While most organizations might have been reluctant to pivot their customer service team to a remote work modality before COVID-19, a recent survey from NICE Inc. suggests the transition has been largely successful.
Hoboken, N.J.-based NICE, which is known for its contact center software and automation products, said it culled responses from approximately 200 CX professionals for its study. Among other findings, the results showed that more than three-quarters of those surveyed, or 76 per cent, said agents prefer to work from home, and 43 per cent said they plan to keep half or more of their agents working at home in the future.
That said, CX pros were not simply going to stick with working from home as it is but looking for additional tools to enhance the work remote agents can do. A large majority of 85 per cent, for example, cited artificial intelligence (AI) and performance management capabilities as key areas of investment.
The pandemic may have also reinforced the notion that the agility contact center operators need is linked to the degree to which they can access compute resources from the cloud. A total of 74 per cent said they had already moved towards cloud-based infrastructure, or were planning to do so, the study said.
“Customer service organizations have been on a fast track to respond to current needs, including ensuring service continuity with a dispersed workforce, supporting accelerated customer requests via direct channels and more,” the company said in a statement accompanying the release of the data.
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There’s a definite whiff of “We told you so” in these kinds of studies, even though having agents working from home was never trumpeted as loudly by vendors prior to the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus.
In some respects, if the trends in its research hold true, it’s curious that companies like NICE would need to persuade anyone but a few holdouts who have yet to join its customer base. Part of these studies are clearly aimed at promoting newer offerings.
In announcing the study, for example, NICE emphasized the most common sense finding — that 50 per cent or more customer interactions are now using digital channels. That’s a good stat to make the business case for things like its virtual assistant and desktop guidance offerings.
It’s important to recognize, however, that a significant percentage of CX pros may not be ready to keep agents at home, and certainly not all of them. How those agents will be chosen, and the kind of work they will be given, would be well worth further study.
Other vendor research has also suggested that customers have been gracious and accepting of less-than-stellar service amid the pandemic, which may affect how contact center managers assess the performance of remote agents. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the most desirable employee experiences in a contact center context, and what long-term remote work means in terms of corporate culture and the impact on customer experience.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.