Prior to the events of 2020, many companies were intrigued by Work At Home (WAH) customer service.

They recognised its existence, they were curious to know more, but they were ultimately reluctant to adopt it in their organisations.

Then came lockdown, and companies everywhere were forced to act to maintain customer service operations, while unable to have their teams physically in the office.

That’s when the perception of work-at-home really started to change.

From periphery to necessity

Pre-2020, the two main barriers to work at home, were:

  • Perceived risk – companies believed they would lack control of the team and visibility of what colleagues were doing
  • No urgency – though aware of WAH, there was no need to change from an in-centre model

Suddenly, almost overnight, change was imposed and working from home went from the periphery of CX strategy to an urgent necessity. Suddenly, there was drive: Work At Home was virtually the only viable option. And, in an effort to keep customer service available, companies realised that, with the right technology, they could remove or minimise risks associated with colleagues not being in the same room.

When there was no other option, the issues previously seen as barriers were overcome.

Fast forward to 2021…

A year on, companies have seen WAH in action. They’ve experienced success, and have seen that there are benefits for both the business and for colleagues. As a result, global perceptions have changed significantly, with home-based support included in many future CX plans.

In fact, 80% of SYKES’ UK clients do not plan a total return to the office and will instead maintain teams working from home permanently.

Equally, brands now know that agents are happier, great communication and collaboration is achieved with the right technology, and productivity and quality remain high.

An industry perspective

Until last year, more than 90% of support agents were office-based, with a small number working from home, perhaps as a concession rather than the norm. Work-at-home was very much on the periphery, even for outsource providers.

But, home-based support is not new. SYKESHome has operated for over 5 years in Europe, and for much longer in North America. When lockdowns were imposed, SYKES had the knowledge, resources, and ability to move many thousands of colleagues home within a 3-week time frame, with little or no disruption to customer service.

And this success was recognised at the 2020 ECCCSA Awards.

Now in its 20th year, the ECCCSA are Europe-wide industry awards, attracting over 800 entries, from 26 countries, across 36 categories. SYKESHome received the Bronze award for the event’s flagship category – Best Pan-European Contact Centre. As the only 100% work-at-home entrant to get onto the podium in this category, this represents a massive breakthrough, a step forward for the industry, and we’re excited to see what comes next!

SYKES has been helping companies to help their customers for over forty years. If your customer service strategy needs experience and resources for success, please get in touch!

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