What will happen in 2021?
After a year of a global pandemic, homeworking and uncertain economic landscapes no one could have predicted how the year 2020 happened.
Even now in 2021, it will be hard to say what lies ahead, but knowing everything that is happening right now we will share our top five thoughts and predictions for Contact and Call centres for the new year.
1. Covid 19 Will Continue To Shape A New Call Centre Environment
The effects of coronavirus have affected call centres drastically over the last year and it doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. In fact, we could probably say that at least six months of this year will remain the same. Call centres have had to change how they work significantly to protect their staff and service to customers.
Working from home will remain a mainstay. Many institutes were forced into homeworking but are now seeing the benefits that include flexibility in working hours and a reduction in overheads.
Working from home has become normalised for most staff with many now having ample home working setups. There are issues that face this type of working arrangements that need to be managed. Being remote can lead to isolation and passing of knowledge can become siloed. Mental wellbeing may need to be pushed higher up management priorities. While remaining compliant to PCI and GDPR protocols will inevitably be a different challenge to securely managed office spaces.
The outlook beyond 2021 will allow for both traditional call centre floors and homeworking to be viable options to businesses. Many may even choose to deploy a hybrid of the two models.
Security & Compliance Challenges
The struggle for many businesses will be to uphold the security of homeworkers to the same level that would normally apply to a call centre floor. Companies will have to find a way to reaffirm and maintain their messaging of security awareness amongst their remote staff.
There has been an increase in phishing emails since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, hackers and other security threats will look at weaker home networks found on personnel IT equipment to try and access sensitive information.
As part of the PCI DSS requirement (12.6), all staff should be mindful and annually reminded of a security awareness program. We foresee many organisations making refresher updates more frequent for homeworkers to address the security weak spots that are more likely in remote working situations.
Being able to remain compliant and secure has been a considerable challenge in this time. One thing PayGuard® can guarantee in this state of flux is to ensure you are compliant and secure in as simple and cost-effective a manner when taking payments.
2. Workplace Inclusion And Mental Well-Being
Going from a busy Contact Centre environment to solitary homeworking can have a huge impact on the mental well-being of staff. Simply missing the day to day contact of colleagues and small talk can cause a sense of isolation. The use of technology will continue to be key in eliminating this and maintaining the camaraderie, work ethics and motivation of employees.
Mental Well Being
Staying in touch can be a key way to keep spirits high and promote a more positive attitude. Providing scheduled touchpoints can aid a feeling of security for staff. Being able to regularly ask questions or seek reassurances is similar to talking to a manager or colleagues in the office.
Making the effort to be more social in the online world such as after work quiz nights can allow steam to be blown off and stress levels dropped with co-workers.
Particular focus on monitoring workloads should be key to managers as they are unable to physically see how busy, stressed or anxious staff members may become. Regular one-to-one meetings can be a good way to get candid feedback on how people are coping with the amount of work and the ability to perform in a homeworking environment.
For example, an agent with a young family at home may be struggling with the care and homeschooling that may be required through today’s new normal. The offer of empathy and a chance to be more flexible with work times might be identified to help reduce stress and increase productivity.
Encouragement of employees remaining active is also a great way to boost mental well-being. Many of us do not realise that even our 20-minute walk from the train station on a daily commute provides fresh air and gentle exercise. Being stuck in a home office means people can easily overlook these basic opportunities. Encouraging staff to take breaks, go for a walk, stretch and change positions regularly should help.
There is an uptake in the use of cloud-based tools such as Microsoft Teams that can aid collaboration in the workplace. These tools allow for easy virtual meetings but are also a great way to share information and leave notes to colleagues. Software such as Teams can also help monitor goals and performance to help create a remote picture of where staff and employees are in relation to goals and targets.
Using a single universal tool helps to reduce siloing of information and knowledge that is normally distributed freely via word of mouth. Ultimately it empowers both employer and employees to communicate, be heard and continue learning.
These types of tools are making remote life easier and more productive and will also help for better communication with agents to customers. To the point that this too can also be used with technology like PayGuard® to take fast and efficient payments from customers.
3. Contact Centres Become The Front Line In Customer Experience
With the current global pandemic, we can see face to face contact being minimised, Contact and Call Centres are now becoming the front line of customer experience. The loss of in-person communications means that call centre agents are now key in becoming the voice of a brand and a primary way to communicate with customers.
Communication of Voice & Video
With call centres now being the first humanised communication for many brands, an emphasis on the voice and more increasingly video is becoming of greater importance. Being able to share the brand voice through agents will require a greater emphasis on training and will be implemented by many. This is an opportunity for call centres to re-educate their staff in brand values, mantras and key customer experience goals.
A huge part of creating a positive lasting message is how easy it is for customers to communicate, things like audio and video quality where applicable should be of high quality. It will be of little help to teach the best practices and have excellent communication skills if the audio quality of an agent is crackly and hard to understand.
There will undoubtedly be an appreciation from many customers, but also from the greater society, on these human touchpoints. As social creatures people want and feel assured to talk and communicate and it is a great way to build brand affinity.
With all the above said, practising human contact can be time-consuming. An additional prediction would be the increase in FAQ content and explainer videos. Agents can share these to enquiring consumers to help explain questions in a clear and “on brand” way. More consumers expect rich and easy to understand content, and this type of media helps both consumer and company.
Slick & Streamlined Processes
Making the interaction for the consumer as simple as possible is also key for a quality customer experience. The use of seamless IVR solutions can easily get the customer to the correct department quickly, alleviating consumer frustrations.
A focus on improving these solutions and particularly their simplicity will help reduce wait times and be key for Contact Centres. As the shift from physical to virtual worlds increases, investment into these processes should give long term value.
In addition to effective filtering IVR solutions, being able to keep systems up to date with instant recall of customer data will not only lower agent handling times but will provide a much more personal and memorable experience to the customer.
How Does IVR Work?
Being able to make a fast payment across multiple channels is a key tool, PayGuard® is a technology that makes this process a synch and manages to keep you compliant and secure with easy integration into remote Contact Centre environments.
4. PCI DSS v4.0 Is On Its Way
The development of PCI DSS v4.0 has been ongoing for some time now and is due to be completed this year. The current PCI DSS v3.2.1 regulation and compliance scheme will still run for some time. It is predicted that there will be a significant 18 month to 2-year hand over period to the new version.
What We Know
We are led to believe that the 12 core PCI DSS requirements will stay as they currently are and will remain the basis of the new v4.0 version. We also know that the new requirements have largely been based on industry feedback and take into account how various industries can reach the outlined security requirements in a more flexible and secure manner.
The outlined key objective for PCI DSS v4.0 are as follows:
- Ensure the standard continues to meet the security needs of the payments industry
- Add flexibility and support of additional methodologies to achieve security
- Promote security as a continuous process
- Enhance validation methods and procedures.
Organisations that take payments will start to review the requirements of the current PCI DSS version, to make sure they comply. This importantly keeps valued customers payment data secure. It also provides a more stress-free and simple transfer into the newer version.
5. Greater Reliance On Digital Platforms and Social Media
As we have previously noted, Covid-19 has had a dramatic effect on how we buy and pay for services and products. Although online shopping, service payments and banking has been a normal way of life for many, it has also accelerated the transition for those who use more traditional means. It is a growing expectation that communications are now in the digital realm and in particular on Social Media.
We expect to see more business shift their focus attention to these platforms. With a staggering 49 million UK Social Media users in 2021, it is clearly a way of communication that people trust to use. Brands ignoring this will be at an instant disadvantage and full behind competitors who engage on these platforms.