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Coronavirus putting Business Continuity Plans to the test
Customer experience management has never been as challenging for enterprises as it is today. Going forward, the capacity to win new consumers and retain existing ones will be even more confusing, with ongoing rapid changes in end-user expectations, technology, and the need for business continuity. This is why so many firms across different industries are seeking to stabilize and improve their CX functions by taking on a front-line partner that can provide the experience required to do best by their customers.
However, when selecting a front-line third-party partner, enterprise customer management professionals should realize that this choice needs to be made with a great deal of reflection. All providers are not created equal. To this end, enterprises should choose an outsourcer based on their capabilities across several criteria. Being selective in the choice of a CX partner means a better chance of driving better end-user outcomes, which should be the objective of any organization.
What makes a good CX business partner?
In an industry as mature and diversified in BPO providers as customer experience management, the selection of a potential partner can be daunting. It would be foolish for an enterprise CX manager to simply choose the first BPO they find on a web search. Rather, when selecting the outsourcing partner that will act as a brand ambassador for a product or service, the enterprise must be judicious. And, while the most important elements will vary depending on the individual enterprise in question, the following are the considerations that should be taken into account when selecting a front-line BPO provider.
Focus on data protection and best practices – in today’s front-line contact center environment, no enterprise can afford to be without a BPO partner that does not adhere to best practices. These take on several facets, including:
Data security – it is clear that the integrity of consumers’ personal details must be as locked-down as possible. This is why any enterprise CX manager should look for a BPO partner that can ensure the most watertight cybersecurity provisions, strict screening of new hires for criminal records or credit problems, and strong security around its facilities.
Compliance – CX managers cannot afford to be outside of compliance regulations, either within the scope of their own operations, or those of an outsourced partner. This is why looking for a BPO’s conformity with standards that include COPC, PCI, GDPR, and ISO27001 are more important than ever.
These elements are crucial for contact center management, and enterprise executives should consider them as table stakes when engaging with any BPO looking to win their front-line business. Indeed, in the 2020 Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey of 540 enterprise contact center decision-makers, respondents rated both information security provisions and compliance management capabilities as their top two criteria when selecting an outsourcing partner.
Diversified delivery platform – the reality for enterprises moving forward is that business continuity needs to be front and center in how they manage interactions with consumers. No longer will one contact center suffice. Rather, front line delivery will need to be performed from a variety of locations, using different models. This will ensure that should a disruption occur (such as wild weather, natural disasters, societal upheavals, or pandemics), the contact center function is prepared to maintain seamless delivery to end-users. Thus, finding a partner that can drive service from domestic, nearshore, and offshore points is a must, as is one that can do so with both agents based at home alongside those working in a physical contact center.
Adaptability – any outsourcer that aims to win enterprise business needs to present a set of capabilities that reflect its ability to pivot to different CX circumstances.
Consumer demand is not consistent throughout the year and varies depending on the industry in question – just consider holiday seasons or back-to-school as two examples. CX executives need to prioritize finding a BPO partner that is agile and that has the right processes in place in order to ramp up or down quickly, so as to respond to changes in consumer demand. Reacting to new developments simply will not be enough in the current/future CX market.
Experienced management team – in customer management, clearly experience counts for enterprises that are choosing an outsourcing partner. This should come as no surprise, considering the extent to which this industry has pivoted so many times over the past several years. Having the right BPO team in place to work with an enterprise’s CX managers is crucial for two reasons; one, to incorporate their priorities into the formulation of a campaign strategy, and; while two, in order to manage sensitive situations that can impact seamless delivery. Without experience behind the wheel of an outsourcing partner, an enterprise customer management function could be vulnerable to poor performance.
Technology backbone – the era of customer management being all about agents at workstations is history. In reality, the role that technology plays in running a CX operation has never been more important, and enterprises should require a robust series of platforms from their front-line outsourcing partners. Among the most important technologies that enterprise executives should look for from BPOs are:
AI-driven automation – these solutions have proven their mettle in terms of driving strong front-end interactions with consumers, using both and digital channels. Equally, they have also been essential in pushing the right information to agents that are interacting with end-users efficiently and accurately.
Analytics – no outsourced contact center should be without a strong analytics solution to hand. From an operational perspective, these capabilities are crucial to guarantee efficiencies on the contact center floor. Equally, they are proving to be a game-changer in helping enterprises identify specific nuances about customers. Analytics can be used to build a unified view of each consumer, helping to sell better and drive long-term loyalty. But with these platforms more expensive than ever, captive operators are right to look for a BPO partner that can bring these tools to the table from the outset of an engagement.
