Back in March, businesses across Europe moved their customer service team to work from home because of lockdown restrictions. Their objectives were threefold:
- Protect their people
- Continue to deliver service to customers
- Remain compliant with government regulations
Now, just as businesses start moving towards a degree of normality, it has become clear that a second Covid-19 wave with a significant increase in cases is occurring across much of the region.
This highlights the uncertainty we all face and makes planning extremely difficult.
While companies try to get their people back to the office, they must ensure that their planning is flexible. We were previously looking forward to ‘when this is all over’, but now increasingly realising that ‘when this is all over’ isn’t just a date in the calendar. The approach and associated changes need to be adaptable, potentially at short notice.
How do we distinguish between what a business can do and what society is doing?
When much of Europe went into lockdown, society respected the measures and followed rules put in place by local governments. Over time, these rules were relaxed, giving people more freedom to socialise, travel and work as normal. As the number of positive tests has grown, calls for restraint have been ignored by some and rules flouted, leading to the reintroduction and enforcement of tougher requirements.
But businesses can’t mimic such behaviour by flouting rules and their customer service needs require that they protect their people as a priority. Remaining compliant with imposed rules, whether they agree with them or not, is vital as failure to do so could result in fines or closure when the authorities find out.
The three objectives above are very much interdependent. Adherence to rules is intended to protect people. Keeping customer service people safe means that customers are supported. So compliance is the right thing to do for employees and customers.
There needs to be alignment between what businesses do and what society does.
While there is an appetite for many companies to get people back into the office, they must do this only with these three objectives in mind. Businesses must continue to observe lockdown measures and keep their people, where possible, working from home for the foreseeable future.
With any glimmer of hope that we are heading towards the end of the lockdown, then each company can plan their own version of the return to the office. However, as they put plans in place based on expected dates and announcements, it’s vital that they understand that the government may not give the go-ahead. A spike in cases or people behaving socially irresponsibly can result in a rapid change of circumstances.
In summary; Protecting people, continuing to offer customer service and remaining complaint with local lockdown restrictions will continue to be the goals of many businesses as we enter Q4 2020.