Supporting leaders through COVID-19: data analytics and scenario planning

By Richard Berkley

Responding to COVID-19 requires strong and decisive leadership to keep staff, customers and businesses safe. Any leaders needing to make difficult decisions will want a clear and accurate view of how these decisions affect staff, customers and operational capacity. This ability to predict the impacts accurately, even in these uncertain times, can make the difference between a misstep and a strong continuity response. 

Even in very short timescales, the quality of your data analytics can make a significant difference to the decisions you take and the confidence you have in taking them. Data scientists can exploit your organisation’s data, such as customer contact history, staff information and business operations monitoring, and supplement it with information from publicly available statistics and social media, to get a better understanding of different scenarios.

While data analytics has far-reaching benefits, there are four key areas where it can add real value throughout the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. understanding the needs of your organisation and designing the right responses
  2. understanding the needs of your customers and identifying proactive ways to serve them
  3. optimising constrained resources
  4. forecasting the impact on your finances and other KPIs.

Understanding the needs of your organisation and designing the right responses

Taking both a macro and micro view of data can considerably enhance your understanding of your organisation’s needs. And that means you can better decide how to re-design policies around your people.

Digital and social media analytics can give you a macro understanding of the concerns of people in different geographies and demographics, their behaviour patterns and how they’re responding to the evolving situation. There are also statistics available that provide epidemiological forecasts. If you combine these with your own data from HR and operations, it can provide key insights into staff concerns, people networks, working patterns, sick leave, return to work schedules, management and support models.

Fraud is also an increased concern as remote working creates new digital behaviour patterns and extends your physical security boundary to many home offices. Analytics is key here. Systems need to be updated to identify potentially fraudulent behaviour as you monitor new working patterns. Only then will you be able to protect both your business and staff from genuine fraud.

Understanding the needs of your customers and identifying proactive ways to serve them

For many businesses, increasing demand for customer service is putting pressure on contact centres that are running with fewer staff. So, by understanding the emerging issues and questions your customers will have, this will let you respond proactively and minimise call volumes and demands on staff.

Analytics can help you understand this changing customer behaviour. Machine learning and natural language processing can examine customer communication and help assess how effective customer service agents’ responses are. This will help you improve responses and target proactive communications to your wider customer base. Linking customer profiles and demographic information can also help further personalise, and potentially automate, communications.

Optimising constrained resources

In uncertain times, new demands and constraints will affect your people, and it will be vital to re-prioritise deployment of resources to keep the business running and best serve customers.

Analytical modelling can help you understand the implications of your alternative options as you decide how to balance these emerging demands and changing capacity constraints. Analytics can be used to test the stress level at which processes will struggle to operate effectively, and can continuously update your forecast view of demands, constraints and outputs to optimise resource plans as the situation evolves.

This insight-based approach to planning can benefit contact centres, core production and head office processes, distribution channels and branch operations, the project change portfolio and individual transformation programmes.

Forecasting the impact on your finances and other KPIs

While immediate responses to a crisis will take precedence, leaders will also be heavily focused on forecasting how revenues, costs, cash flow, operating margins and risks might change. Existing financial models need to be adapted to model and continuously assess the ongoing changes, such as the spread of COVID-19, and associated community behaviours.

An economic model that can translate forecasts into insights about the probable future behaviour of your customers, suppliers and staff should be the top priority. You can then use those predicted behaviours to derive the consequential financial effect on your business.

In uncertain times, leadership needs to be confident and insightful, constantly monitoring and re-evaluating the evolving situation. Continuous, rapid decision-making based on accurate, data-driven analytics and simulations will help leaders meet, and exceed, the expectations of their people and customers.

About the authors

Richard Berkley PA data analytics & business intelligence expert

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