Contact Center Anywhere - Opportunity & Threats

Sachin Bhatia, Co-Founder & Global Sales & Marketing Head, AmeyoA tech entrepreneur who is passionate about solving problems for mid-large size businesses, Sachin has traveled to over 40 countries, making Ameyo one of the largest players in the Customer Engagement space in emerging Geographies.

Remote contact centers are rapidly gaining popularity because of the current COVID-19 crisis and most companies are seeing this as a viable option. Businesses across the globe are evaluating the right tools and strategies to embrace the new normal while keeping a check on capital expenditure, convenience, and productivity along with the regulatory issues and implementation process.

1. The Shock of COVID-19
In the wake of COVID-19, the lockdown was imposed across regions, bringing new challenges for contact centers to continue their business operations. What has been a debate for two decades, enforced contact centers to go remote overnight. But, to move remote contact centers, the requirement for remote infrastructure and regulatory challenges remained on the top amongst many others.

However, the government of India has extended relaxed connectivity norms for work from home till July 31, 2020, to enable contact centers to operate remotely. IT leaders, staying ahead of the curve and grabbing the opportunity, are quickly looking to stitch solutions to make WFH a reality for contact center agents.

2. Opportunity for Contact Centers
The contact centers are the only human interaction touchpoint between the customers and the brands in the contactless world. To preserve human touch, contact centers are going to be important to enable contactless onboarding during and after the COVID-19 crisis. With the ever-emerging needs of the customers, contact centers are evolving from being customer service centric to customer onboarding, sales, and collections, providing an opportunity for contact center leaders to move from cost centers to profit centers.

Just like every coin has two sides, remote contact centers have their own pros and cons. With minimum infrastructure requirements, less time & energy spent in traveling, remote contact centers can reduce the cost pressure and increase long term benefits in disguise. Along with infrastructure management, remote contact centers bring the challenge of data security, virtual team collaboration, and remote monitoring.

So, let’s dive deep into how remote contact center solutions can be a real game-changer in the new normal.
3. Reducing the Cost Pressure
3.1 Infrastructure
Contact centers invest huge money into building the physical office space, estimating to 20-30 percent of the cost of the contact centers.

More often than not, this function runs on razor-thin margins, especially in BPO companies.

Let’s imagine this cost goes away with contact center agents working remotely. The additional saving of 30% cost on setting up infrastructural facilities in the physical office environment can be invested in alternate channels, tools, and equipment for the remote workforce. This would have long term benefits of getting the best talent from across the geographies while keeping the costs under check.

And most importantly, daily commute to a physical location takes a toll on both the cost (10-40 percent) and time for employees which sometimes becomes a concern for low productivity. Study says that employees working remotely from anywhere have reported higher productivity because they get the flexibility to choose to maintain their work-life balance and they tend to work extra hours, happily saying goodbye to the excessively exhausting commute.

3.2 Alternate Channels
COVID-19, if not completely, but partially has opened the doors for digital communication to dive into the daily business routine for most organizations. And this transitional wave of customers constantly looking for alternative channels like chat, social media, and email has seen a surge in the incoming queries. Today, most customers prefer doing business with brands that show interest in being available on their preferred channels like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter amongst the large pool of others.

The omnichannel inclusion is not limited to the increased customer satisfaction, it also brings in some savings, reducing contact center cost further.

However, digitization poses a threat to completely automate through bots, putting the human touch off the table. Bots can help businesses resolve first-level queries but a smart bot to agent deflection technology can give the best of both worlds, helping preserve the human touch across channels.

While automation is the key to increased productivity, identifying the need for human touch and offering help on the most personalized channels like Video can make sure that the customers are ready to invest their trust and confidence in the business.

4. Challenges of the Work from Anywhere Contact Centers
Contact Centers are high touch functions. Organizations would need to invest in tools that can onboard agents fast and offer flexibility to monitor from anywhere in real-time. The need to engage with employees and enable a no-excuse work-environment is of utmost importance (this is where the first wave of WFH did not work great for contact centers as very few were prepared for this change).

The following considerations would be important challenges for the new age work from anywhere contact centers:

a) Regulations: First of course is the regulatory framework. The temporary measure of DOT guidelines should now allow remote contact centers to work in the long term so that Enterprises can plan and invest in the remote solutions.

b) Establishing Remote IT & Ops Governance: The availability of robust infrastructure to support fluid communication will remain one of the top challenges. Businesses will need to establish remote governance with 360-degree Application Infrastructure Management (AIM) to run contact centers with confidence, creating a high trust environment for the employees.

c) Team Collaboration: Virtual engagement amongst teams will need a little extra care for the shared vision of the organization. And since necessity is the mother of invention, organizations can resort to tools that ensure smooth onboarding, team collaboration, peer communication, team broadcasting, and a holistic view of remote monitoring to create a healthy yet conducive remote work environment.