Vijay Iyer, Director, Solution Engineering, shares how service leaders and their teams in Asia overcame challenges they faced in the past year.


The business challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have been widespread and persistent. A solution that has served many companies well is a dedication to, and an investment in, service resilience. 

By keeping customer experience front of mind, and not being afraid to transform the way things are done, service leaders have helped their businesses survive the present difficulties and set them up for future success.

I have talked to service leaders across Asia and have heard remarkable stories that prove this is true.


Maximise available resources and skills

The pandemic had a dramatic impact on the globalised workforce. Many contact centres and business process outsourcing companies (BPOs) that organisations relied on for high-quality service solutions faced significant difficulties after lockdowns were enforced. 

To stay resilient, many BPOs pivoted (and continue to pivot) to more digital services. Some have shifted from single-function operations to multi-functional operations to reduce the impact of any one location experiencing issues.

Organisations that use BPOs have had to become more strategic with their relationships. In some companies, that meant relying on BPOs less, and bringing more work onshore. However, bringing more work onshore comes with a price tag. After all, cost was a major driver of service going offshore in the first place.

To control costs, some organisations fast-tracked self-service capabilities for their customers. This frees up service staff to tend to higher-value issues. Customers increasingly expect self-service, so having this option will serve companies well in the long run.


Balance trust, compliance, and employee wellbeing

Even as companies brought more work onshore, they had to navigate the complexities of a decentralised workforce. With service staff working from home, new compliance issues have emerged, as have new considerations about employee experience. 

How does an organisation manage what a staff member is seeing and doing? In sectors such as health and banking, how can organisations be sure that data remains confidential? How might the wellbeing of staff be affected by these factors?

Managing these issues is about finding the balance between trust and compliance. Businesses have to come up with strong policies and technological solutions to make sure they’re respecting privacy laws, while ensuring appropriate security. 

Beyond the current crisis, it’s important for service teams to think more expansively about wellbeing. 

If somebody walks into my branch, I absolutely want to make them happy. But first, I need to ask whether they even wanted to come into the branch at all. Could their issues be resolved on the phone or online? What systems can I put in place to avoid physical contact, and all of the safety checks and balances that have to go with it?

Conversations about employee wellbeing should also account for customer wellbeing. The two go hand-in-hand.


Optimise field service resources during restrictions

One of the major challenges that is more specific to Southeast Asia has to do with local optimisation.

In the oil and gas sector, for example, clients frequently have an agreed-upon maintenance schedule over a six-month period. However, if there is a breakdown, a service technician will be called to a site outside of the schedule. Traditionally, the scheduled maintenance team and the break-fix team come from two separate organisations. Therefore, their jobs are scheduled separately and there has been no need to locally optimise their work across business lines. 

But in attempting to minimise interaction due to COVID-19, pressures on service teams and budgets are greater than ever. The companies that optimise service deployment across multiple tasks and business lines improve safety outcomes, customer satisfaction, and business efficiency.

What does this look like? Using the above example, technicians must be made aware of upcoming service schedules. Then, the technician who’s called out from the break-fix team can perform upcoming scheduled maintenance at the same time. This minimises the frequency of site visits, travel time, and labour hours.

The expectation from the client is the same level of service, regardless of there being one less visit. So, how can service leaders better optimise visits, processes, and resources?

People have to do more with less, knowing that sometimes employees won’t be available due to lockdowns. This means they have to be rigorous with preparation. That’s where technology can help. Technology enables real scenario planning opportunities. For example, businesses can test the flow-on effects of changes in inputs and outputs ahead of time.

It’s not just contingency planning, all business decisions should be informed by real market information, rather than guesswork. This requires an investment in technology.


Tech investments and data-driven service resilience

One particular story really resonates with the above lessons. A telco I spoke to said decisions they thought they’d make years down the line have become decisions they need to make now. They implemented a customer self-service chatbot during the pandemic, instead of the originally planned two-year time frame. 

It might seem simple but there is a lot that goes into such a decision. There is the focus on what’s best for the customer and an acknowledgement that future solutions can solve the problems of the present. Finally, the telco could confidently make this move because of a prior investment in analytics. They had the customer data that assured them it would be successful.

The above solutions haven’t just helped companies during the pandemic. The business environment in Asia, like much of the world, is becoming more complex. These adaptations will give organisations the agility they need to thrive now, and prepare them for whatever comes next.


Download the guide to service resilience and learn how to adapt your service organisation in a changing environment.