UK businesses are firmly committed to a flexible working future but the majority are still in the planning stage of their hybrid working projects according to a new industry survey of contact centre industry professionals.
102 UK Contact Centre Directors and Managers took part in the online “How successfully has your contact centre embraced hybrid working?” market study conducted by Pitch Market Surveys in partnership with the Welsh Contact Centre Forum, homeworking specialist Sensée, and insight and action platform provider SuccessKPI.
Survey responses were collected between November 3rd and December 19th 2022 and participants came from a broad range of different industries. Around a half (49%) of people responding work in large contact centres with 100 or more seats.
Return to the Office?
Almost four-fifths of respondents (78%) said that, by November/December 2022, fewer than a quarter of their organisation’s contact centre advisers had returned to the office full time post lockdown.
Two-thirds (66%) believe that 50% or more of their advisers will be working from home (at least part of the time) by the end of 2023.
Various Hybrid Models
The most popular hybrid working business model today is ‘flexible working between the home and office where EMPLOYEES decide where they work on any given day’ (37% of respondents).
Other models used include ‘flexible working between the home and office where BUSINESSES decide where they work on any given day’, ‘set days at home and set days in the office’ and ‘(either) 100% from home or 100% from the office’.
Issues and Benefits Associated With WFH/hybrid
Pastoral Care (68%) and Communicating Effectively (66%) are the two issues cited most often by respondents as key hybrid working issues – with the main benefits being Happier and More Productive Employees (72%), Lower Carbon Footprint (61%), Additional Business Continuity (52%) and Traditional Recruitment Barriers Removed (45%).
Performance of WFH vs. Office Teams
The majority of respondents say that the performance of their homeworking teams is comparable to that of office-based teams against all the criteria given within the questionnaire (including attrition, absenteeism, productivity, customer experience, and quality of service).
For EVERY criterion given (apart from Average Handle Time), there is a greater chance of homeworker team performance being better than that of comparable office-based teams.
While most people agree that it is easier to recruit homeworkers than office-based workers, very few say that it is easier to monitor their work quality, manage their performance, or train them.
Are Managers Ready for the Challenge?
Under half (48%) of respondents think that their organisations have given Managers and Supervisors sufficient training and advice to manage, train and support their work-from-home teams.
Live Adviser vs. Digitally-Delivered Customer Service
When asked about technology channels used, 95% of respondents cite voice, 94% email, and two-thirds (67%) webchat. 89% of respondents say that customer contacts are mainly handled today by live operators.
Looking forward, just 40% of respondents believe that the majority of their customer contacts will be handled by digital channels (i.e. not by a ‘live adviser’ phone call) by 2025.
WFH and Self-Scheduling Hours
79% of contact centre professionals agree with the statement that their organisation ‘gives employees the opportunity to work flexibly so they can enjoy a better work life balance’.
But 71% say that they can’t yet give contact centre employees the freedom and flexibility to self-select their own work schedules.
82% of respondents say that they have enhanced IT or Information Security in order to enable home-based working.
“Three years ago, few businesses viewed full or part time homeworking as a viable solution for the majority of their people.
“The Covid lockdown changed that picture completely. Employees today are increasingly demanding a greater say in how and where they work while businesses are seeing the long term benefits of homeworking – not for everybody in every situation but, nevertheless, for a sizeable number of people.
“The challenge is now on to make home and hybrid working effective – which will often require businesses to adopt a new mindset to how they recruit, train, schedule, technologically-equip, look after and manage their people,” said Simon Hunter, Chief Commercial Officer, Sensée.