Adapting contact centers to meet business continuity

The COVID Pandemic has created a seismic shift in businesses and how they are run. Brands have had to rethink ways in which to service the customers while still being considerate towards their employees’ well-being. However, within this adversity also lies the opportunity to win customers for life, if brands are able to service customers without disruptions and with empathy.

According to Accenture’s report, “57% of customers ranked call support as their initial channel preference for flexible communication, wanting an opportunity to ask, explain, reason or negotiate with customer service.” This puts contact centers squarely at the center stage of business continuity strategies.

Below are some techniques that businesses can adopt

Enabling agents to work at home – Enabling agents to be fully productive is essential in scaling the distributed contact center. Empower agents to connect remotely and be productive from home requires quick procurement of portable devices such as laptops, tablets, or smartphones that are supported by a secure network with VPN connections. Furthermore, businesses should invest in business collaboration tools like email, video conferencing, messaging and team collaboration tools for agents to stay connected with the team and clients. This will help in creating an environment conducive to success.

Moving from on-premise to cloud – With a rise in the number of calls, several businesses have moved away from on-premise solutions to cloud computing contact centers that allow for quick expansion. This allows businesses to scale efficiently and also keep fixed costs low as expenses shift to variable costs. Firms can quickly reduce costs when demand falls post the pandemic. It is important to think about expenses, as most companies are bracing themselves for varying degrees of financial stress.

Contact Centers For Business Continuity

Monitor, measure, coach and retrain agents – Contact centers are heavily driven by metrics. However, KPIs are no longer giving as clear a picture on the health of the contact center, and new ways to measure agent productivity is required. Contact centers can utilize workforce optimization capabilities such as analytics and quality assurance to gauge agent performance. These tools allow supervisors to monitor the agent’s productivity remotely and offer visibility into how much time is spent in managing the desktop agent.

The abrupt change in business processes caused by the pandemic needs to be meaningfully addressed. Employees should be offered virtual training and change management programs to educate them on the use of new technologies, processes, policies and collaboration tool sets. Agents should be coached often using the collaboration tools to ensure productivity levels remain consistent similar to the pre-pandemic world.

Acknowledge the new norm – Businesses should acknowledge that this is the new norm and that their processes are still nascent and may need modification. Regular reviews of the new processes and metrics should be undertaken and concise information should be shared with employees such that there is no ambiguity.

Scale-up virtual agents and drive your customers into digital channels – We have already seen the spike in the calls coming into the contact centers and the responses that appropriately satisfy the customers. Use this learning to upskill the knowledge base of your virtual agents so that they can be the first point of contact for the customers. This will ease the pressure on the contact centers.

Lastly, continuously monitor the call center and modify your strategy as work at home agents start becoming the new norm. As we move to a post-pandemic world, it is predicted that a large part of the workforce will continue to work from home going forward. This will involve sensitive changes to strategy and carrying forward lessons learned right now.

You can also read some of the articles and reports that provide great advice.

COVID-19: Responsive customer service in times of change

COVID-19 Playbook for the Contact Center: Five steps to ensure business continuity

Contact Centres In The Era Of COVID-19

Also read our blog on: Reducing Operational Burden On Financial Institutions With AI-powered Call Centers

AI Call Center