2020… A year that changed everything!

10 months ago, the last week of February, I was enjoying a long weekend getaway in Istanbul, Turkey, well aware that COVID-19 was happening, but never thought that it will turn out to be a pandemic that will change the world and how we live. As of today, we have 76.4 Million reported cases worldwide, almost 1.7 million deaths reported, vaccines announced, and some of us are now facing yet another lockdown.

Overall, this was a tough year for everyone, we had to stay and work from home, had to curb down our social life and some of us had to deal with close ones being infected by COVID-19, or even dealing with COVID-19 death within our close circle.

The COVID-19 enforced digital transformation

The world has gone into isolation, after around 20–30 years of globalization. Social distancing and reduction of human-to-human contact is definitely needed to stop the spread of COVID-19. The only way to bridge the gaps left by the mandated shutdowns, lockdowns and social distancing measures was to digitalize the way we work, there was no other way.

One of the biggest changes we faced was how we work. Before COVID-19 struck the world, many organizations and companies were refusing to enable their employees working from home. COVID-19 has for sure brought years of change in the way companies do business all over the world. According to a McKinsey Global Survey of executives, their companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. Read more about McKinsey’s Global Survey here.

“Digital adoption has taken a quantum leap at both the organizational and industry levels.” McKinsey & Company’s Article

This digital transformation isn’t new, it has simply been brought forward into a sharp focus due to the need to adapt to the new contactless world of working. Prior to the pandemic, a paradigm shift to digitalization of services and supply chain was already underway. COVID-19 has simply accelerated the paradigm.

As you can see in the image below, there is a recognizable transformation in our daily work life, which we all have noticed and can relate to.

It took a crisis for the world of Contact Center to evolve…

I, personally, believe that the pandemic was a reality check for businesses that have either completely stood against or were reluctant to embrace digital transformation, they found themselves completely unprepared and forced to adapt to the new digital era of doing business.

Some of the Contact Centers organizations were mostly reluctant to the idea of Working-from-Home, as their claim is that productivity will drop, or it is technically difficult and financially hard to justify realizing the technologies needed to be able to offer Work-from-Home options to their agents. But this all changed back in March 2020, as Lockdown measures across Europe were enforced, organizations that operated contact centers had to adapt. Within days, they managed to get majority of the contact centers agents to work from home. Now majority of corporations, companies and organizations in almost all of the industries around the world are working virtually and managed to adapt technologically to the change this pandemic enforced on all of us. The new ways of working for contact centers nevertheless did have any negative impact on productivity, on the contrary, according to a report by IDC & Genesys of companies that shifted their on-premise contact center operations to cloud contact centers, 72% said they saw improved customer service, 70% improved agent efficiency and productivity and 71% improved scalability.

COVID-19 pandemic resulted to an accelerated digital transformation

I recently came across an article in ComputerWeekly.com where it was mentioned how the pandemic accelerated digital transformation in the contact center world by five years in 3 months. Check the article here.

According to Leigh Hopwood, Chief executive of The Call Centre Management Association (CCMA) many of its members believe the industry has “jumped forward five years in three months” because of the opportunity afforded it “to implement new technology to support a mass migration to homeworking and to deliver a digital transformation”.

Yet, I also have to admit that some of the contact center organizations were already working on or considering the concept of Work-from-Home. It was a concept that has rapidly gained momentum over the past years. According to a study by Nemertes Research, 59% of contact centers around the world let at least some of their staff work from a home office pre-COVID-19. The current situation just made this concept as a critical element of any contact center business continuity plans. It became a survival criteria for a business to sustain and ‘Keep the lights on’ during the times of Lockdowns and Shutdowns.

As consumers, we all had to move to the online world to conduct our daily business and to cope with this big change due to crisis, a lot of industries, governments and companies have also made efforts to move to the online world. According to McKinsey’s survey, respondents are three times likelier now than before the crisis to say that at least 80 percent of their customer interactions are digital in nature.

The age of virtual contact centers is here and now…

You can see how the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry is booming with more and more agents being able to work from home. As majority of these BPO and Contact Center outsourcing companies were forced to move to remote working in a massive scale, closing down the physical sites and pushing more developments towards virtual way of working. According to NobelBiz, 80% of customers engage with brands on social media. A spike of digital channels traffic is already reported by various organizations.

Overall, I, personally, believe that this paradigm shift and crisis enforced change was beneficial for contact centers. Transformation and adoption of new digital solutions was for sure needed.

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen

Digital transformation of the way we work, in my opinion, was inevitable! Being able to work virtually and from any place in the world, was for sure going to be the norm. I believe, as well as a lot of reports show, that COVID-19 accelerated that change, which was going to happen despite the Pandemic. Being able to hire people around the globe, where work can take place virtually is the most logical outcome of this new digital era we are living in, with 5G rolling out globally, tech companies going cloud, collaboration tools and platforms expanding their functionalities and offerings as well as many more digital transformation tools and systems. All this and more is for sure going to result to new ways of working, which is happening now. But COVID-19 was and still is the catalyst of this massive change. At least one of few benefits that resulted out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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