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The Future of Contact Centers is Remote and Hybrid   

Knowledge Center: The Future of Contact Centers is Remote and Hybrid   


By: Victor Saenz, DATAMARK

Just as the future of work has gone remote and hybrid, expect contact centers to do the same as we emerge from the pandemic era.

Advances in technology, trends in communication, and changing customer expectations have all had a major impact on contact centers over the years. Today’s consumers want always-on, omnichannel support, and they want it fast. Add to that the growing demand for remote-friendly working conditions, and you’ll see why the industry has been rapidly evolving. Remote and hybrid models are quickly becoming the future of the contact center industry.

 Where Is the Contact Center Business Headed?

Like many other business services, the contact center industry underwent a massive change in 2020. Statista found the percentage of U.S. employees working primarily from home jumped up to 44 percent during the coronavirus outbreak versus 17 percent before the pandemic. Onsite centers adapted to a completely remote model practically overnight. However, due to data privacy laws and security restrictions in place for some contact center work, a hybrid structure is likely the future, driven by the customer’s need.

As consumers and businesses switched to a socially distanced life and work, the need for a smooth digital experience with a personal touch became even more important. COVID-19 accelerated the shift towards digitalization in our culture overall, our workflows, and with customers today. And though the world is now looking at what post-pandemic operations may look like, here are some industry trends we think could be here to stay:

?   Expanded Remote Operations: COVID-19 forced many contact centers to switch to a remote model practically overnight. While the sudden change presented challenges, it also highlighted many benefits to both companies and employees alike. 

?   Omnichannel Service Model: Phone support is no longer the center of customer support operations. Today’s consumers want to get help via multiple channels, including chat, video chat, SMS, email, and social media. Customers expect a seamless process on whichever platform they’re more comfortable with, and contact centers need to handle any and all channels.

?   Emphasis on Mobile-First Experience: Consumers spend more time on their mobile devices than ever before, and they expect a smooth user experience, especially when conducting business on their phone, making it critical for voice, video, email, and chat services to be mobile-optimized.

?   AI and Humans Work Together: While artificial intelligence (AI) has steadily improved, consumers still demand a human touch. A PWC survey indicated that 75 percent of respondents worldwide want more human interaction, even as technology improves. But leveraging AI and chatbots for routine tasks give human agents more time to deal with complex problems. Thus, contact centers have already been testing a hybrid model between the two. 

?   More Skilled and Specialized Agents: As companies automate mundane and repetitive support needs with AI, the role of customer service agents continues to evolve. Customers expect them to solve more complex problems and provide rapid assistance. Contact center agents now require more advanced training, deeper knowledge of a company’s products and services, and the ability to offer solutions in real-time.

Remote Work and the Future of Contact Centers 

As the world emerges from the pandemic, companies are getting the opportunity to assess their remote options more thoroughly. Enterprises may have used one model last year out of necessity, but now have the chance to refine and redevelop their remote contact centers to better suit their ongoing needs.

Five Reasons for Remote Contact Centers

Remote contact centers aren’t just good for the companies that use them. While the flexibility and increased profitability are great, they’re also a better fit for many agents than traditional contact centers. With the following benefits for both companies and agents, there’s increased potential for growth and stability:

?   Increased Agent Productivity and Happiness: Studies show remote workers are often happier than non-remote employees. Working from home is less stressful, eliminates commute time, and allows for more focus and work-life balance. Remote call center agents are more productive and provide a positive face to customers, resulting in better customer interaction and satisfaction.

?   Access to a Diverse Workforce: Companies like Uber and DoorDash have shown that a growing number of people want non-traditional and flexible working conditions. Remote contact centers allow for similar flexibility, and the workforce can include both full-time and part-time employees. From a business perspective, companies can take advantage of a wider candidate pool when they are not limited to a single geographic location. 

?   Reduced Cost Pressure: Remote contact centers can potentially increase profitability in several ways. With reduced real estate, utilities, and other intrinsic costs of running an onsite operation, BPO companies can often minimize overall project costs without negatively impacting customer satisfaction. Broader and more rapid adoption of cloud-based technology as a result of the pandemic also makes it easier to get remote agents up and running quickly and with appropriate security in place. 

?   Flexibility and Scalability: Whether or not your business is seasonal, remote call centers offer immense flexibility to meet evolving customer service needs. Workforce management is essential to meet your needs without overspending on employees, hardware, or other resources. Additionally, remote contact centers can often launch more quickly than most onsite options, providing greater scalability for growing businesses.

?   Expanded Service Window: Customers increasingly expect immediate access to support. Thanks to a combination of onshore, nearshore, and offshore outsourcing, contact centers can provide service 24 hours/day, whether on an on-site or work-from-home model. 

How to Stay Ahead of the Curve

Moving a company’s contact center operations to a remote model isn’t without challenges. Hardware, software, workforce management, operational planning, and security are all pieces of the puzzle. And highly regulated industries may face demanding requirements on top of that. 

The good news is, a bit of planning and organization (or help from an experienced business processing outsourcing partner) can set you up for success. Here are some of the key areas to consider when developing plans for a remote contact center:

?   Business Operations and Continuity: As COVID-19 proved, it’s nearly impossible to be too thorough with business continuity planning. While remote contact centers eliminate many of the single points of failure in onsite centers, it’s still critical to consider the impact on your operations and continuity plans. 

?   Hiring and Onboarding: Many companies’ internal HR departments are used for hiring and onboarding employees in a traditional setting. A BPO provider can provide the expertise to extend your workforce outside the office, either by hiring remote agents or providing off-site contact centers. 

?   Employee Engagement: Managing a remote contact center is about more than making sure agents meet quotas and hit scores. You need to maintain communication, morale, and culture -- just as you would with an onsite workforce. In our experiences, we have worked to retain the positive aspects of onsite work in our remote contact centers (through recognition, community-building, etc.) to keep employees happy and engaged.

?   Cloud-Based Technology: Many companies have moved towards cloud-based solutions for their improved flexibility, scalability, and lower overhead costs. More importantly, cloud-based technology stacks are a viable solution for both onsite and remote contact centers, providing the freedom to grow and expand without being tied to in-house hardware and software.

?   IT Governance and Data Security: Data security is a challenge in remote work since remote workers will access company platforms from various networks and locations. Data security tools and plans are available on the market for protection, including solutions that integrate with your existing software and technology stacks.  

Embracing the Shift to a Remote Workforce

As companies begin to implement their post-pandemic work strategies, many are keeping the work-from-home model in some form. The past year has provided a testing ground for more remote-friendly work culture, and that test proved viable. Global Workplace Analytics estimates 56 percent of the U.S. workforce holds a job that’s at least partially compatible with remote work. And Pew Research found 54 percent of employed adults who are currently working from home want to continue doing so after the pandemic. 

About the Author:

Victor Saenz is Director of Mexico Operations at DATAMARK. He brings more than 21 years of experience in the Business Process Outsourcing industry, successfully transitioning and managing operations by driving a culture of continuous improvement and added value to customers. As a Director of Operations, Saenz has been responsible for a diversity of clients and processes spanning Contact Center (Customer Service, Interpretation Services, Case Resolution, Collections, etc.), Document Lifecycle Management, and Finance and Accounting outsourcing services in Mexico and the United States. He develops leaders who can collaborate with customers through transparency, engineering, quality, and analytics to exceed expectations. Saenz holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and is Six Sigma Green Belt Certified. DATAMARK has over three decades of BPO experience providing everything from staffing to training to technology to security.

 

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