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What Did 2020 Teach Me About Navigating Uncertainty?

December 30, 2020
Author: Yoni Epstein
Every business leader knows that uncertainty is one of the greatest challenges we all face. Sometimes we may lose out by investing in a new business or opportunity that doesn’t work. But, at other times we can lose out by simply doing nothing, because as we sit and enjoy the present, our competition sails quickly into the future. We can only manage uncertainty effectively with hindsight. This doesn’t help any business leader’s plan for 2021, but I do believe that managing uncertainty, risk, and resilience will be one of the key themes for most businesses in 2021. In our business, we are often the interface between a major business brand and their customers. If we are not resilient, then our clients face immediate issues with unsatisfied customers. At itel, we did face up to the challenge of 2020. We made it through with grateful clients who appreciated that we found a new gear and continued helping their customers no matter how adverse the situation. Over this new year holiday period, I have been thinking about some of the lessons I can personally take away from the pandemic in 2020 and how these might take us into 2021 with even more confidence and resilience. Here are a few of the lessons I have noted:
  1. Be flexible: when your business plans and operating model change overnight you either go with the flow or fail. Flexibility is not just about adapting as the environment changes, it’s about built-in resilience and rolling with the punches, so rapid change is less damaging than it might be.
  2. Be optimistic: with sudden or massive, change it’s easy to get despondent, to just give up because aspects of your business are no longer viable, but there is always a way if you keep looking for new ideas. In fact, hidden behind the disruption are nuggets of opportunity that may actually better position your business for the future.
  3. Don’t rush: the temptation is to make quick decisions, but even in the middle of a crisis, quick decisions can be rash. Seek other opinions and ask your network for ideas. One feature of this pandemic has been the amount of information sharing within the CX industry - many rival leaders have helped their peers with advice.
  4. Don’t just survive, thrive: the businesses that are powering on past the COVID disruption are those that faced the challenge head on with an eye on 2021, not those who decided to sit it out because things will be back to normal soon. It was clear from early in the pandemic that this was going to have an impact for several years and also cause a dramatic change in consumer behavior.
  5. Believe in the best in people: everyone on our team has gone out of their way to help our clients. We have had people undertaking tasks that have nothing to do with their normal day job, just because it ensured that they could get the job done or help others. Believe in the power of your team to pull together when they need to.
These are great lessons for leaders in any industry, not just customer experience (CX). I will be thinking about all these lessons and applying them across my business in a bid to ensure that we not only have the day-to-day resilience to face up to new, unexpected, challenges, but that we also have the flexibility to change course quickly when it becomes clear that new tactics are needed. There are already some huge changes taking place in our industry. Well-known BPO analyst, Peter Ryan, has predicted a strong move away from the traditional CX destinations in Asia to nearshore locations, which is great news for our team. The acceleration of digital transformation is ensuring that CX and customer-centricity are directly in the spotlight for corporate strategists, and many analysts and commentators believe that this new business environment is exactly right for the mid-tier service providers - the global oil tankers with hundreds of thousands of employees are struggling to adapt quickly enough to this new normal. All these industry trends and changes look positive for us. 2020 has been an enormous challenge, but it looks like the new normal will be a more adaptive and flexible CX environment and that suits us perfectly. Finally, I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year! I want to thank everyone on the itel team, our clients, and our suppliers - when an unprecedented challenge came over the horizon, we all worked hard and we didn’t just survive this pandemic, we are now going to seize new opportunities in 2021! CC Photo by Nine Koepfer
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