By: Lance Rosenzweig

COVID Rapidly Shifts Customer Care Requirements as Demand Increases

The coronavirus epidemic has cut a capricious swath through the global economy. Some job sectors, like hotels, live entertainment, and amusement and recreation, have been devastated and may take five years or more to recover. A small handful of other industries have not only been spared, but have boomed: grocery sales went up nearly 30% in March, and Coresight Research forecasts that online grocery sales will grow by 40% by the end of the year. That tracks with record-shattering growth in e-commerce overall, which has grown at six times the average rate in 2020. Both scenarios, boom and bust, have precipitated massive changes for the customer care industry.

Traditional Customer Support Models Struggle to Cope

Meanwhile, the customer support industry has also been trying new approaches, with mixed results. Call centers were hit hard by the pandemic. In fact, the National Association of Call Centers said that call centers pose a greater risk of exposure for their employees than typical offices because of the tight spaces, shared equipment, and volume of people cycling through during different shifts. At the onset of COVID-19, traditional call centers were faced with tough decisions: continue business as usual while risking employee exposure, shut down and interrupt business continuity for their clients during what was already a customer care crisis, implement social distancing by reducing shift sizes and therefore call capacity, or pursue a hybrid approach involving shifting some percentage of the call center workforce to work from home (WFH).

Prior to the pandemic, working from home was largely a perk earned by experienced, white-collar workers who had demonstrated that they could manage their own time. In March of 2020, only 3.6% of U.S. employees worked from home half-time or more. No wonder, then, that there was little widespread institutional knowledge about how to manage remote work well. The call center agents forced into WFH were not given a privilege, but a set of new job requirements that many could not reasonably meet. Agents had to find a suitable environment, with adequate privacy, technology, and network bandwidth. They had to address an increased number of customer challenges, without the peer and supervisory support to which they were accustomed. They had to develop remote work habits, often in contradiction to their natural workstyles and preferences. And, the agents were expected to do it all using platforms and tools that were designed primarily to support brick-and-mortar call center operations. Not only was there no time to invest in and train on more appropriate systems for remote work, but hybrid providers were also saddled with all the financial burdens of maintaining their bricks and mortar operations, complicating their ability to develop virtual-first tools.

The hybrid model has put customer care professionals in an impossible situation: provide exceptional service to often anxious, financially-uncertain customers, while also reinventing how and where they work without the proper processes and tools. This approach simply cannot offer the level of care that businesses and their customers need.

There is a better way.

Homesourcing™: A Stable Model for Superior Customer Support

Homesourcing™ is a fundamentally different approach to WFH than traditional hybrid models. Homesourcing™ requires that all of a company’s processes, platforms, tools, and culture are designed to support work delivered from home. Support.com approaches customer support with a global network of home-based experts custom-profiled for their “fit” with WFH and optimally supported right from the start.

Homesourced customer support offers unparalleled flexibility. With homesourcing™, Support.com is able to hire experts anywhere in the world. As a result, staffing can be shifted seamlessly in the face of any disaster, providing continuity of operations for customers. With a distributed team free from geographical constraints, the company can hire micro-targeted experts who fit a client’s specific skill set requirements, wherever they happen to live. As a result, Support.com has the capability to flex staffing levels, skill sets, and staff location to meet rapidly changing customer requirements, without high upfront costs. The past year has demonstrated that businesses cannot plan for everything; Support.com’s home-based customer support professionals offer extraordinary resilience in the face of the unexpected.

Having an entirely home-based workforce in itself is not enough to ensure extraordinary customer support. Homesourcing™ requires investment in resources, platforms, and culture to cultivate superior performance. Support.com provides customer support experts with multi-modal training and resources designed for online learning, allowing them to diversify their expertise and accelerate speed to competency. The company’s proprietary Guided Paths® platform uses branching logic and dynamic decision points to ensure that experts can respond to customers’ needs on a personalized basis, rather than following a rote script. This smart support pays dividends, allowing experts to resolve even complex issues swiftly, with minimal holds and transfers and resulting in industry-leading net promoter scores reflective of the exceptional customer care.

Cultivating a top-tier homesourced workforce cannot be automated – employees need human connection to excel. In the 2018 report “No Employee is an Island: Workplace Loneliness and Job Performance,” researchers from California State University and the University of Pennsylvania found that workers who feel isolated are less approachable, feel less committed to their organizations, and ultimately receive lower job performance ratings. The risk of feeling isolated at work is higher for remote employees. Support.com has taken a proactive approach to building a culture for its home-based workforce. The company has instituted a playbook for employee engagement that includes online forums, digital communities of practice, and a series of daily supervisor check-ins. Support.com’s Workbench® platform also allows experts to connect directly with each other, sharing knowledge, and bolstering corporate culture. These home-based experts know that they are part of a team, with opportunities for growth, promotion, and personal satisfaction. By maintaining a supportive virtual work environment, homesourcing™ offers not just continuity of operations but also sustainable superior performance.

Hybrid models were an emergency solution. Now, businesses need to consider how they can avoid being forced into such a position again. Homesourcing™ is uniquely suited to answer modern customer support challenges across many vertical markets such as healthcare, retail, telecom, and media. Implemented correctly, homesourcing™ offers continuity of operations, flexibility, and workforce quality, allowing an organization to be prepared for whatever boom or bust strikes next. Interested in learning more about homesourcing™ and how it can help your business? Reach out to sales.support.com.

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