The Business of People: How TSYS Managed Services EMEA Focused on Clients and Agents during the Pandemic

Friday, April 02, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an exponential rise in call volumes at contact centers across geographies and industries. This presented a unique challenge as companies were forced to adapt quickly amid unprecedented stay-at-home orders in many countries along with a concern for employees' health and safety.

Leaders like Kelvin Dodd, senior vice president at TSYS Managed Services EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), re-imagined what it takes to deal with the challenges of operating a contact center without sacrificing the commitment to service and to its employees. With responsibility for a global service footprint that includes contact centers in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, Dodd was keenly aware of the disruption that COVID-19 would cause his operations.

“Plan, plan, plan.”

Before COVID-related lockdowns became commonplace in 2020, Dodd spent the first week of March looking at every eventuality that might impact the contact centers he oversees — from technology, employee safety, and accessibility to service levels, disaster recovery, and business continuity. “We had to plan, plan, plan,” he said.

Knowing that his contact centers likely would see increased volumes while his agents were also dealing with the personal challenges of the pandemic, Dodd developed a strategy for how these centers would operate in the face of the unknown. He had two main requirements: continue providing exceptional service to clients and ensure team member safety at all times.

Wasting no time, TSYS Managed Services (TMS) EMEA stood up a brand new, fully operational overflow contact center for 150 agents — in three weeks. Affectionately referred to as a Nightingale contact center for its similarity to the National Health Service’s temporary overflow COVID hospitals, this center was the first of its kind for TMS EMEA. With this separate site, Dodd was able to ensure seamless support for contact center operations as well as additional opportunities for his existing sites. Dodd notes, “By transitioning 150 agents to this new Nightingale site and allowing other agents to work from home, we essentially reduced the number of agents who worked in our Coventry site, which created a safer environment in that facility.”

While the Nightingale site was a major step in his strategy, Dodd was also aware that more measures were needed to ensure the company was taking care of not only its customers but also its employees.

“We have to take care of them.”

One immediate challenge was determining how to ensure agents could get to and from work as safely as possible — a great concern considering how many employees rely on public transportation. “With mass transit, it is difficult to maintain social distancing requirements,” Dodd recalls. He made the decision for TMS EMEA to pay for taxis to ensure agents could travel to and from work while attempting to mitigate the risk of the team getting COVID. To date, the company has hired 9,300 taxis in a move that has proven quite successful.

Once agents arrived at the contact center, temperatures were checked using thermal imaging. Agents then worked in “pods” that featured covering over the top and sides of the workspace, allowing for additional safety precautions and distancing.

Now that the agents were able to arrive safely to work, what about ensuring they had access to meals? Since air travel was drastically reduced across the globe, TMS EMEA was able to work with vendors to divert food away from the airports and airlines. This strategy delivered more than 48,000 meals to team members over a four-month period.

“I wanted our agents to come to work safely. I wanted to make sure there was enough room [for social distancing]. I wanted to make sure they had a solid meal each day. We have to make sure we take care of them.”

This care for TMS EMEA agents extended beyond taxis, thermal imaging, and supplying meals while they were at work. Dodd also applied a personal touch to show his team how much he valued their contributions. He sent more than 16,000 letters to their home addresses to explain what measures TMS EMEA was taking and how the company planned to ensure their safety.

“We protect our employees. This is what we're about. This is what we do.”

“We were able to deliver.”

One might expect a dropoff in service levels given the number of new measures put in place, but that was not the case. While some issuers with their own contact centers had to shut down for periods of time, TMS EMEA contact centers remained open the entire time. “Not only did we not shut down, we kept providing a high level of service,” Dodd says. “And we didn’t close once.”

"Througout the pandemic, TSYS Managed Services EMEA provided outstanding performance and best in class within Virgin Group and across the industry where competitors have struggled with the operational impacts of COVID."

TMS EMEA repurposed the roles that some agents played in the call center so they could handle the doubling of chargebacks and collections that were taking place at the time. This was largely due to the impact COVID had on the airline and hospitality industry. In 2019, TMS EMEA processed more than 126,000 chargebacks, with a monthly high of 16,000. But in 2020, the company processed more than 247,000 chargebacks and saw a monthly high above 29,000. Scheme rules require 90 days to process chargebacks to customer accounts, and despite the massive increase in chargebacks, there was not a single customer for which TMS EMEA had to pay due to expiration on the scheme. Additionally, the average speed of answer did not vary over the past year, with most TMS EMEA clients under 5% abandonment. This is drastically lower than other contact centers, which saw 20-30% abandonment rates.

“We were able to deliver because of the upskilling, repurposing, and increased staffing,” says Dodd.

Despite the pandemic, TMS EMEA increased revenue by 13%, provided a great operational performance, and continued meeting or exceeding its clients’ needs.

“My business is people.”

Unprecedented times create unforeseen challenges but also new opportunities. With moves seen by many in the industry as a leading example of how to manage contact centers during a pandemic, TMS EMEA showed what could be accomplished in the name of not only customer satisfaction but also employee safety.

Dodd thinks the key to their success during the past year is not limited to good planning and communication; it is also attributable to the dedication of the agents.

“We got the plan right. We communicated. We worked together. But [the agents] came to work. The commitment was there. This organization cares,” Dodd says. “We have machines. We have widgets and cards. But my business is people: from our employees to our clients. And we need to take care of them."

Never Miss an Insight

Get the latest from TSYS a Global Payments Company