Access to skills – any strong series of interactions with consumers is predicated on the quality of talent working on the frontlines. Yet, for many enterprises, this human resource dynamic remains a challenge. In fact, the 2020 Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey indicated that agent recruitment and attrition were among the biggest operational challenges for enterprise contact centers. Thus, working with an outsourcer that has the processes in place for finding and keeping top talent should be a priority when choosing a front-line partner. Not only will retaining quality, motivated talent ensure better outcomes, it will also reduce costs due to less pressure around hiring and training.
Vertical subject-matter expertise – the difference between a great interaction that drives loyalty from a consumer versus one that is simply mediocre can come down to how familiar an outsourcer is with the sector they are supporting for the enterprise client. Hence, many firms looking to house some or all their CX capacity with a BPO want the industry knowledge that quality providers can bring to the table. This may come with experience in a specific field, or it may be due to the outsourcer onboarding the requisite subject-matter expertise needed to excel in a particular industry. Regardless, any enterprise customer management professional should be looking for a strong intersection between their own industry and the extent to which a BPO partner understands the CX nuances of that space.
Solid track record of CX success – a final consideration for an enterprise looking to engage an outsourcer for their front-line support functions needs to be the track record of success that a provider can offer. In the current commercial environment, no company can afford to take a chance with a BPO that is unable to provide strong references or case studies. Executives cannot take for granted the base of consumers that their enterprise has built up over time. This is why prioritizing the choice of a partner that has a demonstrated level of achievement in the CX space should be paramount.
Undoubtedly, picking the right outsourcing partner to manage some or all of an enterprise’s CX operations is no easy task. Executives selecting their partner of choice have to weigh numerous factors. This process needs to take into account criteria that will directly impact how well end-users are serviced, overall operating efficiencies, business continuity, and data security. There are many options that enterprise contact center managers have to choose from, but narrowing it down to a partner with experience, a commitment to quality, and a strong record of delivering for their clients’ consumers, is essential.
We are faced with unprecedented times. The world is in flux, as social norms, cultures and the global economy are under threat.The only constant is rapid change. It is a time where the resilience, patience, empathy and will power of humanity is being tested.
Businesses, health organisations and governments are faced with tough decisions, ones that require swift action under immense pressures as they are confronted with many unknowns.
It is a time where the robustness and readiness of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plans are truly put to the test and their validity verified
For many,the Work From Home (WFH) concept is no longer an experiment. Simply put, work is being done differently.
Proactive adjustments to BCP plans
With the World Health Organisation(WHO) announcing the Coronavirus a global pandemic, CapabilityBPO immediately initiated plans to redeploy our workforce across additional sites to minimise the impact of a potential mass infection across our workforce in addition to a Work From Home plan.
Our plan included providing measures and actions to be deployed on each of our sites globally to minimize the potential impact on our service levels in addition to contributing to continually educating our employees and preventing their health from being affected.
Our plans include:
A severity indexing of each phase
Actions to be taken for each phase
Deployment of “work from home plans” where possible
Making usage of back up sites where possible
Consideration on leveraging language capabilities among our sites
The first phase of each BCP illustrates the scenario in which there are no confirmed Coronavirus cases in the area the site operates. In this phase the focus is on raising awareness and educating employees on measures to take to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.These go hand in hand with the directives of the World Health Organization as well as those of the National Health Organizations.
All our employees are informed about the most important measures they can take to prevent the spread, stressing the importance of basic hygiene measures. These include:
Wash your hands with soap regularly
Practice respiratory hygiene: Cough and sneeze on the inside of your elbow
Use paper handkerchiefs that have to be disposed of immediately
Clean Keyboards/mice multiple times daily
Headsets will always be cleaned after workday or shift end
Clean desk table multiple times a day
Strict monitoring process flow sickness
Ongoing Infection control between sites
The following rules have been put in place:
No travelling or visits between sites -everyone will use electronic meeting facilities (Teams, Zoom, etc.)
No freedom of movement where two sites are in the same building
All sites have sanitizers at all entrances
Sanitizing of equipment has been scheduled before new shift starts -keyboard, mouse, headset, desk and monitor
All sites have temperature scanning solutions in-place to monitor fever
Key personal who have global responsibilities work from home - Senior Workforce Manager, Scheduler, Business Intelligence as well as local Finance, HR and Compliance
Senior Management has been split between sites to ensure management continuity
Ongoing awareness programs are in place -email, posters, town halls, daily stand-ups
A successful BCP Work from Home (WFH) solution rollout
As of Thursday, 12th March 2020 Capability BPO successfully rolled out our Corona BCP Work from Home (WFH) solution. No small feat for a global Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) operation.
