The new normal is no longer imminent; it is a reality. The world is adapting fast to the challenges and opportunities posed by the pandemic. Companies around the world have had to rethink their operating models to stay relevant. The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, in particular, which highly depended on physical spaces, had to adjust from traditional operations and adapt to a work-from-home (WFH) model.
Andrew Hume, CEO of Probe Group, Australia’s largest outsourcing business with over 14,000 employees, articulated his mission to create the best tech-powered customer experience service provider. As the world adjusted to social distancing practices, border closures and lockdowns, Probe had to cater to changing customer and employee needs.
The new normal challenged the former brick-and-mortar approach for work. The WFH scenario led BPOs such as Probe to introduce advanced tools and features for employees to work as effectively from home as they once did in the physical office. The add-ons ensured that customers received the same level of service in times of crisis – ultimately building a lingering effect of trust and loyalty.
The focus is now on having a flexible and adaptable business, one that integrates people, processes, and technology tightly.
Here are five lessons from Probe to succeed in the new normal:
1. Scale your business without disruption
Probe’s journey to WFH started at its Philippines office. What followed was a test run in Australia where 10% of the workforce went into a WFH environment with only a day’s notice. The success in the time-limited adjustment was the determining factor to move half of its Australian team to the same WFH model. The partnership between Genesys Cloud and Probe meant that Probe could mobilise a virtual workforce almost overnight. This capability was essential to keep its people in an environment where they felt safe, especially so at a time with movement control restrictions.
Business continuity is imperative in today’s day and age. The cloud is a powerful tool in ensuring such continuity, as it safeguards a business’ operation and core functions from unexpected incidences. BPOs that have been readily using cloud infrastructure faced minimal disruption in implementing remote work. Probe achieved such scalability as it already had the required infrastructure in place.
Cloud provides intensive support to a BPO’s load balancing. With a cloud load balancer, customer support has an even distribution across multiple countries and servers. The feature offers high availability and reliability to customers and enables employees to reach high-performance levels through better-managed workloads.
Hume said, “We committed to the cloud years ago. As an early adopter of Genesys Cloud, we were able to migrate our organisation of what was then 8,500 people into a work-from-home footing almost overnight.”
2. Foster a virtual community
With a business philosophy built around a high-engagement culture, the pandemic has shown the importance of creating a virtual community to ensure teams remain connected. Probe has invested heavily into online training platforms and its internal channels to provide a connected workforce.
Now, more than ever, the bond between the employees is a necessity. It doesn’t matter if employees bond in person or remotely; what’s important is that by them connecting well, they perform well too.
As remote work becomes a norm, ensuring a great employee experience is essential to keep employees motivated and engaged. Capabilities like gamification harness games and social media concepts to keep employees intrinsically motivated in new ways. The systemic approach of rewards and achievements ultimately results in employees upskilling, a nurtured sense of connection and improved overall performance.
Facebook Workplace is one great example of creating such connections, as it helps employees across the company improve via remote communication and collaboration. By sharing progress updates, colleagues remain informed and have alignment on the issue at hand. The ability to view each other’s updates unravels opportunities to collaborate.
These two methods strengthen a workforce’s interdependency and can transform typical one-way communications into valuable dialogues.
“I’ve long been a passionate believer in the power of working from home. It has this incredible potential to deliver flexibility to staff. But the pandemic has also taught us the importance of creating a virtual community, a place where people can live isolated but connected,” said Hume.
3. Rethink the workplace footprint
Probe is investing in creating a future workplace for its business. The company understands its varying customer requirements, including clients that need agents to work from the office. While the future of the work environment is still unfolding, Probe has prepared itself to ensure that the customer service levels are maintained and that employees get the support needed to work optimally.
Initially, physical spaces were essential to BPOs, making the WFH model that much challenging in its implementation. BPOs have since adapted to the need for WFH and made their way into creating successful remote working environments. The nudging question with the new normal is – what will this mean for the future workplace?
Hybrid is the keyword defining the future of the workplace. While digital collaborations make hybrid working a more efficient practice, the support system and camaraderie are vital for keeping employees engaged and synergised. BPOs will need to address both – its clients’ needs and resolve employees’ isolation. Company functions such as training, onboarding and provisions need to embody a digitalised approach to support the hybrid work model. In future, the remote and physical working models will go in parallel. BPOs need to plan to ensure both clients and employees can operate effectively, regardless of the workplace model adopted.
Hume added, “While we are not madly rushing to bring our own people back yet, we are doing a lot of planning for what the future work environment might look like. That said, we are well aware that if there’s one thing the past year has taught us, it is that you never know what tomorrow will bring, let alone 12 months of tomorrows.”
4. Make it easy for your employees
Probe’s mission is to become Australia’s destination employer, where the best and brightest are knocking on its door to work with the company. The key attraction for prospective employees is a fast-paced learning environment and the opportunity to work with the latest technologies. Probe realises that satisfied employees perform better than their peers and is a critical business success factor. Tools such as predictive routing and predictive analytics help enhance the employee experience. These technologies route every customer interaction to the best available resource and are needs-specific. As a result, BPO employees benefit through better-matched calls, which snowballs into higher efficiency levels.
Employees today prefer to work in places that give them the allowance to be safe and productive. It could mean working from an office cubicle or at home. BPOs should be proactive and flexible in giving employees the freedom to choose while ensuring compliance obligations are in place.
“We’re really pleased with the results we’re getting from using predictive routing. We have case studies showing 10-15% efficiency uplift using this feature,” Hume added.
5. Make it easy for your customers
Although Probe is experiencing great success in getting high proportions of interactions via its digital channels, Hume reiterated the importance of striking a balance between traditional and automated interactions.
Customers are at the heart of every business success. To win the affection of customers, companies need to meet customers at a channel they prefer. While breakthroughs are happening in customer journeys with digital channels, BPOs need to find harmony in technology and human interaction. Not all digital channels can fully address customer support enquiries. BPOs must maintain a medium that is accessible to a human agent. Specific queries by customers necessitate talking to a person, and BPOs need to identify those areas.
“There is an augmentation pathway between technology and a human. The challenge is getting that right. How do we get the two to work collectively and cohesively? Some things should and can be automated, while other things can’t and should not be. Some things must remain in a voice channel.” Hume concluded.
BPOs need to deploy suitable cloud solutions to safeguard their customer and employee experiences and sustain themselves through the uncertainties. With the right solutions and practices in place, leaders can achieve agility and stand the test of time.