Insights|EmpowerCX Reveals the Impact of COVID-19 on CX

EmpowerCX Reveals the Impact of COVID-19 on CX

This year’s customer experience (CX) event, EmpowerCX, looked a little different due to COVID-19. To help keep everyone safe, EmpowerCX was held virtually, October 14-15, 2020. Several key themes surfaced from the 10+ sessions held including The Impact of COVID-19, Partnerships, Digital and Data.

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by Sitel staff December 10, 2020 - 3 MIN READ

These four emerging themes – The Impact of COVID-19, Partnerships, Digital and Data – were hot topics among speakers and attendees in almost every session. We pulled brief, bite-sized clips linked to these topics to recap and highlight discussions at our annual CX event.

The Impact of COVID-19 on CX

It should come as no surprise that this year, the Oxford English Dictionary was unable to select a single, defining word for 2020. In what it described as an unprecedented year, its team of lexicographers were forced for the first time—after global analysis and research—to publish an entire list of words with coronavirus, lockdown, pandemic and social distancing right at the top.

COVID-19 has impacted, disrupted and redefined every aspect of personal and professional life. It has seen organizations of all sizes move to a networked approach to business continuity planning, to working from home and video conferencing, and examining and leveraging technology to transform in time to react to a rapidly changing consumer landscape. 

Challenges Equal Possibilities

But in addition to highlighting new possibilities, the pandemic has presented new challenges for which there is no existing playbook. One of the biggest obstacles organizations have had to overcome is moving the majority of their employees to remote working. Leading analyst firm Gartner dubbed this the biggest homeworking experiment in history and the results of this experiment are still coming in.

In the early stages of the pandemic when initial quarantines and shelter-in-place orders were being issued, and remote-working strategies were still in the development stage, fewer agents were available or permitted to work on-site, lowering many organizations’ bandwidth. And, at the same time, the volume of calls from consumers with worries, issues or questions was increasing.

Even organizations that had an existing, proven work-at-home network needed to move fast and break things in order to adjust to the new normal that was quickly unfolding.

“We grew from around 2,000 agents to 65,000 agents working at home and all within 45 days,” points out Sitel Group’s President, CEO and Co-Founder, Laurent Uberti. “We had to apply 13 years of existing experience to rapidly become a true work-at-home player.”

The right understanding and use of technology has greased the wheels for organizations who have had to adapt to a work-at-home model, however, it is simply an enabler. Any type of transformation is dependent primarily on people and, without the right company culture to support this change, it will come up short.

“Our people are our secret ingredient,” says Sitel Group COO and Co-Founder Olivier Camino. “The employee experience is the customer experience. And this year, this conviction has been the key to our success. We have over 60,000 contact center associates working from home in more than 20 countries for more than 350 different brands.”

And now that organizations have succeeded in this transformation—which has included getting used to kids on Zoom calls, noisy pets in the background and the challenges employees are facing in working while simultaneously home-schooling—and are managing to achieve the same, or even better metrics than before, the consensus appears to be one of persisting with this new delivery model, in the short-to-medium term at least. In the last several weeks there has been potentially very good news regarding three new prospective coronavirus vaccines; however, even if treatments are fast tracked, a comprehensive vaccination program won’t get underway until spring 2021.  

“Over 70% of [our] clients we’ve spoken to are making plans to keep a significant portion of their workers in that work at home model moving forward as more of a permanent strategy based on the results of what they’ve seen this year,” explains Robert Adams, director of digital CX and transformation for Sitel Group in the UK and Ireland.

Thanks to off-the-shelf and proprietary digital solutions, maintaining contact, remote management and coaching has been easy to adopt to the remote working environment. However, over the past eight months, one ongoing challenge organizations face centers around training and development. 

“Learning content has always been important to upskilling, to training for getting agents and the workforce where they need to be both personally and professionally in their growth and how they support clients,” says Aaron Schwarzberg, COO, Learning Tribes, Sitel Group (TITLE?) “But what type of learning content has been most successful in supporting training during COVID-19?”

The obvious answer to this question would be digital-led courses, modules and curricula. However, for organizations transitioning to digital delivery of what had been traditional classroom or face-to-face sessions this has been problematic. 

“It may be standard for organizations to use technology and systems, but in a remote setting it can present intricacies where you need to teach employees how to use the technology before you can expect them to use the technology as a learning tool,” continues Schwarzberg who has seen a spike in enquiries regarding digital L&D solutions and educational technology since March.

However, rather than panic, organizations should see this situation as a golden opportunity to genuinely examine and re-think their existing approaches to L&D and start developing a new approach and new delivery methods that will work equally well in a classroom or remote setting and that genuinely reflect the needs of adult learners.

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