The AO.com, Director of customer experience takes a look back...
COVID-19, changes the work-place, environment and overcoming new challenges.
David Atherton, AO.com’s Director of Customer Experience opened up about the new challenges faced and the impact the pandemic has had on customer experience, business continuity and even… new found successes.
How the technology that AO.com has in place has enabled them to pivot, adapt and implement cultural, operational and strategic changes.
We’re hoping this interview is useful for people in similar positions to David Atherton, to relate to the challenges, the positives and the negatives; since the shift in the working environment.
1. Where are you currently based and how have your day to day operations changed?
I’m currently working from home in my front room, while my wife is next door and the kids are playing upstairs – this enables me to work efficiently at home without being disrupted. I’m a 45 minute commute away from the office so I’m getting back around 90 minutes a day when I would normally be commuting.
Since lock-down began and retail switched to predominantly online overnight, our contact centre has been busier than ever. Our main aim throughout the crisis has been to protect our people, our customers and the business so we needed to make sure we could continue to deliver safely. Within three days we had 100% of our contact centre staff working from home, including 500 new laptops that were handed out.
2. What challenges have you had to overcome recently and how have they impacted AO.com and yourself?
As people started to spend more time at home, our products became lifelines for many, from families needing regular hot, nutritious meals to clothes needing to be cleaned regularly. As such, we made some big changes behind the scenes to ensure we continued to operate safely, that protects both our customers and our drivers and engineers. For example, moving our offering to doorstep delivery so that all deliveries would be made to the entrance of the customers’ home, limiting our contact to ensure safe delivery.
As a result of this, in April, we saw our record customer NPS score too -we usually sit around mid-80’s, and that shifted to mid to low 90’s.
Team communication is something that’s been a challenge as normally we have meetings in the same office and everyone is available. However, now we need to adapt and make sure we’re communicating with the right people and doing it well using the platforms we have to hand.
3. What do you miss most about the office environment and what are you enjoying the most about working from home? Have you noticed any cultural shifts?
I miss the people, the atmosphere and the random interactions. It feels like we have much more structure to conversation now as opposed to the natural conversation that flows in the office.
I also really miss being able to get my haircut – we have a spa in the office which is great! Although one advantage to working from home has been seeing the kids and going out for family walks.
4. How has AO.com adapted the customer experience strategy to suit the changes to the customer and agents environment?
Our main objective has been to operate safely with the social distancing safeguards in place so that we can protect our people and our customers. We still continued to offer our recycling service throughout, while some other services such as some installations had to be switched off for a time to ensure we continued to meet a high level of service by only installing appliances that required safety-critical expertise. I believe that if we continue to deliver our promise to customers and continue to listen and adapt, the customer is happy and grateful.
5. How has your customer experience technology enabled your colleagues and customers to stay connected?
Being users of Genesys technology for many years I wasn’t surprised by the adaptability of the platform. It was the seamlessness of shifting the contact centre from the office to remote locations that was unbelievable.
All our agents need to do is pick up a laptop, a headset, connect to their WiFi and immediately they can speak with customers. We are now engaging with functionality that we previously didn’t utilise because of being in the office.
Now we coach agents remotely, listen into calls and give agents advice which has proved a great support for the recently (remotely) inducted agents. The transition to remote working has been made so easy thanks to our Genesys system.
6. What has surprised you the most about your organisation working from home?
Since the switch to working from home, our absence is non-existent. I think this is down to the fact that people don’t have a commute added to their day, instead our team can get through the day and in the comfort of their own homes.
7. How do you think the current changes will affect how we work going forward?
Well, we are seeing amazing results from our agents working remotely and so, we will be looking at new ways of working in the future.
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