Antony Jagger, Manager, Customer Solutions, Aptean, looks at some of the challenges associated with mobilising customer services teams in the financial services sector, and asks: is a home working model sustainable in the long term?
Without any shadow of a doubt, the unprecedented events which have unfolded this year have demanded change on a vast scale, within a seemingly unfeasible timescale for many.
For the majority of financial services companies, even the most rigorous and up to date Business Continuity plans have failed to fully incorporate the level of contingency measures necessary in the event of a global pandemic. This has resulted in organisations pooling resources and working around the clock to adjust and maintain a ‘business as usual’ window to the world.
Remodelling the call centre
However, given the economic and financial ramifications of the pandemic, a sudden peak in the number of vulnerable customers, and influx of additional queries via contact centres, has put immense pressure on customer service teams. In parallel, these very teams have had to be remodelled in line with social distancing, either operating with fewer numbers of agents in the call centre, or working from home.
Of course, neither of these models is ideal. Deploying fewer resources at a time where demand is exceptionally high and communications critical in reassuring and supporting customers, of course makes no sense. However, having agents working from home is not without its challenges and brings with it a number of communication and customer privacy issues.
Prior to the current pandemic, it was pretty much unheard of for call centre agents to work outside of the call centre. And for those operating with older, legacy systems, it’s reasonable to assume this transition has been far from straightforward. It stands to reason that modern, SaaS applications will be slicker and faster to access, representing an easier transition. But the challenges don’t end there.
Home broadband speeds vary enormously and inevitably have an impact on performance, which, when you consider the increase in inbound traffic, may prove to be a bottleneck, or at the very least, impede productivity.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, customer privacy is a major challenge, even within the confines of the call centre. Recent research from Accenture highlights that over a third of financial services organisations lack a clear plan, or indeed the resources, to address privacy risks relating to customer data in the next 12 months. And the current need for customer service agents to work from home clearly exacerbates this risk, demanding rigorous processes to be established and adhered to if compliance is to be achieved.
Such processes are likely to include ensuring customer data is fully encrypted; mandating the use of strong passwords; and designating a private room for confidential conversations, which may not be as easy as it sounds. Processes must also factor in issues such as always logging out when moving away from a screen, and ensuring desktops or laptops are locked away when not being used. Of course, training and auditing are necessary measures in instilling these, none of which there is a protocol for, representing another hurdle to overcome.
The future of CX delivery
The good news is that having established a model for the short and medium term, financial services leaders are now carefully and continuously reviewing contingency planning, developing new strategies and processes to support longer term needs. It’s impossible to rule out the fact that home working may need to fulfil a more permanent role in delivering CX in the future, and plans must reflect this.
The new normal
Ultimately, the old adage to always expect the unexpected prevails. As the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 continues throughout 2020, one thing about this pandemic is certain. It has already changed our attitudes, priorities and communications. Going forward, financial services companies will almost certainly be focusing on building greater agility and flexibility into their plans, balanced carefully with privacy and a continued focus on supporting customers, particularly vulnerable groups.
Those who have modern, SaaS systems which can rapidly switch and flex to suit changing requirements and working models, will inevitably be better placed to adjust to the new normal we find ourselves in.
For more information on how Aptean can support your business through challenging times, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to talk.