It’s no secret that stay at home orders and quarantine directives have led to a massive growth in the number of people who are now working from home. Business owners have found ways to allow at least some people to work from home in nearly every industry segment. The numbers are more surprising than most people might imagine, however, especially considering that people who were once stably employed have elected to move toward a freelance paradigm.
One online platform has seen a 10,000 percent increase in membership and an preliminary study suggests that 58 percent of knowledge workers are now telecommuting to work. Customer service departments are increasingly employing knowledge specialists who stay in a virtual office whenever they’re on. Companies are quickly finding that it’s difficult to encourage these workers to return to a physical location even when it’s deemed safe to do so, especially considering that a freelance position gives them the freedom to take on jobs from whomever they’d like to work with.
Improving Customer Service in a Virtual Landscape
Customer service quality tends to suffer when the representatives are too far removed from the company they claim to be acting on the behalf of. Traditional call center operations have a tendency to attract a bad reputation because they normally can’t keep up with the volume of complex requests related to a company’s most important product lines. The pandemic, however, has helped to illustrate that local representatives working from home can provide a high degree of service without driving costs up considerably. It’s likely that a number of firms that have transitioned to this model during the pandemic won’t switch back to their previous way of doing business. This is especially true of firms in developed sectors.
Economists have recently opined that freelancers may be the first workers to boost the UK’s market after the conclusion of the country’s exit from the European Union. During the time that the British were members of the EU, many firms off-shored their customer service departments to other countries within the Eurozone. Considering the fact that many continental European businesses are able to recruit English-speaking personnel, this looked like a good decision at the time.
It no longer makes financial sense to continue outsourcing projects to these services, which has left many business managers deeply concerned since they haven’t been able to recruit people in person due to the pandemic. Knowledge agents who now have experience with remote work can easily fill these positions, however. It’s estimated that they might even become more important as the pandemic’s impact wanes and financial markets start to stabilize.
The Future of the Remote Work Sector
Specialists are predicting a situation they’re calling the customer service surge, which might very well happen as soon as all restrictive orders are lifted. Individual consumers who haven’t been able to invest in new durable goods will suddenly need to purchase a large number of them. Since they’ll need to receive at least some support for these products, they’re going to need help from a greater number of knowledge agents than before.
Without trained personnel, many companies that deal in durable goods sales will be unable to meet this demand, and in turn they might end up with seriously damaged reputations. by retaining personnel who worked remotely during the pandemic, these firms won’t be nearly as likely to run into these kinds of problems.
Traditional business managers might be reluctant to maintain remote workers, but it’s unlikely that people who have tasted the benefits of a virtual office space would be quick to return to their original place of work. While they might not be at all concerned about safety, individual employees have often found that remote schedules are better for their work-life balance and that’s actually encouraged them to do a better job in some cases.
Benefits of Remote Work Schedules for Customer Service Departments
Approximately 36 percent of workers in North America are working from home these days, and it’s likely to stay that way. Businesses that refuse to adapt might find that their customer service departments start to stagnate.
Skilled personnel who are given the opportunity to continue working remotely at another organization could potentially be lured away. Firms that instead elect to hold onto their existing customer service representatives and continue to allow them to work remotely could potentially perform the best.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, some customer experience researchers proposed that there was a growing engagement capacity gap that couldn’t be filled due to the massive market disruption occurring at the time. The fact that people will soon be ready to open their purse strings and make needed purchases will put additional stress on existing customer service departments to fill this gap.
Hanging onto talent and providing for at least some of their demands will help to meet these concerns.
Retaining Talent as the Pandemic Slows
Once a person transitions into a freelance job, they’re no longer technically employed by the company that they once worked for. While some firms have sought to solve this by offering traditional full-time positions while allowing their employees to telecommute, this isn’t an option for small-to-medium sized businesses. Freelancers represent a $1.2 trillion industry, however, so smaller businesses have had to figure out a way to fit into the trend.
A more realistic choice for these firms has been to actively seek out knowledge agents and customer service representatives that used to work with them and become clients, hiring them to tackle the same sorts of tasks that they were doing originally when they met with employers physically. While this might seem like a downgrade in terms of the relationship between contractors and their employers, there’s no reason that it needs to be.
Considering the greater level of flexibility this provides, the relationship between freelancers and their former bosses may actually improve considerably.