Coronavirus has caused a massive increase in customer volume for most contact centers. Combined with physical distancing requirements, that means contact center leaders have multiple challenges. In this two-part post, let’s look at ideas to help with this situation.
1) Ensure the safety of your staff:
Richard Branson once said, “The way you treat your employees, is the way they will treat your customers.” If Agents are worried about catching the virus from their office colleagues, they will not be able to provide a great customer experience. Protect your staff. Create physical distance in the contact center by moving Agents much further apart. To accomplish this, some contact centers moved Agents to spots in the lunchroom or put them in meeting rooms to ensure adequate separation. Safety also includes having more frequent disinfecting of the office, as well as ending "hot desk" practices where Agents alternate using shared desk spaces and keyboards. Better yet, help Agents feel safer by leveraging cloud contact center technology to enable them to work-from-home.
2) Move your contact center operation to the cloud and set up work-from-home Agents:
Provide new work-from-home Agents with secure laptops, second screens, fast home internet service, secure VPNs and phone/VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) connections. Create procedures to address security/privacy issues Agents may encounter while working from home, with their family present. For example: Not repeating customer credit card numbers aloud, since family members or even neighbors in an apartment next door may overhear it. Another example is not writing account names, numbers or confidential information on paper, since that paper may later wind up in an Agent’s home garbage rather than a secure office shredding bin.
3) Update your queues:
Change your IVR (Integrated Voice Response) queuing to route calls to the appropriate home Agent. Add helpful announcements to your IVR recording, such as links to self-service portals. In addition, your email/text/chat queues may need to be re-routed to increase efficiency. AI (Artificial Intelligence) chatbots can help with that, by reducing the number of manual interventions needed by Agents.
4) Update processes, policies, and procedures to help customers with their concerns:
Contact center leaders need to work with their sales, marketing and corporate communications counterparts to properly roll out any policy changes. For example: a mortgage provider decides to allow customers to defer monthly payments due to the coronavirus. As a result, Agents need to be trained on the exact procedures to input that change into their system, along with suggested customer service wording. You cannot just announce, "We are deferring mortgage payments!" Policies, procedures, system changes, knowledge base updates, training and escalation processes all need to be established to roll this out effectively to your customers.
5) Utilize your company’s employee assistance program, if available:
This is a stressful time. Many of us are worried about becoming ill. We worry about loved ones getting sick. Parents may have children home full time due to school closures. Your team members could be worried about potential job losses in your contact center. Or, they may already be dealing with a partner's job loss. Work with your human resources team to provide support. Some companies offer employee assistance programs with professional counseling, advice for child or elder care challenges and financial guidance. Their support can help your team with these challenges.
In part two of this blog post, we will look at five more ideas to support your contact center during this challenging time.