Virtual Shared Services after COVID

Virtual Shared Services after COVID

The new way of business in the Virtual Shared Services Centres post COVID-19

Social, Collaborative, Yet Virtual will be the New Shared Services model post-COVID-19

With each passing day, more countries are nearing lockdown amid fears of widespread COVID-19. While it obviously impacts business, many companies are trying their best to continue running operations to the best extent possible.

Specifically in the Shared Services and Outsourcing industry, many firms have initiated BCP and DR plans. Critical functions have been identified and plans have been made to ensure their delivery is not impacted. Employees across the globe are working remotely and collaborating using various technologies available.

This has raised interesting debates on productivity, the impact on future ways of working, the feasibility of working remotely, and security risks – among many other things.
One of the important considerations is the impact on social well-being of employees. By nature, humans like to connect and interact with fellow colleagues and work in groups with sharing and caring.

That leads me to consider how Shared Services and Offshoring / Outsourcing will change post Covid-19.

“Digitalisation and Automation”

From its onset, this situation clearly favours those Shared Services Organisations that are already “more digital”. The more digital Shared Services Centres (SSCs) will have relatively less impact due as a result of such epidemics and the learnings will drive more digitisation and automation of various functions. This will ensure that the mundane and repetitive tasks are less interrupted and the workforce can focus on more critical activities.

Shift from “people proximity” to “people collaboration”

The SSCs that are most impacted by COVID-19 have one thing in common: Their style of working is based on “people proximity”. The setup is complex and multiple cross-functional teams are working together towards delivery. Hence they rely on people working together in teams. Such SSCs will most likely build their strategy around (invest in) the adoption of increased collaboration tools like video conferencing. It is surprising that many offshoring centres and SSCs are still way behind when it comes to using such collaboration tools.

The next town hall is not going to be in a large auditorium or hotel but will happen over Skype or Zoom

The trend of moving everything to ‘online’ – trainings, meetings and even key corporate announcements – will increase. In the past, faced with an unexpected crisis the tendency has been to delay key meetings and announcements. Going forward, I would not be surprised if the next town hall happens online.

Focus on ‘relationship’ not just ‘contract’ with outsourcing vendors

SSCs will now have the opportunity to test their relationship with sourcing vendors. Is this the time to open the contract documents and revisit the clauses? Or is this the time to sensitise and empathise with each other? Remember, outsourcing vendors are also firms – just like yours.


As SSCs encourage flexibility in working locations and adopt various collaboration tools so that they continue to improve their productivity as provide services, they also need to ensure that individuals are empowered and continue to feel the social experience; in short, that they are “Virtual” yet “Social”.

Imagine an organisation that presently thrives on groups of people coming together in an office transforming itself into an organisation that still maintains the social essence through its ability to connect and interact with team members – but without the need to meet physically.

Welcome to post Covid-19 Shared Services Centres being Social, Collaborative yet Virtual!


Thanks to the views by Ankur Bansal from SSON
Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.
Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe

Homeworking In The Contact Centre

Homeworking In The Contact Centre

Homeworking In The Contact Centre Industry During COVID-19

Challenges of homeworking in the contact centre industry and why balance will be key in future flexibility

COVID-19 has even more businesses talking about and having to engage with homeworking. Some advocate that they are ‘business as usual’ whereas others are having to deal with the very real challenge of isolation and no face-to-face contact with their teams, customers and suppliers. This article looks past the current lockdown period at the questions faced by the contact centre industry around homeworking.

The root question has not been if home working is possible and effective, but why should it be utilised? The many talented and dedicated contact centre professionals will adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, finding ways to provide great customer experiences despite unfamiliar working environments and under increased pressure; but what will they do after the lockdown passes and offices and contact centres are reopened?

According to research from the Office of National Statistics published prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 50% of UK employees were already set to work remotely in 2020. Remote working is a subject bound to divide opinion across small to large organisations in every sector. With governments across the world asking or even enforcing, that people work from home during the current COVID-19 pandemic, debates about this practice are becoming more important.

For organisations across many industries, a work-from-home policy may seem easily deployed – workers can simply take their laptops to any location, connect to a WiFi network, and get going. However, for others, the concept of remote working instigates a multitude of worries. Take the contact centre industry. The current situation around COVID-19 means many contact centre operators have been faced with a difficult reality, and many are being pushed to make a decision. Is it better or worse for agent productivity and happiness? Does it increase customer engagement and satisfaction? Will it drive revenue or is it a drain on resources? Can employees be trusted to do a good job while working unsupervised? Will it isolate agents if they are receiving negative or abusive calls when remote from their colleagues?

