In recent days, I have had a chance to reflect on the some of the business change programs we’ve seen put in place due to the pandemic. This blog is therefore based upon first-hand contact with organisations across multiple vertical industries, including insurance, logistics, retail and media. The bottom line is that there have been some remarkably successful transitions and sadly situations where client facing operations have all but ceased. There are common issues (e.g. a global shortage of headsets) which cannot be easily mitigated by Glue42 – but others in which a focus on desktop automation can help significantly. What’s interesting, is that for many organizations, COVID-19 has been the trigger to reinvent the agent desktop and hence put in place an entirely new operational model that may ultimately have wide-ranging societal impacts (see a future blog).

Physical and Screen Real-Estate

The initial challenge faced by all contact-centres was one of provisioning IT equipment and applications to remote and ungoverned locations (ie: people’s homes). Much has been said on these points already – so in this article, I will focus on the screen real-estate challenge.

Agents often require multiple physical screens to be effective. Sometimes this is the consequence of earlier M&A activity, in others it relates to a long history of technology challenges when trying to integrating disparate siloed systems. Either way, monitors are expensive, difficult to ship to large numbers of remote locations and complex to configure.

While the rose-tinted view of a home-worker is a large desktop in some bright airy location – with pot plants and smiling faces, the reality is that many agents are at the start of their careers and simply not have the physical space to replicate their office environment. Glue42’s approach, born out of our work in financial services and trading, is to deliver a user experience (across and within applications) that directly supports the user process. We can then start to orchestrate the UI of each application and ensure that this gets presented at the right time/place. In most situations this requires just a single physical screen. One approach is to use the concept of a ‘Workspace’.

Multiple screens vs single screen image

As shown above, a Workspace is simply a window which hosts other applications. These applications are therefore visually grouped together and can appear top-most or perhaps one-click away behind a tab. More importantly, all of these applications will be constantly sharing information that ensures that they each get to show their perspective of the process, the customer, the product, the trouble-ticket etc. This gets the agent 360-degree visibility but all within a single window. For those technically minded, it is worth noting that a workspace really does contain the original applications – we are not rebuilding these systems – just merely controlling their appearance, placement and data context.

The benefit of this approach is that you can both improve (increase) information density while at the same time improving usability and minimising screen real-estate. We’ve seen situations where agents using 3 screens are now comfortable working on a single laptop.

In most cases these ‘home-worker’ environments are actually easier to use and more efficient than the sprawling set of applications/screens that the agents had before. For example, because the applications are all oriented to the same context there is no hunting for the customer (say) in the old CRM and then the new one or finding their records in the billing application and mapping that to the fault management system. Depending on the customer query, the appropriate systems are identified, records located and displayed, specifically:

  • Applications and application windows do not have to be found
  • Copy/paste of IDs and searching for data is automated
  • The user-journey is self-evident and well sign-posted

The latter point also proves to be very useful with new/novice agents. Whereas previously they would have walked to another desk and sought help, a workspace will naturally corral the user journey – achieving both better outcomes for the customer but also a higher degree of process compliance.

I would have liked to finish this piece by explaining how the Workspace concept was conceived through necessity as a response to the pandemic. The fact is that this concept has been available for a couple of years and is already deployed within contact-centres globally across thousands of seats. I will say, however, that now is an excellent time to embrace this approach both for BAU (should that ever return) and the New Normal.