Hopefully, we are nearing the long-awaited return to normal.  Or, is it the ‘new normal’?  Certainly, airports are filling up with travelers (just look at Cardiff), leisure activities are coming back on stream, and there is a general sense that society has moved on from the pandemic.

In the domain of CX delivery, however, customer management will never look the same. With different messages about what enterprise contact center managers expect in terms of in-center versus remote agents, the challenge for the outsourcing community is daunting as its members aim to optimize their own resources.  Solving this puzzle means recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. To succeed, third-party providers will have to demonstrate a great deal of agility.

Currently, more jurisdictions are removing mask mandates. Vaccine passport requirements and negative COVID test results for cross-border travel are relaxing.  There is an optimism about the end of the pandemic among the general population and business leaders.  However, speak to any outsourcing operator about what the future holds, and there may be a bit more consternation.  After all, the past two years have been tumultuous, both in terms of shifting to a more virtualized delivery environment, and an unclear direction about what a post-pandemic CX world will look like.

Early predictions that customer management would resort to fully remote delivery after COVID gave way to discussions about a mixed model that incorporates more delivery from the physical center.  Now, with many high-profile enterprises mandating that their workers come back into the traditional office for the majority of the workweek, contact center outsourcers must adapt to shifting delivery model preferences.

No one should underestimate the extent to which some firms are likely to favor more in-center delivery, especially as health restrictions come down across key demand markets.  Recent data, soon to be published in the 2022 Front Office CX Omnibus Survey by Ryan Strategic Advisory that sounded nearly 700 enterprise CX decision-makers, indicates that while there is a strong propensity for firms to grow their hybrid delivery footprints, the proportion of respondents indicating plans to increase in-center capacity is nearly as strong.

These are not contradictory trends. Over the past decade, many organizations across the industry spectrum have invested heavily in commercial real estate and technology for their captive operations.  Why would they not want to get the most out of these assets? Those most likely to succeed in this regard are those that adapt to allow agents some flexibility in working remotely.

For the outsourcing community, understanding what this balance will look like is not clear cut.  The individual company culture matters, as does that of each client.  Vertical nuances play a role, with some emerging sectors more open to creative delivery than more conservative industries. And jurisdictional or legislative or regulatory restrictions may impact remote working. It will be incumbent for any BPO executive to make certain that their organization has done the research to understand how likely prospective or existing clients are going to be about wanting more of an in-center model versus those that want a hybrid approach that favors remote delivery.

Then there is the issue of how best to adapt to these delivery angles.  A couple of years ago, the remote working narrative may have tempted many BPO leaders to sell or mothball their sites. In the cold light of 2022, as the pandemic appears to recede, maintaining well-equipped CX facilities that are adapted to hybrid delivery would be the prudent course of action.  For their part, workers are interested in returning to shared spaces, to re-establish relationships with colleagues and for a change of atmosphere.  Making certain that the contemporary contact center has what they need to remain positive and fulfill end-user needs must be a priority.

Image provided by Rae Allen via Creative Commons license