It has now been a year since global lockdowns began.
Over the past 12 months, personal lives have changed in many ways. All have experienced uncertainties and stress, changed shopping and entertainment habits, and lost our freedom to come and go as we please. For most, the vaccine is still months away and the changes imposed on our lives will probably remain long after that shot in the arm. But the vaccine does bring hope that the end is in sight.
The business world also felt the effects of lockdown. Some industries suffered horribly and may never return to their former success, while for others 2020 was a year that growth eclipsed even their best financial estimate.
From a customer experience (CX) perspective, one key change was that work-at-home was propelled to the forefront of many customer-facing strategies.
This home-based approach was, for most businesses, a very necessary reaction. They had to decide quickly and adapt to an unexpected and fast-changing scenario. Many compromised into survival mode, accepting that things weren’t quite where they wanted them to be, but they were getting the job done.
While it was fine to be reactive last year, continuing to be reactive in 2021 is simply accommodating weaknesses in the customer support model.
Moving from reactive to proactive.
When Customer Service departments went home, most thought it would be for no more than 6-8 weeks. Therefore, no real long-term planning was needed – agents simply took whatever available equipment home they needed and responded to customers from there. In many cases, it wasn’t perfect, but it was enough for the couple of months they expected to be at home.
But, as it transpired, that wasn’t the case. A year later, most companies accept that things will not go back to exactly how they were before.
Proactivity requires planning and a look at opportunities to redesign the customer service process and the supporting technology and resources. While having everyone work from home permanently may not be desirable for all companies, there should be an appetite to have part of the team working remotely, and to have the right technology to allow that to happen. This means that, if everyone had to be home-based again in the future, a seamless transition would be possible, with minimum disruption to customer service.
And for those support agents that will remain home-based.
For colleagues who are going to stay at home on a long-term basis, it’s important to ensure they have a healthy working routine. It’s one thing to work from home one day a week, or to be sent home for a couple of weeks, but if it’s going to be a permanent or semi-permanent arrangement they need to ensure they are able to work safely, comfortably and have the technology they need to be efficient and effective.
It’s very important for wellbeing that agents don’t lose sight of the need to have the right work-life balance. For most, traveling to and from the office was their chance to venture outside and marked a clear start and end to the working day. Being home-based, it’s important to remember to get out, walk, exercise and eat well – looking after themselves just as they should if they were going out to work in-centre every day.