BPO’s are proactively and aggressively focused on employee health & safety, while simultaneously deploying Business Continuity Plans to meet individual client needs
In the last few weeks the spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) has completely dominated news headlines. Major news outlets globally are offering extensive, around-the-clock coverage. Daniel Julien, CEO of world-leading BPO Teleperformance had this comment: “COVID-19 has quickly become a global “disruptor,” affecting people, businesses, and economies — all over the world, health and safety has become the number one focus.” 1
I am, by no means, a disease specialist nor do I have any medical training. However, I’d like to think of myself as a keen observer of trends….and there are a lot of them that swirl around the contact center space. Because I travel so often to contact center sites around the world, I really pay close attention to good and bad news when it comes to BPO trends and developments.
For this blog, a Covid-19 primer is unnecessary. Suffice it to say that in covering the BPO market for the last 15 years, I have never witnessed any phenomenon like it. This virus has the potential to completely disrupt the customer care supply chain as we know it today if it spreads – and it will spread! This virus threatens the health and well-being of frontline brand ambassadors in the U.S., in offshore sites and in nearshore countries. These are our contact center agents who answer millions of voice calls every day. Frost & Sullivan estimates that there are 6- 10 (full and part-time) million contact center agents globally. They deliver customer care in verticals like financial services, travel and hospitality, retail, healthcare, telecommunications, high tech and government.
Last week I surveyed over a dozen very large outsourcers to find out what measures they are taking to address the Coronavirus. From the responses received, here are six (6) common approaches taken by top BPO leaders and operations management:
- Proactive outreach to all employees and clients; proposing a plan of action
which includes preventative measures, constant communication, and back up
BPOs are encouraging self-identification for anyone feeling unwell
- Health checks and status surveys for employees including adding provisions on-site; ample drinking water, face masks, disinfectants, alcohol, and antibacterial sprays
- Elevating cleaning and sanitizing procedures at delivery sites—ensuring consistent cleaning of all facilities (US domestic, nearshore, and offshore)
- Transitioning agents, lines of business and even entire accounts to a Work-at-Home-Agent (WAHA) model if necessary
- Real-time monitoring of the global situation and daily meetings with executive teams to review status and take immediate actions if necessary to restore critical business functions to normalcy
- Many international site locations typically have clinics staffed by nurses and doctors
Given limited space in this blog, here’s a sampling of just a few BPO company comments and current initiatives/Best Practices (listed alphabetically):
“Our commitment is to be aggressive in our preventive actions and communications to deliver the performance our clients expect from Alorica. We will continue to align with recommendations from leading health monitoring organizations CDC and WHO.”
- Suspension of non-essential travel while leveraging technology to maintain close engagement with our clients and to continue executing across our organization
- Training on protocols for our leaders, including our Employee Experience teams, to respond to questions, concerns and notifications of potential risk
HGS (Hinduja Global Solutions)
“HGS priorities are both our employees and our customers in lock step. We are proactively reaching out to our clients and proposing a plan of action which includes preventative measures, constant communication, and back up plans. We are assessing the risk daily and are monitoring the government recommendations closely. We are also in continual communications with our staff, including Dr. Lisa Doggett, Senior Medical Director, HGS Healthcare, is conducting regular webinars to keep the global business aware of the latest updates and best practices to stay healthy.”
- Utilizing HGS’s strong, robust, and mature work-at-home (W@H) program
- Deploying IVRs/Call Back Features/ Website Alerts notifying consumers of possible service delays
“Most importantly, our Business Continuity Plan is to reassure our associates, each of our 80,000 people around the globe, that we want them to have a safe place to come to work each day. This includes floor communications about preventative health practices, recommendations from the World Health Organization and more.” Chris Knauer SVP and Chief Security Officer
- We are certainly working toward our Sitel At-Home in various locations; however, it varies from client to client
- All Sitel facilities will employ supplemental site and personnel hygiene actions to stop the spread of any illness
“We’ve rallied around those who matter most – our affected employees and clients. At a time of such great human vulnerability, nothing is more important than the well-being of our people.” Daniel Julien, Chairman and Group CEO
- Established Covid19 Global Task Force for worldwide continuity
- Suspended all non-essential travel
- Expanded work options ranging from dormitories to WAHA for employees
- Coordinating international prevention/delivery actions with clients, national & local government agencies
The Last Word
Are the Circumstances Surrounding the Virus so Different? Why Does this Matter?
I am not an alarmist, but the Coronavirus has me worried – as did potential pandemics like H1N1, the Bird Flu, the Zika virus and the Ebola outbreak in 2014. This virus is different for some basic reasons:
- The U.S. doesn’t have enough research, testing kits or a vaccine yet
- The disease is spreading rapidly around the world
- Affected persons may not be aware that they have the virus
- World governments are scrambling to communicate and arrest this disease
You can clearly see from these examples, that BPO’s are taking an “all hands on deck” approach to education, communication, and protection. Positive, proactive and aggressive.
In our ‘always on’ society, Frost & Sullivan’s studies suggest that consumers need more (and different) customer care – not less. Some suggest that automation, virtual agents/assistants, IVRs using artificial intelligence and expanding Work-at-Home programs might help fill any gaps and provide some needed insurance against the Coronavirus.
Stay tuned for Part 2 with more Coronavirus prevention examples, case studies and BPO Best Practices coming your way soon. To know more about this topic, please contact Francesca Valente, Corporate Communications Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.