COVID-19 has sent shockwaves around the world. A major concern for employees and employers alike is: how can we best protect people while they do their jobs?
Some roles can easily be transferred to working from home, while some other roles are a little more difficult. For example, how do we shift our big customer contact centres to people’s dining tables or home offices? Can we do it without impacting our ability to serve our customers?
Alexandra Lee manages AGL’s Melbourne contact centre. She describes what that rapid transformation to work from home looked like, what the pressures were and are, and what we’ve learned from this time.
In her words: Alexandra Lee, Customer Solutions Centre Manager, Melbourne
When you call AGL next, you’re likely going to be talking to somebody in their own home – sitting at a desk or at a dining table.
A few weeks ago, we had zero people working from home – all our people were working in fully equipped contact centres in AGL’s offices. And in the space of two weeks, we moved nearly four hundred people to working from their homes.
I’m not going to lie – it’s been quite challenging. This is a very different way of working for us, and we had to pull all this together quite quickly.
Step inside the AGL contact centres
The contact centres are extremely dynamic, busy environments. Each one of our customer service representatives – or CSRs – takes between 20-40 calls per day.
We try to manage our customer contacts as effectively as possible – we ‘maximise the customer experience’. We say that, because we know that every customer and every situation is different. We have best practice procedures that our agents at every level can follow, so there is some level of consistency in how we help our customers – but the reality is every customer is different. Our CSRs spend time trying to understand each situation and use as much discretion as possible to help the customer.
We are predominantly an inbound call centre – customers calling us with issues or inquiries. We have resolution teams across both Melbourne and Adelaide, plus additional teams dealing with Ombudsman enquiries and business customers.
Our CSRs are a second-tier centre, which means that they handle customer enquiries of a more complex nature. Our first-tier care agents are based offshore; their focus is to understand why the customer is calling and how we can best help them. They will determine very quickly through effective questions if the call is a care call (which can be dealt with at the first tier) or a resolution call – a more complex enquiry. These are transferred quickly and directly to a resolutions agent who will be the best person to deal with their call.
COVID-19 – and moving our call centre to a virtual workplace
While workplace flexibility is a big part of AGL’s culture, working from home previously wasn’t in place for our contact centre staff. We had begun to explore the possibility prior to COVID-19 – what it could look like for us and what criteria may be necessary, with a view to increasing our flexibility options and our work from home capability.
Because of COVID-19, in a two-week period in March we moved nearly four hundred people from fully equipped contact centres to working from home. This was a huge logistical effort. For example, we had to quickly supply the majority of our CSRs with additional monitors – a necessity for the work we do. In some cases, we also supplied our people with other equipment, like chairs and headsets to ensure their safety from an ergonomic perspective.