Remote Work

Remote Work is Working

16 Jun 2020

Contact Centers Demonstrate Value Amid COVID-19 and Beyond

Until very recently, only 13% of contact center agents worked remotely on a permanent basis. Now, in an environment shaped by the coronavirus pandemic, that number is rapidly growing.

In its latest report, “The Inner Circle Guide to Contact Center Remote Working Solutions,” ContactBabel surveyed US contact centers about the challenges they are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those challenges was the issue of changing workforce conditions — specifically, the need to use remote working solutions to avoid a disruption in customer support operations. Here is a look at how US contact centers are responding to the unique demands of the current climate.

Remote Work Before COVID-19: Survey Results From 2019

Before the coronavirus outbreak, fewer than half of US contact centers allowed agents to work from home. Of the contact centers surveyed in 2019, 43% allowed at least some of their agents to work from home, while 57% either had made the firm decision to not offer remote work options at all, were in the process of evaluating remote work, or hadn’t made any moves one way or the other.

Altivon - Use of homeworkingAltivon - Business drivers for homeworking

Prior to the pandemic, the biggest benefits to work-at-home agents were perceived to be improved staffing flexibility and ability to handle unexpected call volumes.

Virtualizing multiple contact centers allows agents to move easily from one virtual location to another — which increases staffing flexibility. And because remote work gives call centers a large pool of agents to draw from, as needed, it can be a major advantage in handling call spikes.

The biggest inhibitor to allowing remote workers was fear of security risks and fraud — 41% of respondents said security was their primary concern.

Respondents noted that the fear was home workers would be in unsupervised environments, increasing the risks for data security breaches and fraud compared to workers located in a supervised call center. This was especially concerning if physical paperwork was involved or the agents had to write down payment details or passwords.

Altivon - Inhibitors to homeworking

The State of the Industry During Coronavirus: Survey Results from April 2020

In mid-April 2020, ContactBabel analysts ran a short survey of 108 US contact centers to gauge some of the changes taking place in the industry due to the coronavirus pandemic. While the sample size is smaller than usual, the survey results still offer insight into what is happening.

Insight #1:  More contact centers are hiring rather than laying off people during the pandemic.

28% of contact centers were actively recruiting new staff at survey time. When segmented by contact center size, results show that more large contact centers (54%) are actively taking on new staff, while mid-sized contact centers appeared to be the most vulnerable to job losses.

Altivon - Effect of COVID-19 on headcount

Insight #2: Absence rates relatively unaffected by coronavirus.

Only 1 in 10 contact centers surveyed were seeing absence rates of over 25%, suggesting that absence due to illness or lack of childcare does not seem to be a problem for most of those surveyed. Of course, these findings vary regionally, with areas that are considered hot spots for the virus being more heavily impacted by agent absences.

Ativon - Effect of COVID-19 on agent absence

Insight #3: The number of remote agents has risen dramatically.

Prior to the outbreak at the end of 2019, only 14% of survey respondents’ agents were remote workers. By mid-April, that number had jumped to 71%, with larger companies most embracing this change.

Altivon - Effect of COVID-19 on the change in contact center remote working

Insight #4: Call volume change strongly correlates to essential services, overall volume down.

34% of respondents show an increase in inbound call volume, while 44% show a drop in the number of calls. However, these results are extremely sensitive to industry. While businesses like banks, grocery stores and telecoms are experiencing an increase in calls, businesses like luxury goods retailers, claims departments for car insurers and public transportation providers likely have far lower than normal contact volumes.

Altivon - Effect of COVID-19 on inbound call volumes

Insight #5: Average speed to answer is holding up well.

While mid-sized operations report a slight drop in speed to answer, smaller and larger organizations are seeing a rise in average speed to answer, ranging from 40%-50%.

Altivon - Effect of COVID-19 on average speed to answer


Insight #6: Contact center hours have largely stayed the same.

Three-quarters of respondents have not made any changes to their operating hours. One in six has cut hours and 3% have shut down operations entirely. Of the largest contact centers, 8% have increased their hours of operation.

Altivon - Effect of COVID-19 on contact center open hours

Insight #7: Call abandonment rates are rising.

Call abandonment rates are up by about 60% industry-wide. This is an increase from 3.8% to 6.2%, according to respondent data. This change is particularly noticeable in mid-sized businesses.

Altivon - Effect of COVID-19 on call abandonment rates

Insight # 8: There has been a jump in the use of cloud-based contact center solutions.

The increase in remote working is supported by an uptake in cloud-based contact center solutions. And during the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a jump in the use of cloud, especially in mid-sized and large contact center operations to support remote working and business continuity.

Altivon - Effect of COVID-19 on the use of cloud-based contact center solutions

Insight #9: Digital channel usage, especially email and webchat, has grown during the crisis.

As customers try alternate ways of contacting businesses, there has been a growth in the use of all digital channels. Fifty-one percent of contact centers report increases in email use, 47% report increases in webchats and 37% report an increase in social media use.

Altivon - Effect of COVID-19 on digital channel volumes

This article is based on a Genesys blog posted May 6, 2020 titled “Tracking the Shift in Remote Contact Center Workers Amid COVID-19”. For additional information, contact Altivon at [email protected] or 866-982-5848.

About Genesys

Every year, Genesys® delivers more than 70 billion remarkable customer experiences for organizations in over 100 countries. Through the power of the cloud and AI, our technology connects every customer moment across marketing, sales and service on any channel, while also improving employee experiences. Genesys pioneered Experience as a Service℠ so organizations of any size can provide true personalization at scale, interact with empathy, and foster customer trust and loyalty. This is enabled by Genesys Cloud™, an all-in-one solution and the world's leading public cloud contact center platform, designed for rapid innovation, scalability and flexibility.

About Altivon

Altivon designs and implements Genesys-based contact center solutions across North America. Leverage our more than 25 years of experience to deliver great customer experience, increase employee engagement, and enhance business outcomes.

[email protected] | 866-982-5848


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