The decision by UK-based outsourcer ResQ to set up shop in a former retail operation for CX delivery is intriguing. Clearly, there is a great deal of commercial real estate currently on the market as former retailers rationalize their stock of property. Moreover, this coincides with many contact center agents seeking a return to bricks-and-mortar facilities, while operators are looking to find convenient delivery points.
More broadly, ResQ’s move validates a theory that many in the BPO space have promoted for some time, that of occupying unused retail outlets and fitting them out for CX delivery. While this is oft-discussed among contact center operators, ResQ has laid out a blueprint around how this works from a practical perspective.
Certainly the ongoing retail Armageddon pre-dates the pandemic, but it has accelerated over the past year. It is accepted as a fact that more consumers than ever prefer buying a growing variety of products online rather than in a physical store. Whether a small boutique or a major shopping center, what used to be vibrant retail property is increasingly the source of abandoned urban exploration videos.
But with its recent expansion in Hull, UK, ResQ has proven that this need not be the case.
As a background, House of Fraser is one of the most iconic retail brands in the world. The 2018 closure of 31 of its 58 stores directly impacted its Hull operations. This unfortunate event rendered a building that was among the most historic and well-known in the community’s city center empty for three years. However, ResQ had other ideas.
It is worth noting that the Hull-based outsourcer has grown swiftly of late. Now generating approximately £50m in annual revenue, ResQ’s need for more space coincided with a deepening relationship with a major global telco. ResQ will occupy a floor of the former House of Fraser building to accommodate roughly 500 employees when at full capacity. This move makes sense from numerous angles.
For one, be it the UK, continental Europe, Australia, or North America, it is abundantly clear that CX agents are looking to return to the contact center, for at least part of the week. ResQ has accommodated this desire through its development of a regulatory-compliant, staged return to the office plan. But, by taking on commercial space that is central, accessible, and nearby to major conveniences, there is a considerable attraction for agents to work in such environs. This move makes ResQ more relevant to the target labor pool, thereby aiding in recruitment and retention.
That the new contact center is in one of Hull’s most emblematic and historic buildings only adds to its cachet for prospective hires. It is uncertain that this would be the case for an outsourcer setting up in a suburban former shopping center with uncertain transport access and services that may only be the empty shell of a food court.
From an operational standpoint, former city center retail outlets are generally well-constructed, have strong network connectivity, and the space can be retrofitted in a socially-distanced, health-conscious fashion. There is also the issue of supply and demand.
A decade ago, the possibility that retail icons would abandon a city’s commercial centers en masse would have read like a work of fiction. Today, it is very much a reality for many communities. The opportunity for outsourcers to find centrally-located, desirable retail property that is familiar to existing and prospective agents anxious to return to physical CX delivery is significant. Now is the time for BPOs to follow ResQ’s lead of rejuvenating and re-inventing these city center jewels for customer management purposes.