COVID-19 crisis accelerates rise of virtual call centers

COVID-19 crisis accelerates rise of virtual call centers

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed IT leaders to move at breakneck pace and accomplish objectives they never conceived likely, let alone possible. Perhaps nowhere has this been more acute than in the call center.

T-Mobile, for instance, sent 12,000 customer representatives located in 17 call centers around the globe to work from home in the wake of the pandemic, says Cody Sanford, the telecommunications company’s CIO and chief product officer. The shift, which took two and a half weeks to complete, required painstaking procedures to “hygienically” ship hardware and software to employees’ residences, a task Sanford describes as one of the toughest rapid-fire turnarounds during his tenure as CIO. “We had to rebuild our entire customer care operations forensically,” Sanford tells CIO.com.

The pandemic has accelerated the virtualized call center, which had been a growing trend facilitated by the cloud, crowdsourcing and the gig economy. Thirty-five percent of the customer experience (CX) workforce will WFH by 2023, up from 5 percent in 2017, according to Gartner, which cites changes in labor practices and business continuity planning as chief factors motivating the trend.

But when COVID-19 hit, most CX organizations did not have plans for enabling staff to work from home. Within days of shuttering call centers, companies had to have CX professionals fielding customer calls remotely. Many struggled to replicate their CX working environment, including the proper hardware and software necessary to provide call support.

The rise of the WFH call center

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