The changing workforce, accelerated by the pandemic, has made it essential for businesses to provision workers to be able to work from anywhere. Ensuring business continuity when employees can’t go to the office requires a flexible, agile approach. And, for teams operating in customer-focused environments, this is even more complex because maintaining an exceptional level of customer service when staff members are working from anywhere can be complex. Agility is the key.
Rod Lester, managing director ANZ, NICE, said, “Even though working conditions may have changed, customer expectations haven’t. Customers still expect a high level of responsiveness and accuracy when contacting organisations. The pandemic has also seen a dramatic increase in critical contact centre traffic. This means the needs of customers are growing and so, too, are the needs of contact centre agents when it comes to working remotely.”
The first concern of most organisations is whether their staff members can continue working productively and effectively when outside the normal office environment. Consistency is key. While schedules and access may change, it’s important to ensure everyone agrees on business priorities and is working together towards a common goal. And, if employees can continue using the same systems when working from anywhere as they used in the office, this can help streamline the transition.
The nature of a work-from-anywhere approach means that the workforce itself must become agile. Flexibility can no longer be an earned privilege; instead, it must be built into every aspect of the organisation.
NICE has identified two key ways organisations can support an agile workforce while meeting business needs:
1. Forecast as early and often as possible. Call patterns can change by the day or even by the hour, so reforecasting often is valuable. Contact centre agents should also be aware of any changes to the self-service strategy to prepare them for changes in customer inquiries, and to ensure they aren’t overlooking other communication channels.
2. Increase flexibility. Extreme schedule changes are common in this unpredictable environment, so flexibility in scheduling can help meet business needs. This can include offering shorter shifts, split shifts, or block scheduling for changing work types.
Rod Lester said, “When organisations are successful in making their workforce highly agile, they can engage staff more deeply, which often leads to increased productivity. Flexible hours are highly desirable so, being able to accommodate this and still recognise that the employee is contributing to the organisation is essential for organisational success and for attracting and retaining quality talent.”
The leading organisations in this space tend to demonstrate four key characteristics:
1. A combination of cloud and evergreen technology stack.
2. Action-driven insights and engagement with artificial intelligence, analytics, and machine learning.
3. A combination or total automation of low-value tasks.
4. Omnichannel capabilities demonstrated across all domains.
Rod Lester said, “It’s important to keep team members engaged and this requires open communication. Keeping stakeholders up to date is easier if the business leaders develop and stick to a comprehensive communications plan. In this environment, it’s better to overcommunicate rather than undercommunicate to keep remote workers feeling connected.
“Organisations that feared productivity would drop if flexibility and agility were increased have seen that those fears were unfounded. A positive outcome of COVID-19 is likely to be that workforces remain agile into the future, to the benefit of both workers and their employers. Supporting this agility doesn’t have to be complicated as long as the business has the right cloud-based technology in place.”