The continuous provision of service within the Call and Contact Centre industry has been critical during the coronavirus pandemic. With customers no longer able to make in-person visits, call lines to banks, health providers, insurance firms and travel retailers have proven to be invaluable for customers who have no other means of getting in touch.
And, because bills still need to be paid and insurance claims still need to be made, access to these services for advice and support is considered “essential work”.
But, as Verdict states, “For many contact centres, the upheaval is significant because they still rely on legacy infrastructure built around the traditional definition of the field: a room full of people receiving calls and logging them on a centralised system.”
So, how have our contact centres been able to either remain open safely (observing social distancing and hygiene rules) or move their operations to home based working? What impact has that had on their employees both in terms of performance and wellbeing?
Lisa Dolan, Director of Employee Engagement (UK and South Africa) at Teleperformance says, “TP UK and SA immediately put the health and wellbeing of staff as the main priority, with teams working around the clock to enable staff to work safely from their own homes. Within the space of just over 4 weeks, we went from having 0 to just under 5,000 colleagues working from home.
“The message from our CEO, Gary Slade from the outset was clear: the priority was the health and wellbeing of our staff and working towards restoring some sort of normality for them. It was about making sure our employees were safe and well at home, and those still working in our office spaces were kept safe and well, through us implementing enhanced hygiene measures and social distancing rules.
“Through this difficult time, we wanted to make sure we were doing even more for our staff, for their physical and mental wellbeing, with a number of programmes and being implemented for staff to take advantage of.”
Which is no mean feat!
“We wanted to ensure that our employees were supported while working at home, working from home and working in a busy contact centre are very different indeed and we knew that some would struggle being without their TP colleagues around them. We also understood that there would be many working mums and dads with families, where children would need to be home schooled, so we wanted to make sure we covered and included activities and support for all these situations.”
“For those who remained in our office spaces, we implemented enhanced hygiene measures, clear social distancing rules, and created or hygiene heroes who would be our eyes and ears on the site, via a Whatsapp group directly to myself, the SVP of HR and Gary our CEO, to report any issues and give updates on sites and how they were doing from a hygiene and social distancing stance.”
Lisa talks passionately about TP encouraging colleagues to discuss any mental health issues they may be experiencing right now – whether at home or in the office. TP have partnered up with Talk Out – a mental health organisation that champions open workplace conversation about mental health – in order to facilitate chats between colleagues and friends; team leaders and agents; the C suite and the entire company.
“Our focus on mental health started at the start of 2020, which is so exciting, when we went into lockdown we didn’t know how it would continue, but we worked with Talk Out to develop our ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays’ providing staff with Mental Health focused webinars, plus our wellbeing interviews with senior leaders across the business talking about their journey and how they manage their mental health every day, all activities are there to encourage people to Talk Out with TP.”
Teleperformance’s Engagement team have also implemented things such as Mindfulness Monday’s with 10@10, TP and Toast and Afternoon TP in order to encourage employees to take a break and either focus on being calm or have a natter about something other than work.
“We are constantly sharing resources. We’re also encouraging people to volunteer, as part of CSR programme. And it’s just small things like picking up litter whilst you are out on your daily walk. Or sending keep smiling cards to local care homes, which we’ve had designed by our employee’s children. We even have some members of staff making masks for local health providers. We’re seeing people getting involved who never normally would. This, on its own, is good for mental health and wellbeing.”
Lisa and her team have used Microsoft Teams voraciously with a dedicated Engagement and Communication group, in order to keep her agents connected with their colleagues, help improve their mental and physical health and have a little fun along the way. Lisa and the team have even managed to create and design activity packs for TP Tots and TP Tigers and TP Teens, helping to keep the kiddies busy during lockdown. Even simple things like recipe sharing and a TP version of Weight Watchers in order to cater to all of her employees’ needs.
“People miss the social aspect of being in a room with 300 other people every day. So, you have to cater to that. We absolutely cannot be at capacity just now – and who knows, maybe even for the rest of the year – so you have to find other ways to bond with each other.”
This provision of virtual activities has seen teams mixing across departments and even continents. “We’re getting to speak to colleagues we wouldn’t normally be able to. It’s great,” Lisa says.
And, in the spirit of keeping things virtual, Teleperformance have also been able to successfully onboard new starts via online training programmes. This has been gamified, and is producing really positive, well engaged new employees.
“We’ve actually found that, working from home, we are stronger and more productive. As you can imagine some clients were initially worried about data security, as were we, but we train our colleagues to such a high standard, we trust our staff and in turn our clients”
In what would have been an unthinkable statistic just a few months ago, Gary Slade, CEO of TP UK and SA now aspires to have a minimum of 35% of Teleperformance employees working from home, even when things ‘return to normal’, whatever that will look like in the new world.
“Working from home really opens us up to a much more diverse and inclusive range of employees,” she says, “People with disabilities who cannot travel into the contact centre or working parents who would otherwise struggle for childcare can now successfully work for Teleperformance from home.”
This focus on inclusivity, mental health and wellbeing is something that Lisa is clearly extremely proud of. To implement such a wide range of programmes – under pressure, and in such a short space of time for a high volume of staff – is quite remarkable. Especially in an industry that was always perceived to be ill-suited to home or remote working.
“We want our employees to stay with us long after this is all over. So, right now, safety and mental health is key for us,” Lisa concludes.
The pandemic has, undoubtedly changed the way our call and contact centres operate – now and in the future. It will be interesting to see how the industry evolves and adapts in order to cater to both employee needs and industry demand.
Teleperformance have three different Glasgow city centre sites.
To get in touch with Cheryl Stobo, for call and contact centre insights or an informal chat, click here.