Neville Doughty

Rebuilding the best business

By Neville Doughty, Partnership Director
The most important questions to ask for a winter of slow recovery

As different parts of the UK have been plunged into Tier 3 lockdown, and we’ve put our clocks back to welcome in Winter 2020, businesses across the UK are facing up to an immediate future of continued uncertainty.

Earlier this year, business leaders optimistically hoped that there would be a moment when the recovery from Covid-19 began; a time when we could welcome our teams back to the office and implement the lessons we’ve learned over a summer of hardship and accelerated change. Now the nights are drawing in, the truth is that this isn’t going to happen any time soon. The reality is that the contact centre industry is looking at a slow return to a new normality, and we’re not sure how that normality will look yet.

Setting up your business to get through this winter?

As winter is now officially with us, this is the time to ask difficult questions and make plans to emerge in Spring 2021, full of energy and enthusiasm as the sap rises and the green shoots hopefully emerge. We can’t be certain that recovery will happen in Spring or whether we will have to wait longer, but when it does your business needs to be ready.

Preparing to get through the winter months will build the new foundations and platform on which your business will be able to grow when optimism and stability gradually return. In this article, we ask some of the most important questions on how to help your business get ready for future success.

What is your core business?

When businesses are growing, there is an inevitable and natural momentum that results in non-core activities being fulfilled in-house. It’s often faster to solve a problem using your own resources than it is to seek expert help from outside the business. When times are more difficult, these non-core activities can appear as unnecessary costs or unavoidable evils.

Ask yourself:

  • What is your core business?
  • What are your fundamental processes?
  • What do you HAVE to do, that you’re not good at?
  • What processes can you afford to do without?

Answering these questions will enable you to identify parts of your business which may be disposed or divested relatively painlessly, or which you could outsource to reduce direct costs and improve agility. Outsourcing also gives you the opportunity to find true expertise for the processes you are having to complete through necessity, enabling your business to focus on its core strengths.

Identifying key team members and helping them perform

The role of an employer has changed massively in 2020. With key team members having an increased influence on your results, especially if you’ve had to slim down and decide who works when and where. Additionally, your HR team will have learned new skills whilst having to deal with your employees under new circumstances.

Many businesses in our sector will already have faced incredibly challenging times as employers. Imposed self-isolation of healthy and high-performing agents can be very frustrating, especially if you don’t have the tools to enable them to work well from home. Even worse for employers, can be the results of the NHS Covid app’s recommendations that teams of people who have worked together must isolate at the same time, due to a single positive test. Despite the laudable aims of reducing infection rates, a team checking out of the office for 14 days can have a disastrous effect on productivity.

Consider the following questions:

  • What’s the demographic of your agents? Are they in a higher-risk Covid bracket from a health or a cross-infection point of view?
  • How are they going to be affected by Covid self-isolation? Ask your staff how they really feel about working from home. You might be able to maximise productivity by being flexible about how individuals work for you.
  • Have you had an incident where team members or an entire team has had to take time away from the office yet? If so, did you have a plan, and did it work?
  • How will you retain your best employees if they are forced to isolate?

Arguably, there is a moral responsibility to make it possible for your agents to continue working whilst in self-isolation. In contact centres, rates of pay are generally relatively low compared to other sectors. If this is the case, paying Statutory Sick Pay may not be viable if you want to retain staff – isolation may force team members to realise that they need to look for a different job with better sickness benefits. Of course, there is also a strong productivity argument to enable agents to work from anywhere.

Have you found your best infrastructure to deliver customer service?

Throughout the course of the summer, most businesses have been finding ways to facilitate effective homeworking for their staff. The coming months are an opportunity to experiment to find the ideal mix of home and office, not just for Covid safety but for productivity, property costs and flexibility reasons. With the costs of maintaining city centre facilities, businesses can reduce their expenses by making better use of the technologies that have enabled them to simply keep operating in 2020. The future shape of your business might be slimmer, more agile and more flexible.

Take a look at your business today and think about these issues:

  • Do your systems enable your people to work from home productively for long periods of time?
  • Which processes need to be done in your main offices?
  • If you process payments, how do you do this securely and compliantly?
  • Where is your customers’ data stored and accessed?

Your systems may allow your work to continue but be careful: compliance with payment and data regulations might be compromised by the way you allow people to work remotely. So far, the consequences of this haven’t been obvious but, in our view, it’s only a question of time before a serious breach of customer data or payment information is caused by a weakness in systems used for remote access.

Where can you get help with the results?

With a little luck and a lot of good planning, your business will be in great shape to cope with this winter and emerge prepared for the recovery when it happens.

On the other hand, if the questions we’ve asked raise issues for your business, we can help. Contact Centre Panel has built up a network of over 150 partners who can provide answers for a huge range of challenges including business process outsourcing, flexible agent availability, technology solutions for remote working or payments processing, expert data compliance help and a comprehensive list of issues facing the contact centre industry.

If your business is facing challenges or if a potential second wave of Covid cases is a risk to your operations, we can help. Simply ‘get in touch’ by filling in the form below and you’ll be contacted shortly after back by one of our expert advisors.

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