Balance is key

These concerns are perfectly understandable – the contact centre has always been a very physical workplace, with call agents hooked up to a legacy phone system, answering calls on multiple lines, in-sight of employers. The key to making homeworking successful in practice for any business – particularly those operating a contact centre – is to identify exactly what is trying to be achieved with it, and how it meets with what is best for the business overall. Right now, permitting homeworking may simply be a case of survival as a business. In future, businesses must answer the purpose of homeworking. As an example, it could offer flexibility to employees and be used as an aid to work-life balance. This would not only deliver something for the reward strategy of a contact centre, but increased satisfaction and happiness at work may also lead to improved performance.

However, this must be coupled with businesses considering the potential challenges. One of the key concerns we hear around working from home in the contact centre is trust; can agents work as effectively, and at the same level of quality, without direct supervision? Many employers worry that if they cannot physically see their employees working, they aren’t working at all. Furthermore, the inability to see employees may leave employers anxious for their safety. What if an agent working from home receives a threatening or distressing message? Without a network of support from colleagues and supervisors, it could be difficult for agents to deal with complaints and negative situations. Businesses considering homeworking must have a plan to address these very real concerns.

The silver lining of cloud

One way to enable contact centres to provide the flexibility of homeworking for call agents, while keeping operations running smoothly, is embracing the latest technology available to the sector. A cloud-based contact-centre-as-a-service (CCaaS) platform gives contact centres this flexibility: it can be deployed in days and is ready-to-use wherever the agents and IT team are. Due to its browser-based nature, all an agent or supervisor needs to carry on is an internet-enabled device, such as a laptop, and a headset.

A vital component for this setup to work is continuous communication and monitoring between call agent and supervisor. Screen recording, for example, enables both supervisors to keep an eye on their agents in real-time, and agents to feel supported in their work while away from their desk. It can provide exactly the same insights to supervisors as when agents are in the contact centre itself. This ensures that supervisors know that the same excellent standards of customer experience are being delivered, even when they are not in the same location as agents. It also frees homeworking agents from the suspicion that they are not working as effectively at home as they are in the contact centre, which can be an undermining experience. The chance to demonstrate their own skill and efficiency accurately can be great for happiness and ‘engagement’. These concepts have been well linked to reducing leaver rates. Granting supervisors the ability to see agents working also enables them to provide real-time support to their team. For example, if an agent has had a disgruntled customer on the phone, supervisors may be able to step in and offer support and consolation when needed.

Technology for the modern-day workforce

Since cloud contact centres are browser-based and agents can access the system wherever they are, whenever they want, the ability to homework gives employees more flexibility and control over their working hours. This can make it easier to fit their career around busy schedules in a way that benefits both themselves and the organisation. Their working schedule can fit in more easily around family and home life as they have the opportunity to log in while the children are at school, for example. Introducing intelligent automation and smart scheduling makes flexibility profitable by ensuring that resources are optimised. Artificially intelligent Workforce Optimisation (WFO) systems run automatic checks to ensure that schedules are always kept at peak efficiency, whilst also giving agents maximum control over the hours they want to work.

Cloud-based CCaaS can also alleviate any concerns over the additional costs of training needed for agents to work at home. Quality Assurance capabilities mean that agents and employers alike can benefit from increased flexibility without losing any of the quality of work or impacting the customer experience. Analysing recordings of key interactions between call agents and customers allows trainers to identify best practice and gaps in knowledge.

It is clear that homeworking has great benefits, while also posing the potential for significant drawbacks. Flexibility and agility are key in achieving the right balance to make working from home a viable option in the contact centre. A true cloud solution is one sure-fire means of ensuring that the location of the agent does not matter and can develop alongside, and meet with a business’ and individuals’ growing demands.

The effects of COVID-19 on businesses, and society as a whole, are expected to change working practices across industries, including contact centres. Many will continue a homeworking policy even after everything has returned to normal. They would do well to have a clear strategy, harnessing the benefits of homeworking and ensuring the correct tools are in place for their agents to thrive in a new world. Although, overall, homeworking is not without its challenges, if implemented at the right pace and with the right technology, it has the power to unlock fantastic benefits for contact centres.


Written by Andi Janes, Chief People Officer at Content Guru

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.
Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe