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Frequently during the Covid-19 pandemic, people have talked about “throwing away the rule book”. This is certainly the case in customer management. An unprecedented crisis has led businesses to work in unprecedented ways, and it’s opening up exciting prospects. In the case of Comdata, this means developing a new way to deliver services with teams working from home. 

Comdata Smart Hub is the new global and advanced homeworking operating model that Comdata is implementing across all geographies where it operates. The model offers greater flexibility, improved front line team members  performance, and super data security and business continuity. And it’s both client- and employee-centric.

MOVING FROM SHORT-TERM RESPONSE TO LONG-TERM CHANGE

From March this year, when countries across the world began to declare lockdown, Comdata migrated approximately 30.000 employees to work-from-home arrangements – almost 70% of its workforce. 

This rapid shift enabled Comdata to maintain full services to clients, while also protecting the health and safety of staff. The Group’s clients were therefore able to maintain services to their own customers, at a time when demand for human interaction and support was often higher as a result of lockdown.

Delivering continuity of services and excellent customer experiences during the pandemic was itself a major achievement – a feat that, only a few months earlier, many would not have thought possible in so fast a time. But even more significant is what happens next. 

Homeworking was initially an emergency response but the Group had also considered it as a future opportunity to enhance its delivery model. In recognition of the value of remote working, Comdata Smart Hub extends the on-site delivery model with a connected virtual model. 

Instead of following the traditional centralized approach of bringing people to where the work is, Comdata Smart Hub allows the work to go wherever the right people happen to be. It takes the lessons of the pandemic and turns them into an improved global delivery model.

COMDATA SMART HUB: A REMOTE MODEL OFFERING GLOBAL FLEXIBILITY

The need for greater flexibility is an important lesson for the post-Covid ‘Next Normal’; so the design of Comdata Smart Hub introduces greater flexibility in terms of recruitment, traffic-handling, costs and efficiency, and how and where Comdata uses physical workspace. For clients, this means a direct positive impact on service levels, agent performance, customer experience and value. 

Let’s look at some practical examples of this. When Comdata was developing the Smart Hub model, it asked staff across the world how long they spent commuting to and from work. It found they were typically spending between 40 and 90 minutes a day travelling. Without a daily commute, they could better fit work with other commitments such as childcare, or work at times when they used to be travelling – such as between 5 and 6pm, when call traffic tends to peak as other people get home from work. This has positive impacts for Comdata, its clients and employees:

  • Remote working opens up options for more productive and efficient work patterns. For example, rather than the traditional eight-hour shift, at-home staff could do shorter shifts or even two-part shifts to coincide with call  traffic spikes. This improves flexibility to deploy the optimum number of staff at different times – throughout the day, the week or seasonally
  • Workers spend less time and money on commuting – improving morale, engagement and productivity.

WITH A BIGGER TALENT POOL COME IMPROVED PERFORMANCE AND VALUE

A major constraint in outsourced customer management is recruitment and retention of people with the right skills – especially in locations where unemployment is low. 

Taking the work to the people, rather than bringing the people to a fixed location, changes the picture. First, cutting the commute and changing shift times makes the work more attractive to skilled people who have other commitments. Secondly, remote connected working takes away the need to co-locate all the agents.

Comdata gives the example of a banking client looking for customer relationship services provided in Spanish by trained operators with knowledge of banks’ bank-end operations. With a fixed location and a limited talent pool, competition for these people may be fierce..

With remote working, the talent could be anywhere – in a small town in Spain, in London or Paris, in Latin America or anywhere else. It offers Comdata and its clients a bigger talent pool, global access to skills and experience, easier recruitment and retention, more control over costs, and a committed workforce who appreciate the ability to work anywhere whilst still feeling connected and engaged with colleagues and managers.

REMOTE WORK MOVES THE DIAL IN RESILIENCE PLANNING

Connected remote working also strengthens business continuity planning and resilience. BCP has long been a business fundamental in all sectors, but pre-Covid people tended to think locally or regionally. “If there’s a problem in location X, will we immediately be able to provide services from a different location?” was the usual question.

Faced with a global pandemic, businesses and governments realized there was a second question: “If there is a problem across all (or most of) our existing locations, will we still be able to operate?”

With Comdata Smart Hub, the answer to both questions is “Yes”.

Whilst offering these new options and benefits for client and customers, Comdata Smart Hub still retains the advantages of the ‘traditional’ on-site delivery model, including IT and data security, and omnichannel connectivity and interaction with teams.

A GLOBAL AND ADVANCED MODEL BUILT ON PRACTICAL UNDERSTANDING AND DETAIL

In customer management BPO, successful remote delivery is more complex than simply making sure that agents have the right kit and connectivity to work remotely. After all, previous operations, recruitment and management models were based on people working in close proximity. But Comdata has used the lessons of 2020 to approach this change holistically – understanding the different features, functionalities and practices needed to introduce the new model successfully. A few examples will illustrate the breadth and depth of planning.

Technology: With the new model, clients can interact virtually with Comdata teams at any time through the cloud solution. The idea is that the technology should be ‘invisible’ –customers will have no idea whether they are talking to someone working on-site or remotely. 

Deploying this seamless technology globally – while implementing the highest security standards – is complex, but in Comdata’s case, the task is made easier and quicker by having its own Comdata Digital division which can manage this. For many businesses, the technology aspect is not available in-house, and finding the right external IT partner to manage the technology elements will add to the complexity and time taken. 

Performance: The greater autonomy involved in homeworking involves different styles of management and coaching, but it doesn’t mean employees are out on their own. Remote monitoring facilities are being introduced to manage performance – just as with an air traffic control system, it’s not necessary to be in the cockpit with the pilots to optimize what is happening in real-time.

Recruitment: As many of us know from lockdown, some people thrive on home-working, others yearn for the buzz of the office. Recruitment for the Comdata Smart Hub model will reflect this, looking for agents fitted to remote working, and managers and coaches equipped to lead remotely. Recruitment is also evolving to maximize the greater freedoms around where staff are located.

Organization: Comdata knows already that some types of activity may be best delivered remotely, others on-site. Management of operations will reflect this. It is also introducing new collaboration and training approaches– from video to chat to online learning platforms – so staff can spend structured time with leaders, coaches and other team members. These will also ensure that colleagues can still bond with each other, enrich their social or cultural life, and develop projects – getting the best parts of the office without the commute.

Comdata has already kicked off Smart Hub, and in the coming months the new global and advanced model will be deployed in all the geographical areas where the Group operates. 

Albert Einstein famously said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”, and Covid-19 has offered businesses the opportunity to do things differently and better. With Smart Hub, Comdata is doing exactly that, using adversity to bring wins all round – for clients, customers and staff alike.

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