2020 suddenly saw millions of people begin working from home full-time. Immediate impacts of the shift were a transition to cloud services. Even as people slowly return to their offices, permanent changes that impact contact centers will remain.
No trend report in 2021 can ignore the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact centers with flexible IT infrastructure and willingness to respond quickly have come out as winners. The flexibility of cloud services compared with on-premise solutions has become obvious.
As a successful example, Norwegian energy company Fjordkraft turned their entire field sales team to telesales in just one day. The worst-case scenario is an IT manager driving around for days to install routers and VPN’s to hundreds of agents’ homes.
Online sales have been breaking records all over the world, with home deliveries of goods increasing by 20–40%. In the US for example, online spending already reached 21 % of total retail in 2020. While sales in brick-and-mortar stores are likely to normalize, the online channel will have permanently increased its share in categories such as grocery.
A likely result is that additional customer service resources are needed in online retail as well as in auxiliary industries such as logistics. On the other hand, as we saw from the Fjordkraft example, the number of field sales personnel will be reduced. It is expected that people will want to minimize unnecessary face to face contact beyond the current pandemic.
Perhaps surprisingly, there is strong research to prove that working from home increases productivity. A Stanford study puts the productivity increase at a whopping 13%. People are less distracted by their colleagues and spend less time talking to management. Contact centers should embrace the working from home trend and continue to support people working from home.
Team-leaders no longer see their team-members daily. New ways to support and lead agents are needed in the WFH environment, for example software that enables remote listening and whisper on calls. Gathering and analysing reports becomes more and more important in order to understand causal relations between success and failure.