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Fighting COVID-19: Startek Adopts Work at Home Agent model for 55 percent of its global engagement workforce

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By PS Reddy- EVP and Global CTO, Startek

If there is any bright spot to this pandemic, it is that challenging times often spark creativity and innovation, and the customer experience BPM industry is no exception. Today customer experience specialists are challenged with how to create a Work at Home Agent model (WAHA) as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19.

In most cases, the transition has not been pretty, and there is a lot of “midnight packers and movers” being used to make this process work. A positive outcome from this transition is that many organizations, some of which have been placing WAHA models on the back burner or only using it as a reward system for specialists, will see the value of this new model.

At Startek, we employed 100’s of WAHA professionals with bilingual capabilities across North America and Australia. But as the crisis played out, it became clearer by the day is that today’s pandemic will have lasting ramifications for how contact centers operate. We currently have around 30,000 engagement specialist work from home (WAHA) across 13 geographies. We are currently and rapidly activating more and more WAHA delivery model across most of our customer experience programs.

Startek’s Covid-19 Global crisis management task force is led by BCM and Country Leadership team and chaired by our President. A virtual command centre, consisting of functional and business leaders is activated to enable real time monitoring of business continuity across geographies.

Our IT teams wanted to maintain a secure, scalable, and flexible work-from-home cloud-enabled omni-channel operation over the long term. Apart from resolving agent software and hardware issues, it was also imperative to ensure compliance and controls. We had to ensure immediate migration to a cloud enabled virtual desktop for our engagement specialist through Microsoft Azure, AWS or homegrown traditional BPM platform. With virtual desktop, there was centralised control and dual / multi factor authenticity to ensure information security and compliance.

In an on-premise set-up, it is a challenge to manage the windows patches, antivirus package and other protective controls in a remote working situation. But If it is a virtual desktop, we can manage these centrally and can control security updates.

Our business team had to win client confidence with these options, therefore had to demonstrate system(s) and security compliance SOPs such as blocking of files and downloads onto the desktops, disabled Print Screen options and accessing USB ports for the keyboard & mouse devices while we centrally controlled these activities. This also required supporting and integrating a variety of communications channels (voice, email, video, messaging, etc.) and multi-skilling of specialists on how to utilize these channels.

Some clients were keen on maximum system controls on managing customer information, therefore webcams with an AI based application was deployed for real-time tracking on specialist performance. Case in point was a BFSI program, which permitted contact routing on the specialist smart phones with an integrated CRM application.

For those which wanted maximum restraint, an AI enabled application was mandated to monitor if the specialist is bringing any device near the system and sends an alert in the event of a violation to monitor the employee closely. The AI app allows us to closely monitor browsing details too. Startek is also making investments in deploying conversational AI BOT that monitors employee productivity and generates an automated report at the end of the workday.

While acceleration of WAHA, AI and automation have been on the cards of digitally transforming BPM companies before the pandemic. But in the post Covid-19 era we will see a hyper-adoption of WAHA of business processes as companies seek to optimise talent manpower and reduce opex and capex while enhancing the service delivery


If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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