So a year on how would you describe how the pandemic has affected your company and how you work? If you can add some notes about your business to help readers understand what your center and/or company does, please add them here.
Being in the business of travel and building loyalty, here are some of our area of considerations and planning which are very in line with most similar businesses around the world adjusting to the new norm:
1. Working from home or office, being agile, and plan for future
2. Digital efforts on making products and services available through omni-channels and having a single view on customers’ interactions
3. Management of a remote workforce and employees’ wellness and mental health
4. For contact centers that are very much based on utilization and requests for international and domestic travels arrangement, focus on ways to generates value-added conversation with the customers by adapting relevant offers to their customers who are staying put in the country and performing work virtually.
If you operate a contact center how would you describe it today? 100% work from home? work in a socially distanced center ? hybrid? share some details
As part of many companies’ Business Continuity Plan during COVID-19 waves, the operations have been moved to either fully or partly operating from home. The rush to buy or rent laptops has been observed globally and internal IT teams have been working around the clock to address issues on information security, ensuring compliance and data privacy. Discussions and debates with clients and vendors are continuously ongoing to seek agreement and alignment for operating contact centers from home. This situation has been ongoing for more than a year and now many companies are also considering moving their operations to be 100 percent working from home. In some part of the world, working from home is not a new arrangement as it has been there for years while for some, it is just the beginning of an interesting journey and discussion as many factors have to be taken into consideration such as location, the stability of internet connections, the security of a network, suitability of home environment and others. Either selection of whether a full or partial working-from-home assessment has to be done against each company’s requirements; business model, specific location, group of clients and preference, type of products and services, adaption to change management, employees’ reaction, and agility.
When the pandemic hit and if you had to adapt, what went well or better than expected in the change of the way you work??
One of the areas that went well is on the utilization. When the pandemic just started, the utilization for certain areas of businesses such as restaurants, hotels, airlines, ground transportation, and others have been heavily hit. In order to remain agile, companies have adapted to delivery to home and introduction of products and services that are relevant to the local lifestyles and community, observing social distancing by having virtual events/schooling, home cleaning/care services, webinar training/knowledge sharing, and others. Such creativity does help companies to sustain their businesses and keep them going during the numerous COVID waves and till the skies are open for travel again.
Since the start of the pandemic has call, email, chat traffic increased, decreased or stayed the same? AND, how? share some details on what you have noticed
The traffic has definitely increased across chat channel and in fact, many companies started having chat as part of their service channels offering. The overall utilization still remains at 60% of what it used to be before COVID, this is much better than same time Apr last year where the utilization was as low as 30% of post pandemic volume. It would takes some time or maybe months and years before we are able to go back to the same utilization volume again.
Before the virus hit, did you have an emergency plan should something like this happen? and if so, did your plans work as expected?
We do have a Business Continuity Plan that is in place for the business to include pandemic situation handling. The planning went well and what we find is that there were some fine tuning and news learning as the pandemic situation is here to stay and in fact is not over yet. We constantly have regular Crisis Management meetings to ensure all areas of concerns are being covered and new findings recorded.
In the early days of the pandemic there were lots of ideas how to keep staff now working from motivated - what activities / things did you do that worked well?
What works well for us are having constant communication and team building activities virtually. It is to creates fun and play at work and reducing fatigue in handling pandemic. My company also offers an Employee Assistance hotline in helping staff to cope with stress and fatigue.
If you could go back in time and could plan for a pandemic, what would you do differently and why?
Having a very detailed and solid operating procedure for full work from home guidance. We do have one in the past however during COVID waves, we have learned a lot more of new items to be included into the operations procedure as guidelines for staff.
How often do you meet with your team / colleagues and how ? zoom? skype other ? and also how well does this work for everyone?
We continuously to have our daily, weekly and monthly engagement via Zoom, Skype and others. In certain occasions, we ensure the video is being turned on so that everyone can see each other face to face as well as using chat functions during virtual meetings to increase enageme
Have you found colleagues are working harder, about the same as before or maybe a little less and why do you think that? please explain
Definitely longer working hours for most of us as we do still get colleagues calling us before and after work hours. It really depends on individuals too on how you managed your own self time management, balancing between work and family at home especially those on working from home arrangement. Ultimately what is important to the business is to get the goal or outcome delivered with the best service quality.
Longer term do you think you may continue working like you do today or do you think you will get back to like it was before the pandemic hit us all?
As the pandemic situation is still volatile and deviate from time to time and from country to country, there is no one solution that fits all. We would have to continue to monitor the updates and changes, same time ensuring the best arrangement that keep all staff safe and healthy.
If the pandemic did not really affect you tell us why - what made it a non event for you?
How do you now train staff? how is this method working?
Both virtually and in office differing from country to country based on pandemic situation in country. I would say more virtual trainings than before pandemic and creation of e-learning trainer positions. Nevertheless we also identified that in certain occasions, face to face trainings are more helpful and effective especially for new system launch whereby trainer is present to observe the trainee and provides side by side guidance.
If you had to recruit new staff, how has this worked for you? Is it easier / harder? please explain
Harder, we have figured out some adjustments to our onboarding processes especially when the office is not accessible for any face to face meeting and to ensure ongoing engagement with the new staff. It is important to create a strong attachment and bonding with the team from Day 1 that the new hire is on board in living with the company branding and values. All these are currently done virtually and new for everyone to adapt to it.
What have you noticed in terms of staff turnover since the pandemic? any changes? and why do you think there has been a change (if any)
It is with mixed feelings, in some countries less resignations and medical leave with staff working from home arrangement, eating healthily with home prepared meals and same time get to spend more time with their families. While in some others, resignations are higher as some staff decided that they would not want to be on shift work arrangement as they need to look after their children and elderly at home (pandemic has got their maids stucked overseas, harder to arrange for elderly caregiver) and the pandemic has taught them on what is the most important thing in life is to spend time with family.
Do you think your company is now better prepared to deal with a crisis like this or any other crisis (flood, fire, earthquake, hurricane etc) if it happens in the future and if so why?
We are more prepared after a few Covid waves as these experiences would remain relevant and prepared us for the future. Companies would be more calm in managing crisis after gaining further insights on better business agility and sustainability for the future.
Do you think the company you work for appreciates staff more and shows appreciation more now because of the pandemic or does it feel like you get the same or maybe even less appreciation?
My company shows more appreciation by launching new recognition and rewards program to continue rewarding our staff against performance and launching many new activities such as delivery of lunch box, virtual games activities with prizes, delivery of gifts to staff and others.
If you manage a team - how have you coped with the change ?
Stay positive and be there for the team when advice or help is needed. Lead operational crisis meeting and prepared to roll up the sleeves to help the team where necessary. Lend a listening ear to their issues at home and see where we as a company could helps out. Remember that we are in this as a team and would help one another through the challenging moments.
If you are part of a team that worked closely together face to face how do you feel now working in a different way? maybe more remotely?
It is actually not much of a difference as we continue with daily engagement and are just a phone call away. For the past months, we have been working on major projects together and communication is not a problem for all of us.
If you are a manager how do you help your team if they are struggling with personal issues at home or anxiety about the future?
Be a good listener, can provide suggestion or recommendations, ultimately the staff has to make their own personal decision in regards to their personal issues or anxiety of the future. As mentioned, they could also seek help from the professionals via the Employee Assistance helpline for example to seek counsellor advice on their personal challenges.
Many people were concerned about security of information with remote agents - how have you handled this in your business so its not an issue?
We have a thorough review on remote agents by our Security and Compliance team and ensure that this is being covered as part of our audits and certification in taking account all relevant set ups and infrastructures as well as to meet all compliance requirements. Our Security and Compliance team as well as professional audit company have then done an assessment on our remote agents capability and provided an attestation to the capability and the practice.
Lastly, any other comments or opinions you can share about the effects of this pandemic on your business or the people working in your company?
All businesses including the contact centers would have to remain vigilant and able to adapt quickly to any upcoming situation. Employees as the biggest asset to the company would require supports and guidance from their leaders in embracing the new norm of life. Let’s us all embrace and stand strong against the COVID waves and continue to share knowledge, challenges, and success stories in motivating one another as we are in this together. I am certain we are much stronger than the pandemic and would adapt very well to this new norm of life.
Published: Monday, May 10, 2021
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