Contact Center Trends: Work-From-Home is the New Normal For the Industry
COVID-19 prompted companies to rethink service delivery models, with work-from-home (WFH) a top challenge facing contact center leaders. Ramifications are far-reaching and extend to such areas as organizational culture and operations, training, and contact center site selection.
“COVID-19 had a significant impact on the contact center industry. The entire industry had to pivot. WFH became hugely prevalent, and the ability to move people home and up to speed with secure connectivity occurred very quickly,” said Peter Hill, Head of BGL’s Business Services investment banking team. “Now we are in a new normal for the industry. Agents that are working from home like working from home and are happier and more productive, so the quality of the CX interaction has risen.”
Remote work will be a permanent shift for contact centers, according to findings in the 2021 Customer Contact Week (CCW) Market Study, with many organizations adopting hybrid models. Only 12% of companies surveyed believe they will revert to a traditional, primarily on-site model. The WFH model also promotes work flexibility, which ranked as the #1 strategy for combating high agent attrition, the CCW study found.
The WFH model effectively delivers higher employee and customer satisfaction while reducing operating costs, a conclusion of SQM Group based on a 2021 study of 500 leading North American contact centers. SQM Group examined the impact, pre- and post- COVID-19, by assessing operational, employee, and customer experience data. SQM Group predicts that the contact center industry’s post-COVID-19 workforce model will see 60-80% of agents WFH, and 20-40% of agents working in a brick- and-mortar environment.
Findings from Deloitte Digital’s 2021 Global Contact Center Survey revealed 77% of service organizations are either adopting or accelerating their WFH programs, and 80% of companies now plan to close their physical customer service centers entirely. Pre-COVID-19, only 6% of customer service agents, on average, worked from home, based on Deloitte estimates.
The WFH model today employs 50-80% of contact center staff at home, observed King White, CEO of Site Selection Group, in an interview with Contact Center Pipeline. “The impact on the square footage is pretty dramatic as a result,” King said. This enables contact centers to significantly reduce or eliminate fixed expenses such as real estate, utilities, and other facility-related costs.
The result is increased investment in remote agent support, which was identified as a top challenge of 2020, according to the 2021 Contact Center Challenges and Priorities survey conducted by Strategic Contact and Pipeline. Contact center leaders cited implementing better home-agent support, tools, and processes as a top priority in 2021. Collaboration and teaming tools, remote training resources, and cloud-based telephony are areas seeing increased investment to support employee and management needs.
Looking for a more in-depth analysis of the contact center industry? In our comprehensive 17-page report, The Mid-Game Pivot: Contact Center Industry Adjusts Rapidly to Market Forces, we look at how technology, omnichannel, and other factors are affecting the contact center industry M&A environment in 2022.
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Led by Peter J. Hill, BGL’s Business Services investment banking team has a deep understanding of the challenges in the contact center sector and strives to consistently deliver value to its clients and business partners. If there is any way that we can be of assistance, please reach out via our contact form below to learn more.