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Last week, I had the unique opportunity to spend (virtual) time with Barbara Gonzalez, Genesys Global VP for Strategic Business Consulting, and two Genesys customers. The customers were Paul Bourdeaux, Vice President, IT for eFinancial in Bellevue, WA, and Colin Salvensen, Head of IT for Mr. Price Group Ltd., South Africa. Over the course of a few meetings, we created and then delivered a webinar about business continuity, in which we all shared stories about how businesses are adapting to the new post-pandemic landscape.
eFinancial was founded in 2001 as a software startup working to simplify the process of purchasing life insurance online or over the phone. The systems they’ve developed since are aimed at helping middle-market consumers get the life insurance they need and want, often on a single phone call. Before the recent pandemic, eFinancial operated with three contact center locations in Washington, Illinois, and Arizona.
As Bourdeaux explained during the webinar discussion, like most organizations, eFinancial had a business continuity plan in place, but it centered on potential issues in individual offices. The plans were focused on how to respond if an office had to close for a snowstorm, power outage or natural disaster. Another planned-for emergency was a data center failure. But, Bourdeaux acknowledged, quickly deploying a full-scale, work-from-home initiative across all locations was never part of the plan.
A long-time Genesys™ PureConnect® customer, in 2019, eFinancial began investigating alternatives to this on-premises contact center solution. Two articulated goals were the ability to more easily scale up the business as well as enable select agents the option to work securely from home. In late 2019, the decision was made to migrate from PureConnect on-premises to the Genesys Cloud™ platform.
The planned launch was a phased approach, beginning April 30, 2020. Bourdeaux explained that this changed as the result of COVID-19; eFinancial had about three weeks to prepare for a full cut-over of 100% of its sales and operations staff. With a largely successful migration to Genesys Cloud behind them, Bourdeaux said that eFinancial would be updating its business continuity plans to, “reflect the new remote workforce capabilities that we’ve discovered with Genesys Cloud.”
Mr. Price Group
Mr. Price Group describes itself as a cash-based, omnichannel, fashion-value retailer. Targeting younger customers, the company predominantly retails its own-branded apparel, home goods, financial and cellular services in over 1,200 store locations.
During the webinar. Salvesen explained that the lockdown in South Africa meant that all of the company’s stores were closed on March 23, 2020. Contact center work continued, however, with agents handling calls with common themes. How do I actually pay? How do I keep in good standing? How do I get orders that were placed before the lockdown? To handle the volume of calls, even outbound agents became, as Salvesen said, “purely customer care agents.”
South Africa is taking a phased approach to exit one of the strictest lockdowns globally beginning May 1, 2020. As the country moves into winter for the Southern Hemisphere, retailers supplying necessary warm clothes will be allowed to resume operation.
Salvesen believes that, for Mr. Price and most companies, emerging from lockdown will include re-examining digital engagement offerings. The pandemic has accelerated that conversation both as a result of listening to the voice of the customer, which has long advocated for better digital interaction choices, and necessity – limiting visits to shops. For Mr. Price Group, cloud will be part of its digital transformation journey. “I think a lot of companies and CEOs will be accelerating those discussions,” said Salvesen.
The South African re-opening of business plan recommends that employees over 60 years of age continue to work from home. We’ll likely see a similar measure in other countries and individual cities, states and communities — and there is no way to know how long they will be in place. A cloud contact center application will be part of the solution to keeping these at-risk employees working.
Both eFinancial and Mr. Price Group are happily in the process of creating back-to-work plans. eFinancial is exploring different options for agent schedules because, as Bourdeaux explained, “One silver lining from this crisis is that we’ve learned that offering greater flexibility won’t necessarily detract from our productivity.”
At Mr. Price, Salvesen believes that “while eCommerce has been around for quite some time, in the new normal, we’re going to have a new normal of eCommerce as well.” That new normal will include “stepping-up service levels and stepping-up the amount of context” available for agents during interactions.
While I have shared some great insights from the hour Barbara Gonzalez, Paul Bourdeaux, Colin Salvesen and I spent discussing “the new normal,” there are certainly more. For readers of this blog, the next steps should include listening to the entire webinar, “The new normal: Redefining business continuity,” which is available on demand.
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