The Virtual Contact Centre

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected businesses across the board, no matter the industry, no one has been spared putting a significant strain on all operational processes; contact centres have not been an exception. Businesses have had to make major shifts, moving their staff to work from home but still responding to high customer service requests.

Looking specifically at contact centres, is this new normal a sustainable way of working, do organizations have all the necessary resources to make it work, is this new way of working going to stay? These are all questions being asked at the moment. This is the age of technology and many have had to embrace it even before they were ready to. Everything is going digital and today we would like to explore into the world of contact centre virtual working.

In a nutshell virtual working is doing what you were doing in the office but in a different location, in most instances working from home where you are still expected to produce the same or even better results than when you were in the office.

For many businesses, employers and employees virtual working has been very welcomed as it has proved to have many advantages, one major one being cost saving. If this is to become permanent, many organisations feel that they can surrender their premises, eliminating the cost of renting as well as surrendering the utility bills that come with it, these including power, water and maintenance costs. Employees are also equally happy as this removes the cost of commuting to and from work  each day and having to purchase daily lunch meals, so it seems everyone wins!

Some businesses have however argued that, is this really a sustainable way of working, stating it’s disadvantages which include firstly, accountability- is someone really logging in and starting work on time and are they doing what they are supposed to do on time and are they getting the same or even better results?! Connectivity is also a major area of concern, especially in Africa, not all areas have adequate connectivity and power supply and also the cost itself that comes with connectivity, the company obviously has to foot this connection bill for their employees and some organisations would much rather keep this central.

The truth of the matter though is that we are here now, in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic so organisations at this point, really have no choice but to adapt for the time being. So how can those who feel it does not work, make it work for now? The answer is control measures. Control measures have to be put in place to help with some of the organisations’ concerns to make sure that they still get value from their employees. Some of these measures include monitoring and reporting, video meetings. But it also not just about controlling people and making sure that they work but its also about motivating them and making sure that they stay engaged in their work. Contact centre employees are generally bubbly people who like to interreact so it’s important to also encourage and conduct virtual engagements to help boost moral and keep the oneness. If employees are motivated a higher output is guaranteed. Organisations should also not be rigid, enforcing 8 to 5 work life but allow employees some flexibility, this will definitely keep the team motivated. Motivation can also come in the form of incentives and bonuses and days off work because working from home is more complex than office working as one has to balance home life and work life, spouses, children etc. Some people had to work far from home, not being able to be with the families, long periods at a time so this just shows a silver lining in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic. As Les Brown said, “Whatever life may send your way, make the best of it. Don’t waste your time and energy worrying about ti. Instead find a way to do something about it. Learn from it, adjust to it, be strong, be flexible and be your best in every situation.”

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