Decisions We Make Today Can Better Prepare Us for Tomorrow
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
As writers pitched their article ideas for this issue of Connections Magazine, everyone, it seemed, wanted to talk about coronavirus and Covid-19. While I want the content of this magazine to address relevant, real-world situations, I also didn’t want to let the topic take over every page. I’ve had a similar quandary about what to address in this column, wanting to share content of value for both today and tomorrow.
We’re now moving away from the severity of the coronavirus impact, even though it is still a factor in our everyday existence. Each person must decide for themselves the best way to move forward. Each call center faces the same dilemma.
Many people long for a return to normal. I get that. Many more, however, wonder if we ever will. Instead they see us moving toward a new normal. Though we may lament this as a loss, we can also celebrate it as an opportunity for our call center operations. Here are some examples we can embrace as our new normal.
Though by definition a call center is centralized, requirements for social distancing or the need to self-isolate have pushed our centers of operation to become decentralized. Some call centers have already embraced this concept, while others have fully implemented it. However, in our new normal, we’ll see a decentralized workforce occur at an accelerated rate.
Now is the time to fine-tune our remote staff practices and management. Some call centers do this in preparation for a possible second wave of the pandemic, while others see it as a way to enhance their operation for better outcomes.
In the past decade, we’ve seen a gradual shift from premise-based technology to on-demand, internet-delivered solutions. This technology goes by different names, with its proponents debating the various distinctive differences. But the inescapable fact is that this move away from premise-based call processing platforms supplies increased flexibility for call centers.
With this flexible solution, no longer does a call center agent need to remain tethered to a station at one location. And the complexities of turning up a new station at a different site have disappeared to become a nonissue.
With these various online solutions, anyone with an adequate computing device and an internet connection can log into their call center to process calls. Anytime, anywhere accessibility affords call centers maximum flexibility in deploying their staff as needed.
This crisis has shown what I’ve known for twenty years: there is value in working from home. Aside from the obvious benefits of no commute time, zero travel costs, and minimal dress code considerations, there’s the benefit of being able to continue working in a safe, socially distanced environment.
Though working in a home office at times has its challenges, the benefits are huge, especially during a pandemic. As many people faced layoffs, reduced hours, or health risks by continuing to go to work, home-based workers continued business as normal. This takes us to another significant point.
An Ideal Industry
As nonessential manufacturing closed and most service businesses ground to a halt, the ability of call centers to tap home-based workers allowed them to continue serving their callers. And for those that had already embraced this operational model or had the flexibility to move to it quickly, their callers didn’t know the difference.
Though I hope not, we may again experience a repeat of government-mandated self-isolation to stave off the impact of a pandemic. Isn’t it great to know that the call center industry is perfectly poised to embrace such a reality, if or when it occurs?
As coronavirus restrictions ease in most parts of the world, don’t strive to return to normal. Instead look forward to the amazing benefits of embracing a new normal.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry.