With the continued and unprecedented impact of the pandemic on business operations, companies are grappling with everything from their contractual agreements (many outsourcing and managed services agreements include strict requirements on the location of personnel, including some with no permitted remote working) to the availability of people, process and technology tools and practices required to support WFH models which keep employees safe and business flowing.
Provisions regarding reopening and shifting back to on-site working is a growing issue that is being discussed within both customer and service provider organizations with most organizations making plans for large proportions of their future operating model to be WFH on a permanent basis
COVID-19 is stress-testing this and many other operational challenges. With a surge in contact center activity, in large part being created by the pandemic, agility and the ability to ramp up and ramp down resources and skillsets to address changing demands has become a key challenge.
COVID-19 will continue to influence how CX service providers, their clients, and their clients’ customers interact and how solutions are delivered in the short and long term. We caught up with Sean Erickson, Managing Director and leader of the Strategy and Consulting practice at Eventus, a CX technology, and services company based in Denver, to learn from the frontlines how they are serving their large enterprise customers, helping them navigate through the storm.
Erickson has been in the CX industry for three decades. He has been CEO of three CX related businesses, a senior executive with responsibility for the contact center organizations of three Fortune 100 companies, an executive leader in two of the world’s largest and most successful contact center BPOs in the world (TTEC and Sitel) and today as Managing Director of the StrategicConsulting organization at Eventus.
“While the Eventus team and our clients have never worked harder, we have been energized by the ability to conquer the challenges that have made 2020 a year we will never forget,” Erickson said. “We are proud to have responded with great creativity, agility, and determination – and while we recognize there will be more difficulties ahead, we truly believe that there is nothing we cannot achieve when we put our not only our minds but our hearts into the effort.”
We asked Erickson what enterprises and CX service providers must take into consideration when transforming their operating models, faster than many may have imagined, but knowing that adding WFH agents to their offerings would deliver proven benefits.
“Long before the pandemic, we’ve been assisting our clients in making their move to the cloud,” Erickson said. “There is an inevitability in moving to distributed, work at home models, but until the virus hit, the trajectory of change has been slower. It’s fair to say that many contact center operators have no choice but to migrate immediately, and that’s what we’ve been helping them do – and the results have been extremely positive, recognizing that there is more to do to ensure productivity gains over the long run.”
Erickson explained that the initial client needs their immediate projects, implemented in days and driven with disaster recovery like urgency, have now shifted to clients that are looking for insight and recommendations on work from home operational improvement opportunities that can extend benefits beyond today.
“With the expansion of Covid-19, large enterprises we are working with are seeking a WFH framework for their internal operations, which also helps them evaluate how their service providers are responding,” Erickson said. “Even though cloud contact center and WFH models have been in place and working for years there are big opportunities to mature how we support people, processes, and technology practices.”
Erickson also noted work underway that will enhance a hybrid model, as some employees – agents and managers – do return to facilities, and how those facilities must be retrofit to accommodate social distancing and other safety practices. “Those leaders responsible for delivering excellent customer experiences as efficiently as possible are thinking more deeply than ever about every aspect of their CX posture, from security, operations, and training, to recruiting and quality assurance. They are embracing this time as something of a laboratory where they are learning what works – and what needs further attention, short and longer-term.”
The Eventus team has been using its proprietary WFH framework, which includes comprehensive analyses of requirements including security, technology, operations, employee engagement, workforce management, training and quality, HR, recruiting and more, to bring true improvement to WFH models
“There is no discipline that is not impacted when contact centers move to cloud,” Erickson said. “And while we have been able to quickly respond to setting up workers from home as part of the emergency response, the real work is rolling out over time, so we are very involved in transitional to transformational planning. What is the ideal future state? What is the rationale for moving more agents to WFH alternatives? How does this get deployed over time? What is the impact on business continuity – how will a transformation help or hurt when we are confronted with the next pandemic or challenge? What does the strategic roadmap look like? Which vendors make the most sense, and how will the transformation be managed?”
Erickson said while the economic benefits at a high level seem obvious, given the reduction in expenses associated with real estate and more, “to get to the true ROI, it’s important to model what it will truly cost to run hybrid or pure virtual contact centers. This cannot be done in a vacuum, as the entire CX world is continuing to change, with omnichannel approaches become more channel-less, and as innovations including robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, new security technologies including consumer-controlled identity management and more continue to impact the very nature of how enterprises and organizations serve their markets.”
Erickson also noted that accelerating the transformation to cloud and WFH environments is a strategic mission that impacts enterprises across business units. “After we were able to help put immediate options in place so customers could be served at a time when inbound volume was skyrocketing, in large part due to the confusion and concern caused by COVID-19, the conversation shifted to the longer-term vision. CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CMOs, and entire leadership team’s awareness has been heightened during this time, and we are seeing leaders within our client universe coming together around continuing to serve customers with more intensity and passion than ever. While we have had to work harder and smarter than we could have ever imagined just to help our clients continue to operate day-in and day-out, we’ve been energized by the authentic commitment to do the right thing today, while rethinking how we can all serve tomorrow.”
Originally published on Customer Magazine
Operating contact centers and developing CX innovations has never been easy. I’ve been in this industry for three decades , have been CEO of three CX related businesses, founded, built and sold a virtual contact center business, have run large portions of two of the world’s largest and most successful contact center BPOs in the world (TTEC and Sitel), and today am leading the Strategy and Consulting group at Eventus.
There is a perfect storm brewing during this time of COVID-19 as the contact center and CX industries have been forced to pivot to Work From Home models, converting hundreds of thousands of agents around the world to remote employees, even as engagement volumes are skyrocketing, and cyber attacks designed to steal private information are pervasive.