This year, for most businesses, customer service underwent urgent and unexpected changes. For the first time many embraced work-at-home (WAH) as a necessary component in their model.
Now, as we look towards 2021 and the potential for service agents to return to the office, businesses must consider what their customer support model will look like, taking into account learnings from this year.
Let’s take a closer look at the options
Businesses may wish to return to a purely in-centre operation as soon as they are able. However, they will need to adapt things to accommodate new rules and regulations such as social distancing.
This means more space per person is needed than previously allocated, leading to a reduction in site capacity. Also, more care is needed around regular cleaning and congregating in communal areas will need to be managed.
In 2021, virtual WAH will function largely the same as it has this year. Agents will continue to work from their own homes, with the equipment they need to perform their role.
While previously used by only a small proportion of businesses, many more now consider WAH as a long-term need, having experienced success during the last nine months or so.
- Hub & Spoke
Whereas the WAH model discussed above means that agents can be located virtually anywhere in the world, the hub and spoke model relies on employees being located within a commuting radius of the physical site.
This allows them to come into the centre for recruitment, training, and other specific events, while performing their job remotely.
In this model, part of the team is permanently based at home, while the rest is permanently based in-centre. This adds flexibility to conventional in-centre working, builds on the experience of a tenured in-centre team and provides a contingency if the building can’t be accessed for some reason.
This model is similar to hub and spoke in that agents will be located within a commutable radius of the building. However, rather than working from home full time and coming on site only occasionally, with the hybrid model they work from home for part of the week, and in-centre for the rest.
When planning for customer service in 2021 and beyond, businesses must carefully consider the needs of three key stakeholder groups; the business, agents and customers.
Although some remain committed to a conventional in-centre approach, the majority have experienced the WAH model in 2020 and will continue to use it in their customer service teams, to some extent, in 2021. This will allow them to embrace the benefits of a home-based set-up while also ensuring continuity should anything happen to prevent use of their physical space. They will quickly be able to adapt.