While some regions around the globe have begun to relax their shelter-in-place restrictions, many brands are still trying to nail down a coherent customer service approach that incorporates a huge helping of a work-at-home workforce. As teased in my last blog, Forrester has been doing research designed to help brands ensure that their customers’ needs are met, that their agents can be as productive from their kitchen table as they can be from a cubicle in a contact center, and that they can safeguard the bottom line.

The first major slice of that research has arrived. To help brands navigate the historic customer service challenges posed by the current pandemic and subsequent need for mass mobilization of a remote workforce, Forrester created a framework — Forrester’s 30-60-90-Day COVID-19 Response Plan For Customer Service — covering four key pillars of contact center operations: people, objectives, strategy, and technology.

  • People — the agents, workforce planners, quality managers, supervisors, and managers that form the backbone of your customer service organization.
  • Objectives — the day-to-day operations of your contact centers.
  • Strategy — the business decisions that drive your approach to customer service in the age of COVID-19, including security and risk considerations.
  • Technology — the tools that your team, and your customers, use to create compelling customer service experiences.

Think of the framework as an outline of the key topics that you’ll need to tackle in the near- to midterm, as well as a pointer toward the issues that you’ll have to wrangle with as the world begins to emerge from this crisis.

In the research, we cover issues such as the new role for conversational AI and digital channels; new employee experience initiatives aimed at keeping agents sane, safe, and solvent; changes to day-to-day metrics; and much more.

When it comes to the long term, our research found that brands were forced to hastily create jury-rigged remote work organizations, processes, and technological approaches. Almost no one considers the results ideal — after all, the goal was speed, not elegance. But by showing that even these ungainly organizations can provide at least a modicum of meaningful customer service, brands have opened the door to significantly increased remote-work-based contact centers. So rather than brands just trying to replicate what they had in their brick-and-mortar contact centers, now is the time to start with a blank slate. Analyze what has worked over the past month(s) — were certain types of agents more successful than others? Were certain types of communication channels more conducive to home working, such as chat conversations in which the customers cannot hear the dog barking? Were certain types of recognition programs more effective at motivating newly home-based agents? Once that analysis is done, it is now time to design the ideal remote contact center operation and start planning for it.

This framework will act as the jumping-off point for future research over the coming weeks. We will dig into the details of the bullet points that populate each part of the framework, including new research for each of the four pillars listed above.

If you want to explore how you can apply this framework to your company’s unique situation, please set up an inquiry.

For now, however, stay safe, stay home, and stay both employee-focused and customer-obsessed.