Leadership in times of Crisis - Operations - Brandt International

Leadership in times of Crisis – Operations

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Lord of the Rings.

It is rather interesting that Tolkien wrote the above lines in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We surely never hoped for such an event but it is upon us and now is the time to rise and do what we can in the time that we have. Brandt International has over 700 staff in various locations, including our two delivery sites. Our core focus is on delivering the branded customer experience. Our BPO and HRO operations is a core part of Brandt. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the world, we knew way ahead that it will not be Business-As-Usual (BAU). Like I wrote about it previously in our HR focus piece, the Senior Leadership Team was already planning way ahead, before even the WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic.

Brandt Operations, led by our Operations Director, Rita Joshua and Chief Operating Officer Andrew Chong bring tremendous global operational experience to the table along with their multi-disciplinary backgrounds. Like our HR team, we involved the various leads and operations managers for each project and we continuously kept the clients in the loop and in our discussions. We formed the Brandt Pandemic Response Team that included key senior leadership team members as well as finance, HR and IT. This allowed operations to be extremely detailed with a scenario driven playbook. All this was done by February so that when things came to head, everyone had a playbook to refer to and knew exactly the plan to execute. The reason for this team and the playbook was to ensure costs were contained, technology readiness, people support and rapid decision making. We are in uncharted territory and when things unfold quickly, the team needs to react.

This is quite critical in times like this, with the Movement Control Order (MCO) when teams and people are isolated or separated, it may be hard for an organization to execute well. A clearly defined step-by-step playbook with scenarios, what-ifs, actions and contact points can reduce a lot of fog-of-war effects where teams and leaders on the ground are not able to get the strategic level plans and work in unison. We were even expecting some form of technical communication difficulties so it was important that everyone knew what to do. For Brandt, even with the playbook, we strove to constantly have team lead and staff daily updates and communications to ensure everyone was aligned.

From the first day we deployed teams to Work-from-home (WFH), we had HR, Finance and IT aligned thanks to the Brandt Pandemic Response Team. This meant at from day one the agent deployed their equipment to home, IT support was available with clearly documented setup guidelines and support processes. WFH allowance was immediately in effect as well. For customer service roles, we ensured our clients data was protected with immediate policy changes, Work-from-home extensions to the PDPA and Customer Confidentiality guidelines as well as reporting and operational processes were ready before the MCO took effect. Our clients were also constantly kept abreast of our actions and developments, along with formalized agreements so that we were on the same page operationally.

Obviously, this is a difficult time for everyone and everything we can do to ensure our staff can successfully work from home (WFH) means that we can still maintain our high standards and levels of service to our clients. This meant taking care of our people first. Our agents have 24 x 7 phone and email support with access to Team Leads and Operations and IT support when needed.

Regular communications, briefing and contact is maintained through channels like Skype, Whatsapp, and Zoom. Daily coaching and performance management is still regularly scheduled. With newer staff, daily coaching and briefing is conducted. We also constantly remind the agents on WFH policies, guidelines and helpful tips and hints on working at home. It is definitely challenging so I will be writing a bit about that in the next few days.

Constant, clear communications and an aligned team are essential ingredients here. Leadership, is the key though. Without our Operations Leadership and the response team, things may have gone differently. We have the occasional hiccups like everyone else, but with the team in place, actions are taken quickly and resolved. One simple example was a Team lead with poor network connectivity and within the day, we had Grab Express delivery with a 4G modem and stuffed toy sent! Fast support and a little bit of humor goes a long way these days.

Let us all decide to perform our best – for ourselves, for our team, for our organization and our country in such a time as this! Again, I welcome feedback and any thing you would like to share, connect to me via feedback.

Eugene is the Director of Marketing, Commercial and CX at Brandt International. With over 20 years in various industries and start-ups, his passion lies in Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience. He is rather OCD about design and interfaces in particular. Mildly diagnosed with ADHD, he drinks too much coffee and generates ideas at random times all the time.

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