Businesses have adapted and innovated more in the past few weeks than many would have expected to in months. And that has opened up a whole new world of agility and opportunity. COVID-19 forced businesses into a ‘flight, fight or freeze’ scenario, and we have all come out fighting. Businesses have rapidly transitioned office-based teams to working-from-home models. They have flexed to accommodate new consumer behaviours in the face of extraordinary societal change. They have scaled up digital support channels as face-to-face interaction becomes more challenging.
And they are not done yet.
Organisations now face the task of fully rebooting the global economy and seizing the opportunities that a return to business will undoubtedly offer. Of course, no-one can claim to know what ‘normal’ will look like in a week, a month or a year from. However, we do know that businesses will need to pivot over and over as each of these ‘normals’ unfolds. And this means rapid, ongoing innovation and agility as standard.
Change is nothing new for businesses; even the most cautious organisations deliver innovation over time. The key difference today is, what used to take months or years to change, now happens in days or weeks. We must build on the momentum that lockdown has given us and harness the ‘fight’ response to drive sustainable, innovation-led business models.
In this “next normal” agility is our new oxygen. We will fearlessly change fundamental business models which are no longer fit for purpose.
We believe that the most successful business leaders will focus on unlearning as much as learning. This means putting aside the way ‘things have always been done’ and avoiding slipping back into the pedestrian ways of the pre-COVID world.
The first thing leaders are unlearning is the concept of working towards a fixed endpoint. Over the coming months the world will continue to shift, as will the needs and expectations of customers. For businesses, this means continual reprioritisation and frequent pivot points. While the direction of travel may be clear, leaders need to be comfortable not knowing what the final destination will look like.
We are also seeing business leaders prioritising pace over perfection. Moving rapidly in the right direction will be more important than coming up with the perfect solution first time around. This means bringing together new teams who can make swift decisions, drive action and iterate fast.
Firstsource is here to support businesses on this journey. We know that the way we must work with clients has changed. Therefore, we are committed to flexing with our customers, holding them to the spirit and not the letter of proposals and walking with them as they navigate the Next Normal.
Positive human interaction sits at the heart of effective customer service. The outbreak of COVID-19 has not changed this. But it has changed the way that human interaction is delivered.
Lockdowns and social distancing meant in-person encounters have been challenging. But this has encouraged people to turn to a variety of channels to maintain positive engagement, such as phone calls or digital interactions with customer service teams. In contact centres demand has surged. At the same time, widespread homeworking has disrupted traditional ‘peaks’ in demand.
The Next Normal for customer service teams will mean keeping the heart in customer conversations, irrespective of format or pressure points. This means making every customer interaction a moment that matters.
Firstsource can support businesses as they adapt to this Next Normal by harnessing technology to make human interaction more powerful. By using automation to handle routine tasks and analytics to pinpoint and resolve problems, people are freed up to focus on delivering positive, human experiences.
Over the last few months we have seen remote working models rapidly rolled out, with notable successes and acceptance that flexibility is a possibility for corporates.
Moving forward, a full return to the office-based nine-to-five is still in the balance. So it’s likely the Next Normal for the workforce will mean a blend of office and home-based working; sometimes through choice, sometimes through opportunity. This means change on three levels for businesses.
Firstly, HR teams must develop the way that teams are managed and motivated. After months of lockdown, many employees are perhaps feeling the strain of being unable to interact properly with their teammates. Keeping these teams engaged and retaining corporate culture remotely can be done using technology and is the basis of maintaining a healthy culture of collaboration.
Training and upskilling is another priority. Employees will need to develop new skills such as driving sales remotely and supporting customers digitally. Businesses will need to move fast to equip their people with the right tools and training to succeed in this new era.
Finally, operations teams will need to rethink the office as we know it, changing to how these spaces function to enable collaboration whilst keeping people safe. And all while maintain excellent customer service.
To navigate the Next Normal, organisations must create a positive, sustainable, innovation-led approach to doing business. We’ll see leaders drive standards for agility that we never before thought possible. And at Firstsource, we will be there to support them every step of the way.