According to the BPO industry benchmarks, Capability BPO did a massive job in a very short time, with much success.
Rolling out a WFH solution in one location is challenge enough. Rolling out an effective WFH solution across multiple sites across the world without any service disruption and no impact to operational metrics is a huge achievement. In fact the only change was a dramatic reduction in Shrinkage!
We successfully deployed 750 heads around the world to work from home in a phased country by country approach, starting with the Netherlands, followed by Albania, Philippines, Morocco, Colombia, South Africa and finally Suriname.
During this time of change with process and policy changing rapidly, ensuring that our employees are providing the most relevant and up to date information is critical. To ensure we continued to deliver the high standards that our clients demand, it was vital that we applied our client communicated policy’s effectively and ensured that these were adhered to. as such it was therefore critical that our quality process continued to operate effectively whilst meeting volume commitments.
Capability BPO’s quality programme allows our leadership to breakdown the process into three major compliance categories ensuring that we understand the issues we are facing and can take immediate root cause and action with additional training and coaching where required. This ensures that not only at this difficult time but at all times we enhance the customer experience minimizing effort in the end to end process.
Remote management of quality was underpinned by our effective existing processes and lifting these directly into a remote platform. Through utilizing existing systems which allow for QA’s and Team Leaders to provide written reports of agent quality performance broken down into the component parts, along with our culture of proactive agent management allowed employee’s to remotely access, review and acknowledge feedback promoting immediate action on their performance. This was further supported by 15 minute power coaching sessions led by Team Leaders and Quality Analysts.
Additionally through our existing governance and reporting process of weekly quality business reviews completed on remote tools, senior leadership can adapt and manage remotely without any change in approach, continuing in line with previous expectations via conferencing with root cause and actions identified and addressed. In the occurrence of any training requirements or specialized coaching sessions these are scheduled via WFM however delivered via remote virtual classroom training or remote group coaching sessions ensuring the business continues to exceed expectations with regards to performance.
As a result of the above, there was no impact to our baseline quality performance, additionally updates to process and policy could effectively be tracked, and performance understood. This result was possible due to the governance and controls being devised to meet a remote working environment due to the global nature of our business.
Snapshot: Implementation of South Africa
Map out and structure the practicalities of the Work From Home plan
De-construct ones contact center
Get your IT team on board to dismantle machines and operational set-up
Package individual WFH IT boxes
Arrange for secure transporting of packaged individual WFH boxes for delivery to agents homes
IT Teams travelling with agents in our “Ghost Buster” transport van to make deliveries
Set up and test PC’s
Ensure onboarding of WFH set-up with agents in working order
Repeat set up cycle until all WFH deployed staff are successfully working
Snapshot: Implementation of Albania
"Work From Home" policy was applied with immediate implementation.
Internet Connection test done before start of shift.
IT team available during shift to handle IT issues (Conducted remotely fixing internet issues, and installation of Zoom installed on every computer for remote control functionality)
Increased the number of available agents working from home immediate
The configuration plan for the rest of the team was already in progress in order to have a backup group and not risk Service Levels.
Continued Drivers for success
Steering Committee headed by CEO and COO commencing with Zoom calls three times a day, conducting internal progress update calls and proactive communication to key client stakeholders.
Highly devoted and committed staff around the world, including the client service representatives
Infrastructure included desktops being installed in homes with VPN tunnels, Wifi dongles for more rural area’s in some countries and the provision of pre-paid internet boxes.
Scheduled Work From Home kick-off Video call with Team Leaders, video and chat at direct disposal for the CSR’s, and QA 1:1 sessions and QA video group sessions.
Current Management Strategies
Daily pre-shift Zoom sessions led by Team Leaders
Sleep Check by Subject Matter Expert/Floor Walkers: When a SME/QA/Floor Walkers says, "SLEEP CHECK" everyone needs to say "IN" in less than 3 minutes, or you'll be considered IDLE and will have to explain why you weren’t able to respond (Agents engaged on Chat are not required to answer)
Support Team “All hands on Deck” approach
Senior Agents: Front Liners for Peak hours and switch to support role during relaxed hours (Supporting new hires).
Tenured Agents empowered to teach new hires (buddy system).
More difficult cases are escalated to SMEs/Team Leaders.
Daily post-shift Zoom sessions led by the Team Leaders
Mitigation for Work-from-home
Connectivity - An audit was carried out to determine data coverage for the concentration of residential addresses. Relevant connectivity provider routers were distributed to staff.
Devices - Existing desktops have been deployed offsite and additional procurement of rental laptops.
