Sustainability: changing attitudes in the contact centre industry
Of all the buzzwords in the business world, there’s one that’s of the utmost importance: sustainability. Everybody knows it – but do they really understand its dual meaning?
Firstly, there’s what you might call the ‘boardroom’ usage: maintaining a certain level of economic growth.
Secondly, there’s the meaning that dominates the headlines and fills the streets with protestors: global environmental sustainability.
So do these two usages complement each other, or are they worlds apart? And, more importantly, can they both take centre stage in the boardroom?
Shift in approach
Today, going green can actually make sound business sense.
Consumers are demanding that the brands from which they buy do less harm to the planet. Millennial and Generation Z buyers in particular will research the environmental credentials of even the smallest of companies, including their supply chain.
So to earn your customers’ loyalty, you need to make sure you and your suppliers and partners all share a sustainable mindset. Ideally, you’ll be able to demonstrate your environmental management principles through ISO 14001 Certification, as Connect Assist has done.
Organisations from all sectors and in all countries are asking themselves: how can we go greener? The contact centre industry is no exception.
Misconceptions in the contact centre industry
Contact centres have not always had a reputation for being green. The sector’s workers in the UK, for example, were calculated to produce 1.3m tonnes of CO2 emissions each year through their commutes.
Since Covid, however, there’s been a radical shift: in the UK, helpline advisers have been designated “essential workers”, required to keep phone lines up and running. Contact centres which have the technical and communications capacity have switched swiftly to remote working.
Statistics from the US show how dramatic this change has been. Before the pandemic, fewer than half of contact centres allowed their advisers to work from home, and just 13% of staff did so on a permanent basis. Environmental reasons were a driver for allowing home working for only 16% of organisations; instead, staff flexibility (72%) and reducing staff attrition (56%) were more important.
The pandemic effect
By mid-April 2020, all that had changed. The percentage of call centre staff working from home had jumped to 71%. There’s also been an uptake in usage of Cloud-based solutions, especially among mid and large-sized organisations.
Call centre opening hours have stayed roughly the same, as has average speed to answer queries.
And customers have also adjusted the way they contact helplines. Around half of all contact centres have seen a rise in email queries and webchats, while 37% have experienced an increase in contacts through social media.
A more sustainable future
In the UK, 77% of contact centres had at least 50% of their staff working remotely during lockdown. Now, as we ease back into our new normality, will home working prove to be just a blip?
It appears not. Some 83% of contact centres are reviewing their business continuity plans to guard against the effects on their operations of any second wave, with 62% saying they need to understand how to do home working better.
Around one-third of contact centre leaders think that most of their staff will be working remotely by 2021, and 58% think that home working will be part-compulsory, part-optional.
At Connect Assist, we’ve been allowing home working since 2017. It’s more sustainable for our growth and customers, and helps us stay true to our corporate social responsibility principles. We had detailed business continuity plans drawn up that allowed us to switch smoothly to remote working when the pandemic broke out.
We believe these changes are here to stay – and we welcome them. They save on the costs and environmental impact of a huge contact centre building, and could cut hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2 from commuting emissions.
That means they’re good for executive boards and for our environment, increasing contact centres’ sustainability in both senses of the word.