Is There a Return to Normal?

19 April, 2021



Pandemic Exposed Weaknesses in Some Customer Care Models

By Lance Hale, President, Transparent BPO  

We’ve all experienced the business impacts of the global pandemic —supply chains were disrupted, employees were sent to Work-from-Home (WFH), and the customer experience was changed. Within the contact center industry, we noticed all of these impacts were directly affecting businesses’ customer care models.

As the virus took hold, the industry was forced to throw out historical models. In some cases, like retail and financial customer care programs, the number of calls, emails, texts and chats increased dramatically. In one case, we saw a jump of almost 120%  in the number callers for a single retail program, with the majority of customers asking when toilet paper would be available again. This is not something anyone could have forecasted.

Customers were patient at first with the weak points of the customer care providers handling their calls, but pandemic-fatigue has set in and customers’ expectations have returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The industry, however, is not back to where it was pre-pandemic, and it might never be. Everest Group reported in their Customer Experience Management State of the Market Report (2021) that the percentage of agents working at home grew from less than 10 percent in 2019 to as much as 80 percent during the height of the health crisis.

Rethinking the Customer Care Model

With such a large percentage of agents still at home, it’s time for companies to rethink their customer care model and their choice of business process outsourcing (BPO) providers; many of whom focused on their “key clientele” and left numerous other clients at the doorstep with unanswered calls, emails never read, and chats left blinking on customer’s computer screens.

We didn’t leave our clients stranded. At Transparent BPO, we were able to continue supporting our clients and were able to move all of our brick-and-mortar agents to a WFH environment in 10 days. We already had extensive experience managing hundreds of WFH agents in the Philippines, and the pandemic gave us the opportunity to formalize this into a formal service we call the WorkSecure Suite.

The WorkSecure Suite—which allows agents to work remotely in a secure environment with tools that allow them to focus on the customer—is implemented through a hub-and-spoke model.

It begins with agent training, which occurs in one of our three Belize-based facilities—one in Belmopan and two in Belize City. Agents undergo client-specific training and those who exhibit the right behaviors, such as high performance, are eligible to work from their homes. The ability to move to WFH is considered a privilege and agents know that this decision can be reversed at any time.

The primary advantage of this hub-and-spoke model is flexibility. It provides a safeguard against unexpected disruptions—from poor weather to pandemics—while providing customer care service that is as reliable and consistent as agents working in an office building.

Everest research further indicates that the global market for customer experience will grow at about 20% during the next five years, identifying serious opportunities for growth potential if the right partner is chosen—so don’t continue to rely on the same business process outsourcer who was unable or unwilling to support their client during critical times while the pandemic took hold.  

A customer care provider like Transparent BPO removes many of the friction points brands experienced with other providers during the pandemic. Our agents take ownership of customer problems and resolve issues quickly from home while still maintaining high customer satisfaction scores, sales conversions and other key metrics.