How do you respond when your brick-and-mortar contact center — the core of your global customer support — is forced to close? That’s the unprecedented dilemma many CX leaders are facing because of COVID-19. 

Last week, our CEO Mike de la Cruz participated in the webcast, “Shifting to a Work-at-Home Agent Model Quickly & Effectively,” hosted by Execs in the Know (EITK), a highly respected community of customer experience leaders. 

The 90-minute discussion, led by EITK president Chad McDaniel, featured CX executives from global brands Nintendo and Groupon, along with CX solution providers Arise, 24-7 In Touch, and Directly. 


If you’re in the CX industry, it’s a can’t-miss discussion, especially with all of the uncertainty around what our current global crisis means for the future of work. Here are five key takeaways: 

Have empathy — for your customers, and especially for your agents

While CS leaders may instinctively be fixated on customer satisfaction, focus on your people first. That includes the health and well-being of your internal team, outsourced call center team members, and gig workers providing support. In these uncertain times, your workforce needs to feel especially valued and safe — wherever they may be working — in order to deliver great support.  

Create versatility in your customer service

Nintendo and Groupon leadership did a remarkable job of anticipating how the spread of COVID-19 would affect call centers in various regions of the world. Both companies quickly mobilized thousands of agents from brick-and-mortar call centers to work at home — an effort that was anything but seamless — in addition to juggling support loads between different groups around the world.  

Meanwhile, Mike shared how one Directly client faced a call-center shutdown in India and was able to migrate support instances handled by that team to a gig workforce of its own super-users. As an audience participant from Microsoft noted, “Once you have [gig workers] set up, it’s so easy to ramp up or ramp down resources based on demand.” 

The key to any global customer service organization mitigating risk and responding to crisis is versatility — from geographic distribution to enabling work-at-home agents and gig workforces. As Mike put it, “You need all available resources and support models. You can’t just have one model.”    

The work-at-home agent is here to stay

While many call center agents are now being forced to work from home, some prefer it. Part-time agents and gig workers love the flexibility of choosing their own time and working from home. The panelists agreed that the number of work at home agents will rise in the wake of COVID-19. However, that doesn’t mean the brick-and-mortar call center is going away. There are still advantages to having brick-and-mortar centers — especially when it comes to training and managing technology. 

Mobilizing agents isn’t as hard as migrating call center technology 

The biggest challenge to moving agents from brick-and-mortar call centers to working at home isn’t the people — rather the technology. Many call centers are equipped with desktop PCs, running on secure networks with an assortment of custom hardware and software solutions. Brands like Nintendo and Groupon — along with outsourced call-center-solutions such as 24-7 Intouch — have been challenged to quickly procure laptops, headsets and the related software and VPNs agents need to do their job at home. In some cases, companies have helped agents deploy secure software solutions on their own physical devices.

The good news is that COVID-19 is forcing companies to develop and deploy technology that is more versatile — so that they’ll be prepared for future global health challenges, should they arise. 

Agents working at home won’t hurt your CSAT scores

Participants in the webinar all agreed that the crisis — and the forced move of some agents to a work-at-home model — hasn’t resulted in any reduction to customer satisfaction. The idea that companies might need to more closely monitor agents at home to ensure they are working is a misconception. The same metrics used in the brick-and-mortar call center can typically be applied to agents at home, including part-time and gig workers. 

Thinking about shifting your approach to the contact center? 

With quarantines and shelter-in-place orders causing contact centers to close, COVID-19 has forced many in our industry to re-think how we provide customer support. Companies such as Microsoft, Samsung, Airbnb, and Autodesk are using Directly’s AI platform to recruit community experts and establish a powerful gig workforce to help resolve tickets and automate solutions. With over 20,000 gig workers in our networks today, customers rely on us to resolve up to 80% of all contact center volume with a collective CSAT of more than 92%. Contact us to set up a demo of our platform today.