April 21, 2020
Stay in the Know
The coronavirus has resulted in a global crisis affecting millions of people. It is also having a dire effect on the global economy, bringing many businesses worldwide to a screeching halt. On the contrary, call center services are in high demand, and business continuity for call centers is becoming more important for economic and societal health.
Contact center agents, considered essential critical infrastructure workers during COVID-19 by CISA, have always had a stressful job. In the face of this pandemic, they are being taxed to the limit as employers scramble to protect them, while continuing to provide quality service to customers and preserve their bottom line. For contact centers, as well as businesses in every industry, it’s time to dust off and adapt business crisis and continuity plans to address the challenges posed by COVID-19.
Here are some actions you can take now to ensure business continuity for call centers and protect your workforce.
Identify your key supervisors and agents
In uncertain times, agent stress and anxiety can skyrocket. Identify key supervisors or agents who can be the point of contact for each team. These individuals can coordinate readiness and on-going training activities, ensure that relevant news and information gets disseminated, and help smooth transitions when changing roles and responsibilities are in order.
Develop an employee and customer communication plan
Rumors and misinformation can run rampant during a crisis. It is more important than ever to keep employees and customers informed of planned changes that will affect them. Clear and consistent communication is key to reassuring them that their welfare and best interests are of primary concern to your organization.
Set up a secure work-at-home environment so agents can work remotely
Cloud-based contact centers allow for remote configuration so that agents can work from home. VoIP via home broadband along with a VPN connection to the corporate network will provide secure access to enterprise applications such as CRM, workforce engagement, analytics, and gamification systems. SIP-compatible softphones enable managers to monitor agents remotely.
Create and implement a staff training plan
Policies and procedures can change quickly and often during a crisis. It is important to develop a plan for training staff on new developments and protocols in response to updates of industry, healthcare and government standards and regulations. To make sure agents are fully engaged and can deliver accurate and consistent messaging to customers, ongoing training, coaching and interaction monitoring are essential.
Staff appropriately to handle increases in call volumes
When stress levels and anxiety are pervasive, contact center agents and customers need to know the company has their back. With more calls coming in from distressed customers, contact centers need to staff up appropriately to deal with the influx. Accurate scheduling is key. WEM solutions that enable agents to see their schedules and time and activity changes, apply for shift swaps, and request leave, help agents feel more in control.
WEM also allows contact center managers and supervisors to monitor schedule adherence, not only to see that agents are on the phones when scheduled, but also that they are taking scheduled breaks to get the time they need to decompress during the workday. This not only ensures the quality of service when they are interacting with customers, but it also builds trust and dedication to the employer.
Be more human when interacting with customers
Companies need to proactively reach out to customers to keep them informed of any changes to hours, wait-times and services as a result of COVID-19. Consider dropping the corporate speak and replacing it with more human language and empathy. Be sure that IVR routing helps customers get to the information they need as quickly and efficiently as possible. Direct them to knowledgebases, virtual assistants and chatbots when appropriate. But ensure that they are easy to navigate, can truly answer their questions and address their concerns, and, most importantly, allow them to access an agent when these self-service options do not suffice.
Most contact centers have already adopted a customer-first mindset. During a crisis, human connections and a focus on customer-centricity are critical. We are all in this together. Let this understanding come across in interactions with customers.