At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in the West in March 2020, it quickly became clear to our team at PFS that our onsite customer care operations would require some adjustments to ensure the safety of our agents, while still providing our client’s customers with the quality customer service they deserve. Our operations team got to work implementing a work-from-home (WFH) solution to ensure business continuity, come what may.
Working tirelessly around the clock, this team designed and implemented a solution that captured the people, processes and technology required for a remote solution. Just two weeks after social distancing measures were implemented locally, the team had transitioned thirty client brands to a work from home solution in the US, with our UK office following one week later. Our entire operation remains remote today with more than 400 agents working out of their homes, and 50 new agents joining them this week.
This was a major undertaking. From preparing hardware to setting up software to advising staff on WFH best practices and even sourcing equipment such as headphones, our team thought of everything. While many companies are struggling to adapt during this great shift to remote customer service, we could not be more proud of the results we’ve seen so far.
WFH jobs will account for 35% of the customer service workforce by 2023.1 The outbreak of COVID-19 has made it all too clear that a contingency plan that includes a clear WFH procedure is no longer optional. Thanks to our flexible, hardworking staff, our new WFH solution means we’re ready for anything.
Here’s a closer look at all that went into creating this responsive WFH solution.
Technology & Security
We have essentially re-created the agent workstation in the home. Our team installed soft-phone functionality on desktops that were sent home with agents. The functionality equips agents to work from anywhere using digital contact tools; the only requirements being the PC and an internet connection. The soft-phone functionality provides easy access to customer records, screen pop-ups, click-to-dial functionality and more.
Security has, of course, been a top priority as we designed this solution. The security measures we’ve put in place include requiring VPN to access any applications, limiting accessibility to whitelisted websites only, disabling print capabilities on all machines, and requiring multifactor authentication to sign on to all hardware.
To ensure we continue providing quality customer service, our quality assurance (QA) team has increased review rates and supervisors and managers are maintaining employee engagement through increased frequency of team and individual meetings.
We are working closely with clients to increase the use of IVR, providing messaging that keeps customers up to date on the current situation and how it is affecting their operations. We are also encouraging clients to utilize their website and social channels to communicate with customers and direct them to other support channels, such as chat and email, in an effort to reduce high call volume. We are also encouraging clients to equip agents with the necessary permissions to resolve customer issues on their own, providing quicker response times and happier customers.
We are encouraging agents to recreate the office environment at home as much as possible, especially phone agents who have a more challenging task of managing phone calls with family, children, pets, etc. at home with them. Dealing with frustrated customers on top of a new work-from-home environment is a challenging task; we are working to provide agents with the resources they need to succeed in this new environment.
In order to make the transition as smooth as possible for our agents, we have implemented flex scheduling which allows for broader scheduling options. These options include part-time, split-shift, 4x9x4, 4×10. Allowing less rigid work hours has enabled us to expand hiring opportunities and to include more candidate profiles. For example, we currently have a number of employees working outside of Texas, where our US contact center is located.
Another unexpected benefit of this new setup has been a significantly reduced absentee rates, which we attribute to the elimination of the daily commute and flexible hours. Additionally, the use of the Hub (our virtual employee center) as well as regular check-in meetings are keeping employees engaged and maintaining a collaborative team environment. Our HR staff is also providing resources such as online workout classes and work-from-home best practice guidelines to help employees adjust to an isolated work environment.
There has been extensive note taking throughout this process as we work through various challenges and establish best practices for an effective work-from-home solution. All told, this unprecedented situation has greatly accelerated PFS’ implementation of a permanent work-from-home offering. There’s no time like the present!
We have a tremendous team and are immensely proud of the way they continue to support our clients during this turbulent time. Learn more about how our eCommerce operations are responding to COVID-19 here.
- Delivering Customer Service During COVID-19: 3 Steps to Implement Business Continuity in the Contact Center, Gartner, April 7, 2020