the home or at the office - which as 5th Talent found, almost nobody really wants.
As the pandemic subsides, and companies begin asking their employees back into the office, think about the kind of customer service partner you are working with. Were they planning for the integration of WAHA long before the pandemic and ensuring they met and surpassed rigorous quality standards with a mix of some people at home and some in the office? Or did they just react to the pandemic and hope that it would all work out once they could get their people back into the office?
Customer service in 2021 needs to be flexible, agile, and resilient. You need to know that your team will be functional regardless of business continuity challenges. The best way to guarantee this and also to ensure that team members avoid work-at-home fatigue, is to build a blended hybrid model that utilizes the best of both solutions.