CX Insight Magazine

July 2020

8 Ways to Succeed in a Post-COVID Marketplace

By: Tom Cardella of TLC Associates

Companies of all sizes, from Global and Fortune 500s to small to medium businesses and the partners who provide essential customer relationship management services, learned critical lessons since the emergence of COVID-19. For most, if not all organizations seeking future success, these lessons present a path to success that will last long after this crisis subsides.

Most customer relationship management providers took a hit early on in the pandemic fallout. Costs rose, revenues dropped, and for some, contracts were set aside. Supply chains were also disrupted, further hampering organizations’ ability to respond.

Some companies rose to the challenge better than others by relying on well-trained and highly engaged teams. They stayed aligned with customer goals to deliver contracted service levels at a time when excuses were inexcusable.

We’ve all had to re-evaluate our operations and continue to do so even being months into this pandemic. While each of us has charted our own ways, signs of resilience abounds. Nimble organizations were able to react quickly because of their investments in technology, licensure, infrastructure and cloud solutions, and – most critically – personnel and training. Previous transparent relationships and practices that were nurtured pre-pandemic kept organizations and their customers closely connected and focused on the rocky road they shared.

For many companies, the loyalty they showed to their customers, partners, and especially employees throughout the pandemic spoke volumes about how their practices reflected a true ethos of customer service and the intention of being there tomorrow.

What’s more, those companies who invested in people, policies, practices, and plans achieved success during the pandemic based on their contingency plans.

Everyone learned a lesson, but some better than others. At the height of the pandemic’s fallout, these promises were challenged. As offshore manufacturing, supply chains, and service providers were strained, customer contact representatives were relied upon to be the first line of the customer relationship. From manufacturing to customer relationship management, a chorus of calls came to repatriate jobs and functions.

Throughout it all, one message was reinforced: solid relationships bridge distances, navigate uncharted waters, and will help maintain return on investment (ROI) in the post-COVID era. At TLC Associates, we quickly huddled with our team and customers to determine where we were meeting or exceeding in our service levels. We also connected with fellow providers in the market to explore what they were doing to best serve their customers. Below are eight areas we found that helped chart a return to a new normal:

Remain transparent and loyal.

Building transparent relationships and nurturing previous practices kept providers focused on the path ahead. Consistent communications meant providers and customers were kept abreast of changing situations in real-time. For many, loyalty showed to their customers, partners, and employees throughout the pandemic spoke volumes about how their practices during the crisis reflected a true ethos of customer services and a commitment to being there tomorrow.

Invest in a technological advantage.

Vendors who invested in the latest technology were able to maintain service levels, while pivoting to offer new solutions. At TLC Associates, we invested early on in a host of critical on-premises software applications. Yet, the real game-changers were cloud-based technologies that empower companies to work from anywhere. This unmarried people from any single service location and untethered teams to work remotely as situations necessitate. What’s more, this extends to home-based workers the latest in detection and prevention technologies with two factor authentication (2FA) and geo fencing to ensure endpoints are identified and trusted in challenging times. Companies have found this “layered” solution ideal for meeting changing needs quickly. With each new technological innovation, trained and experienced team members are supported by long-tenured, expert-level administration, who are also versed in the technology deployed.

Ensure heightened security.

Cybercrime is a constant threat. The chaos borne of a crisis can invite even more vulnerability. Integrated omni-channel unified communications must be secured by systems that are Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

Compliant and Service Organization Controls Report (SOC 1), also known as Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE), Compliant with 24×7 monitoring and offsite back-up. Does this extend to your home-based workers? Remember, your network is only as secure as your least protected node. Additionally, fire detection, redundant telecommunications with uninterruptible power supply (UPS), on-site generators, and operations with access to multiple power grids are critical for non-interrupted call center operations.

Keep investing to remain agile.

To paraphrase Greek philosopher Aristotle: investments in technology, licensure, infrastructure/cloud solutions, and highly engaged personnel must not be an act, but a habit. As the customer relationship management industry continues to flatten and level out to all players, making per-seat license spending per workstation a fraction of what it once was, where can a provider ensure a competitive advantage? Just ask those who failed during the pandemic. Customer demands spiked and those who underinvested in infrastructure over the decade leading up to the pandemic were hard pressed to pivot. This is especially true in the conversion to various offerings, including work-from-home, leaving many unable to support their clients’ customers. Conversely, those who invested in cloud-based solutions were able to simply plug in “from anywhere” with an Internet connection – like workers’ and managers’ homes – and were ready to work.

Delivery above all else.

Top-tier providers obsess over results and exceedingly agreed upon key performance indicators (KPIs). By insisting on keen awareness throughout every interval, such organizations maximize performance, helping clients meet their goals and enhance the brand experience with every customer interaction. For leadership, this is engrained behavior. Instill this into team members and motivate them to deliver results every day. It’s no secret that common practice will include challenges, competitions, and awards for goals and milestones met. Seemingly simple, company-wide “attaboy” and “attagirl” recognition also works wonders to stimulate and incentivize remarkable performance. If your organization is confident in its ability to outperform other service providers in pursuit of maximizing client ROI, never shy from – and even welcome – client champion challenges.

Keep “people first.”

Any “people first” concept should lead this list. Those providers who support a people-first approach (with high-level training that created results-focused experts in customer care, service delivery, and revenue generation) helped ensure complete goal alignment. Historically, engaged employees meet their metrics. From the early days of the pandemic to today, and into the future, those who succeeded reinforced a core message: It’s all about the employee-to-customer relationship. Recruited, hired, trained and rewarded well, these employees bridge distances, navigate uncharted waters, and strive to deliver ROI.

Engaged leadership.

The flatter the organization, while having highly engaged, hands-on leadership, the more the team can align to goals and drive results. Providers who embrace an authentic, family-style approach by leaders vested in and connected to the front-line representatives help ensure employees’ satisfaction and a deep-seeded client connection. Does management participate in training that drives home quality standards? Are they part of creating a positive experience with each customer interaction? As a 100% employee-owned company, this is our cornerstone philosophy engrained across all sites and associates globally.

Prepare for variables seen and unseen.

Calls may grow for onshore repatriation of contact center operations. And whether related to a pandemic, a natural disaster, or a situation that makes the contact center unavailable or inoperable, the seed has been planted for greater opportunities for work-from-home. Are you prepared to grow your domestic and near-shore operations, whether in a contact center or with home-based agents?

In Summary

Critical lessons were – and still are – being learned by companies and the partners who provide essential customer relationship management services. The most critical lesson of all may be a re-evaluation of how they’ve operated all along.

For some in the contact center industry, this re-evaluation will be a reckoning. For those organizations with the right balance of technology and cloud applications, security solutions, and a people-first ethos (focused on providing unfaltering customer service and executive-level guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic), this served as affirmation that the way they’ve operated all along proved to be the best way to navigate the path toward success in the post-COVID-19 marketplace.


Tom Cardella
Founder and President,
TLC Associates

About the Author:

Thomas (Tom) L. Cardella has been a successful entrepreneur for more than 30 years.  In 1995, after completing his Executive MBA at the University of Iowa, he founded Access Direct. In 2000, Tom sold Access Direct to Interactive Corp (IAC) and became a CEO of a larger group of BPO companies with 15,000 employees, reporting to Barry Diller.  In 2007, Tom founded TLC Associates as an employee-owned company grounded in its mission of providing the highest-quality contact center solutions.


TLC Associates offers a unique combination of experience and expertise in their ability to manage inbound and outbound customer experiences across a variety of industries. Learn More at: www.tlcassociates.com