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Empowering a remote and flexible workforce to meet the needs of always-on customers

The workplace is in the midst of the biggest revolution since the industrial age. An emerging consequence of this is demand for remote and flexible working.
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In the UK alone the number of home-workers has gone up by nearly a quarter of a million in the last decade. Some 87 per cent of permanent full-time workers either want remote and flexible jobs or are already employed as such. Few Millennials or Generation 2020 see their career comprising “a job for life”.

These are factors visionary organisations recognise as too important to ignore, particularly in a business world where competition on price is itself now competing with profit margin pressures, alongside the need to capture and retain the best talent. Such factors keep 77 per cent of CEOs awake at night.

An additional factor senior managers wrestle with at night is the need to balance these emerging resource demands against an increasing need to deliver exceptional customer experience and outcomes. More often than not, this must be delivered on a 24/7 basis and across numerous channels, each of which demand increased consumer expectation in terms of time to decision and response.

The “always-on” consumer has a wealth of communication channels at their finger-tips and is less forgiving and more demanding than their analogue predecessors. They are certainly more prepared to jump to social media to communicate to “the world” where outcomes are not as desired. In parallel, the same cohort is ready to socialise a good experience, albeit perhaps with less vigour.

Statistics show that businesses who successfully meet these demands and provide a positive customer experience grow revenue faster than CX laggards, drive higher brand preference and in doing so, improve retention levels and possibly also influence margin.

So how do organisations deliver required outcomes while meeting their employees’ needs for remote and flexible working? These two objectives need not be mutually exclusive, provided businesses optimise operational processes, promote customer centric behaviours and culture, not to mention invest in the right technology to better utilise and focus employee effort.

Remote and flexible employees are now able to play an increased role in servicing the always-on customer, contributing to the overall customer experience.

An important first step is for businesses to evolve from traditional command and control tactics, and embrace a more collaborative way of working, centred around the “end-to-end” customer interaction. Ensure the relevant skills and capabilities reside within that remote and flexible workforce.

A second key step is to invest in the ability to accurately forecast and utilise these skills and capabilities to efficiently and effectively allocate work to the workforce, regardless of physical location or timezone. This must coincide with the ability to monitor resource activity and importantly be able to evidence quality and compliance. Having this complete view of all capability within and across customer operations is no longer an operational luxury.

Managers need a comprehensive view of the workloads and subsequent performance of their teams. They need intraday and predictive analytics, alerts and performance notifications embedded within solutions that let them know where both latency and surplus resource exist before things go wrong. And they need this detail in real-time.

Processes span what have traditionally been labelled front and back office. Providing real-time insight into these operations and forecasting of the workload should allow processes to be better optimised so resources can be allocated to best deliver on the customer outcome – blending front and back office to best service the customer. Research from McKinsey suggests companies doing this are achieving up to 50 per cent increases in efficiency in some back-office functions.

In a world where both customers and talent have high expectations, and their engagement and satisfaction defines a sustainable competitive advantage; successful organisations are those making the latter work to support the former. By investing in the right infrastructure, processes and culture to build a more collaborative and flexible workplace, businesses can strike the right balance to become market leaders.

Nick Nonini is managing director EMEA at Verint Systems

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