Uninterrupted power supply - Laptops powered by batteries in the event of power disruption
Data and Device protection - VPN tunnels have been created to secure connectivity, with adjustments to policies and procedures to ensure compliance.
*Speed of readiness is influenced by specific in country developments & Government directions
Our continued commitment to Customer Services hasn’t stopped since the implementation of our Work From Home plan. We continue to train using collaborative tools like Zoom.
We have established clear Work From Home Guidelines and Procedures to assist maintaining a good quality of delivery and business continuity across all tasks.
Continued Monitoring Performance and Quality Assurance
Team Leaders remain fully available to support their respective teams whilst in in remote mode with daily and mid-point check-ins and chat groups with their agents creating a platform for support.
Quality Analysts continue to function normally by handling the quality process through the Reveal CX quality platform with a great focus on written documentation allowing our Agents to get detailed remote feedback.
We operate a follow the sun Real Time Analyst (RTA’s) approach which means that our existing RTA’s required no adaption to a remote working policy. Working closely with our schedulers and client’s elements such as scheduled adherence and queue optimization we maintained at or above target throughout the transition minimizing our customer wait time during this extremely busy period.
Zoom morning calls are scheduled between Operations and Team Leader’s on a daily basis, within ten minutes of shifts beginning ensuring that the right governance and communication is in place during this rapidly changing time .
Standard daily conference calls with clients continue to take place as per original scheduled and are thus unaffected by remote work.
Work From Home Success Stories
Snapshot: Implementation of the Philippines
Video calls via Zoom has become really fun and surprisingly, we have discovered advantages in doing trainings via zoom:
Less distraction, more productivity. We’ve discovered that there’s less distraction since once everyone is on mute, the trainer can monopolize the stage.
Meetings are easier since there’s less hassle since no need to turn on lights, arrange seats, set the projector etc.
Promotes participation. Even agents who are usually conservative when speaking their ideas in a large-crowd have become more participative during team meetings.
Long Distance Coaching
Quality Analyst/Subject Matter Experts/Team Leaders can now do multiple coaching sessions at one time.
No more private meeting room limitation.
Agents who are typically shy are starting to express themselves more freely via Zoom coaching sessions compared to face to face coaching.
"Let’s, Volt…." (Voltes V, from a famous Japanese robot series) when TL/QA/SME type this in the ChatGroup, all is expected to say “IN” in 2-minutes, or you’ll be considered idle. Agents then have to explain why they weren’t able to respond..and the fun part is they’ll have to sing the chorus later on the team huddle if they’re late.
"Toire ni ittekimasu" = Bathroom Break (somehow saying it in Japanese has a funny ring to it, like "I’ll journey to the toilet, and shall return")
Other success stories
Agents are able to overcome boredom with being on quarantine by staying connected before and even after their shifts.
Senior agents stay after shift to help new hires, and these small teaching sessions lead to dissolving the borders between groups (new hires usually group together and do not mingle with Senpais or seniors, it’s a Japanese culture)
Since most are living on processed/canned foods, our agents utilize Zoom for recipe sharing, one agent even used it to teach other agents on how to spice up their typical instant ramen by turning it to a savory curry ramen.
An opportunity to start learning more about our team mates. Agents are sharing their hobbies and discovering more about each other because of the off-work chat groups.
Agents are verbalizing that the 2-3 hours they usually spend on their daily commute are now precious hours they can use to care for and be with their loved ones.
WFH helped everyone overcome anxiety and depression, a reality with most people in quarantine.
Snapshot: Implementation of Bogota
Video calls with each team: Random calls are being performed to the agents from time to time to ensure everything is all right and to provide support if needed.
Coaching on a distance: Team meetings whenever an update comes up to cover the information in real time.
Video team huddles are being held on a daily basis at the end of the shift to share impressions and cases are shared in addition to talking about their and how they feel working from home.
On a daily basis each shift starts with sharing on the Hangouts and WhatsApp groups Inspiring quotes to keep the moral up and to encourage the teams to continue to deliver.
Overall, there’s an overwhelming positive vibe which inspires the teams. Whilst working hard, that can be with their loved ones during this very difficult time.
‘Capability BPO is proud of what we collectively as a global business have delivered. Through early identification of the changing environment and proactive testing of our COVID19 BCP’s prior to deployment we managed to achieve no service disruption during the transition. In light of the fact that we serve 12 to 20 hours opening window 7 days a week this is no easy feat. This could only be achieved with the hard work and dedication of our global teams and the support of our partners and clients. Well done to all our people. You have all made it possible and we are incredibly proud of each and every one of you.’ Global Delivery Director