While many countries are still grappling with the first wave of infections from the coronavirus pandemic, lockdown conditions in many other countries are easing.
That is causing many organizations to think through what a transition to a new normal will look like.
Now, it’s fair to say that that will mean different things for different organizations.
Some have transitioned to remote working and have continued to operate where possible, others have shut down their operations and have furloughed their employees. In contrast, some others have operated a hybrid model where they have furloughed some employees while allowing others to work remotely.
But, what is clear is that organizations at some point will need to move towards a new way of working.
To do that Marti Beller, president of Kobie, a global leader in loyalty marketing, believes that, “Organizations should prepare for a return to ‘normal’ far before it actually happens, such as adapting to current circumstances like customer needs and evolving consumer behaviors.”
Beller goes on to say that to enable that it will be “crucial to understand the emotional needs and motivations of both consumers and employees as we make the return to ‘normal’ operating procedures.”
However, given the variety of different circumstances that employees and organizations face, it is very likely that a move back to ‘business as usual’, where everyone returns to working on-site or in an office will not happen very quickly and will not necessarily happen for everyone.
As a result, remote working and, in particular, the use of remote customer service teams is looking like it is going to become a critical part of ongoing operations and customer service success going forward.
That is going to pose several challenges for organizations going forward that will include things like:
- (Re)defining what excellent service looks like in this new environment and under new operating conditions.
- Assessing what tools, equipment, internet connectivity levels, training and conditions are needed to facilitate a sustained, long-term and perhaps semi-permanent move to remote working. And what organizations may need to do to help some employees achieve that setup.
- Deciding who is going to work from home and who is going to work on-site and also if employees can move flexibly between those two groups.
- The scheduling and performance management of their employees.
- The management of employee health, safety and well-being.
- What role technology can play in helping both deliver a better employee and customer experience; and
- What sort of culture and supervisory, management and leadership skills and behaviours will be required to pull all of this off.
To do that, I believe, organizations will have to intentionally design the employee experience paying particular attention to the demands of this new and changing environment we find ourselves in.
I think a hybrid model where some employees are working on-site and others are working remotely will possibly be the most challenging model to implement, particularly when it comes to maintaining a consistent service experience, across teams and modes off working.
To illustrate this, data from the Behavioral Science Team at Cogito, a provider of real-time in-call conversational guidance and analytics, found that remote working as a result of the pandemic has had both an impact on agent performance and behavior and the how customers rated their experience.
Their data, for organizations using their technology, showed that in-call notifications for customer service agents to display more energy and more empathy rose by 34% and 7% respectively over the last couple of months while global customer experience scores dropped by 4%.
It’s obvious but important to state that working in an office among your teammates is not the same as working remotely. The conditions and environments are different.
Therefore, if firms are to take on a more hybrid way of working where some team members may be working on-site while others may be working remotely, then maintaining a consistent experience will be paramount.
Dr. Skyler Place, Chief Behavioral Science Officer at Cogito, believes that augmented intelligence has a significant role to play as it has “a unique ability to help employees remain professional and consistently deliver the experience customers expect” regardless of where they are located.
What is clear is that for many customer service and support teams, a new way of working will involve some element of remote working going forward. Moreover, to successfully execute a transition to this new way of working will require planning and empathy. But, it should also include tools and technology that can help agents learn and adapt in real-time so that they can maintain a consistently high level of service, whether they are in the office or not.
This post was originally published on Forbes.com here.