Home delivery companies face significant customer service challenges in the run up to Christmas

(Reprinted courtesy of Internet Retailing magazine)

Fabulous news from Hermes last week with the delivery specialist announcing over 10,000 new jobs and predicting a near-doubling of parcel volumes in the run up to Christmas. And it’s not the only good news from delivery firms during lockdown. DPD announced 6,000 new roles as part of a £200m investment, Kingfisher 3-4000 jobs, and online giants Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Amazon and Morrison thousands more. Online fashion and cosmetic retailer Asos revealed a 10% boost in sales to £1 billion in the four months to June 2020.

They are exciting headlines. But they also beg the question ‘how will the sector cope with the severe service centre challenges this expansion will create?’

It’s also interesting that Hermes’ news should break on the same day as reports of a Covid-19 outbreak at a customer service centre in Scotland, and the same week as the announcement of the results from a major survey into the future of contact centre working. 89% of the 102 contact centre leaders responding to the “What will your contact centre be like post lockdown?” survey said that the Covid-19 crisis has changed the contact centre industry forever, with only 3% saying that it hasn’t (the remainder stating they were unsure).

When asked “What Will Your Working Environment Mainly Look Like in 2021?” 57% of contact centre leaders chose an image of a Socially Distanced Centre, 35% a Work-from-Home centre, and only 7% a Normal Contact Centre. The survey was conducted by the South West Contact Centre Forum (SWCCF) and Call North West (CNW) in partnership with Talkdesk.

In the current environment, there’s little chance of delivery companies expanding their bricks and mortar contact centre operations to meet the growing demand for service… which leaves just one realistic and feasible option: work-from-home (WFH).

Homeworking has been a business phenomenon during lockdown with 77% of UK contact centres having 50% or more of their employees working from home during the Covid-19 crisis according to the survey.

Despite these impressive statistics though, homeworking has not been easy, and has thrown up unique and significant challenges. For example, what makes a good customer service homeworker? How do you recruit and train people virtually? How do you manage people’s health and well being? How do you manage performance and quality, communicate effectively with remote workers, maintain infosecurity, stay compliant. And one can add to this long list the requirement for eDelivery support staff to understand the end-to-end customer journey and be familiar with common digital customer experience tools.

To achieve excellence in running a WFH customer service team calls for a very different mindset – one that starts with learning how to recruit the right homeworkers and extends to creating a virtual mindset across everything from training, planning, managing and reporting…… within a technology ecosystem that is secure, robust and flexible enough to scale up and down with the eDelivery company’s business needs.

With 35% of leaders predicting that their contact centres will mainly be homeworking in 2021 according to the SWCCF/CNW/Talkdesk survey, the need to find a practical service solution for the Festive Season retail peak is very much on.

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