In light of many organisations having to work from home due to the current crisis, we spoke to Mark Walton, CEO at Sensée, a 100% homeworking operation that delivers customer communication services for leading brands across the UK, on how their approach is resonating strongly with businesses in these difficult times.
Gearing up for homeworking
Every business across the UK has been significantly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and with the government’s recent advice that people, where possible, should start working from home we have seen makeshift offices spring up in dining rooms, bedrooms and studies throughout the UK. Many have got up and running quickly, working over VPNs, and communicating via mobile and video conference calls with their colleagues and customers.
It is not as simple as that of course – businesses need to think about issues like team management, scheduling, security and IT support. Yet, many organisations will find the benefits of homeworking around flexibility and scalability are compelling, even while the circumstances in which they made the move were serious and concerning.
Many businesses have considered homeworking – and been attracted by the benefits – but largely put it on the back burner. The current crisis has accelerated those moves immensely, however, with thousands of companies seeking out practical and easy to implement solutions, as well as practical tips and advice.
Finding the right answer in a crisis and in calmer times
When you shift the conversation away from organisations in general and onto contact centre operations, our area of specialisation, the range of potential benefits are arguably even more compelling. Social distancing is an issue in a packed office with tens or hundreds of contact centre agents – not so in a home environment.
When it comes to the COVID-19 crisis, like most companies, we have colleagues who have been affected. Given our homeworking environment though, our levels of absence are less than the average business, and interest in our homeworking solutions is higher than ever. The last few weeks have been extremely busy as we ramp up our outsourcing operation to support both existing and new clients, bringing on hundreds of new advisors as we do so.
Keeping our clients’ customer contact operations up and running at times of crisis is helping them reassure their customers that it is ‘business as usual’, as well as enabling them to deal with peaks in demand and keep customers informed and updated with relevant information.
Homeworking is also great for Employee Engagement. It is a flexible approach that can offer staff a better work-life balance, enabling them to fit their hours around existing commitments such as the school run or caring for an elderly parent. Homeworking also opens up opportunities for people who can’t access the normal office. 18% of the Sensée workforce are people who live with a disability, with a further 8% carers to people with special needs.
Overall, trends are very positive.
Moving a contact centre operation to a home environment isn’t easy, however, and needs to be carefully planned in order for businesses to fully reap the rewards. Recruiting, managing and training staff all need to be carefully handled with a ‘virtual mindset’. The technology used will also be critically important. At Sensée we use Enghouse Interactive’s Contact Centre Service Provider (CCSP) as a key solution to manage our multichannel customer contact operation. It offers a true cloud-based contact centre capability which gives our clients the flexibility they need to run an agile business. The solution also dovetails and integrates well with our other solutions such as planning, scheduling and forecasting so that we can get a complete picture of what is happening within the business.
So in summary, homeworking is very much at the forefront of business minds due to the current coronavirus crisis, with organisations looking for practical solutions that ensure business can continue smoothly. Sensée is seeing a large growth in interest from businesses demanding contact centre homeworking solutions that deliver full visibility, control, engagement, information security and scalability – and that can also fully support an engaged and flexible workforce. These are difficult and, trying times where, for many businesses, homeworking is the only option. However, we expect the current spark of interest and engagement in the approach to continue long into the future.