The outbreak of Covid-19 has necessitated companies to work with exceptional pace in order to provide brilliant service to customers all the while taking care of employees in a humane way. Customer and employee sentiment only intensifies this challenge. The amalgamation of panic, unpredictability, and exasperation poses companies with newer risks and yet, a window of opportunity. Delivering a humane service will surely cause a humongous boost to your brand positivity and make customers choose your company again even after the crisis has passed over. On the same scale, inconsiderate and inefficient responses will push away your customers extracting a completely opposite and detrimental reaction from them.
At the times of calamities, your call center and customer support become critical to provide quick resolutions to complicated issues of customers. Companies aren’t often well prepared to act in a situation where there is a monumental shift in incoming requests. In the backdrop of Covid-19, that shift in incoming requests is paired with the abrupt necessity of asking everyone to work from home all the while operating in an environment with more risks than you can imagine. It was an unthinkable scenario, which is a stark reality now and requires instant measures to survive.
This has made companies reassess how call centers and customer support team can be strengthened, how the employees can deliver excellent customer service while working remotely and the way digital mediums can be leveraged to help with a greater influx in call center work.
The types of questions that arise are:
- How do you decrease customer-waiting period and handle angry customers?
- How do you assign incoming requests to customer service representatives in order to reduce the wait times?
- Which processes can be automated?
- How do you make full use of the digital mediums?
- How to handle the workforce if you have to change your strategy from physical workplaces to work-from-home policies?
- How will you offer consistency in customer service and maintain the same level of workforce productivity when all the employees are working from their homes?
- How will I provide access to the required technological tools and secured in-house networks to remote agents?
- How will you keep faith in your workers and the consumers?
To effectively respond to the constantly evolving circumstances due to the outbreak, we recommend businesses take following actions swiftly to support their call centers and customer support team while ensuring that they don’t lose customers and their trust:
- Examine the current scenario; figure out your technological limitations and strengths. Try to plan how a remote call center would be operational with the processes and security procedures you use in the organization.
- Analyze how you can use existing call center technological capabilities to support newer work needs. Ask your technological platform providers to tweak their form of licensing and be adaptable in its usage to fulfill current needs.
- Bring in methods for digital channel adaptability and turn to hiring virtual assistants to reduce the workload on your agents.
- Analyze how you will remodel the workforce in different locations to help effectuate consumer and business’ growth.
- Keep on the learning curve and develop your call center strategy. Push to upgrade your abilities and usage of different mediums. Figure out which methods should be used in these times and the best ways to improve daily operations all the while adapting to any unexpected event.
Use Data to Predict Customer Needs
The call centers must analyze data and come up with new findings to map new processes across the organization and reinforce roles of employees, all done to balance the scale of supply and demand.
As Coronavirus wreaks havoc over daily life, it’s the right time to maximally use data to predict the evolving needs of consumers and employees. In addition, an adaptable approach to manage work and employees will allow call centers to meet customer expectations in a changing market.
The usual call center volume predictions should be reinforced with data analysis captured from other unpredictable times. The types of data which can be included are- customer demographics and locations, effect on consumers from corporate activities, communication timeline, behavioral changes in areas where the impact of Coronavirus is most visible, data from different sources such as employees on the ground and from different authorities. Using forecasting tools on the basis of gathered data will help the management team to align their workforce with the increase in work volumes. For most corporations out there, predicting demand will require every team to come together on a single platform and collaborate effectively.
It should keep into purview the unexpected scenarios, which can rise up and prepare for the worst. This should be discussed and reviewed on a daily basis.
Assess Your Workforce Requirements
When employees work from home, several factors can affect their availability including but not limited to family, household responsibilities, power and electricity disruptions. Add to it the rate at which the virus is spreading and affecting people, you will be able to analyze and predict the variance in workforce supply.
To balance supply and demand with an adaptable approach to serve customers, it is suggested that call centers set up virtual command bases. It should comprise of data crunchers and other business personnel from departments like marketing, customer support, human resources, operations, data analytics, and IT teams. These departments should come together to partner up to identify information resources they have to share their insights on how business action will impact customers and customer contact trends on daily basis. Every component of the company should analyze and come up with solutions to hold the company against any unexpected situation; to brace for impact on customers, method of contacting and industry changes, and customer sentiments. For instance, social media is good tool to gauge customer sentiments amongst many others. Based on the forecasts about contact center workforce requirement to manage best or worst case scenarios, organization can reassign roles and process handovers within the organization in order to balance demand and supply requirements. This should be reviewed and revised on daily basis.
Enable Employees to Work from home
In order to effectively bring about a work-from-home policy; companies need to understand and figure out ways to tackle technological, procedural, and employee issues.
We realize that this shift will be hard and can put your methods of working at risk; we have come up with a step-by-step process to shift your work model from physical to remote locations:
- First off, establish an all-round setup by bringing in connectivity, laptops, and software access to pave the pathway for a work-from-home culture.
- Improve management network by delving into call center routing settings, applying ancillary systems to new environment and providing end-to-end security.
- Take care of your employees by analyzing training requirements, crafting ways for collaboration and checking frequently for newer methods of working and motivating the workforce.
- Change procedures to apply clear rules, updating internal work-schedules, procedures, and KPIs and make sure that such changes do reflect in information provided to customers.
To effectively bring about the work-from-home culture, providing secured technological tools is the first step. To maintain the same level of consistency, corporations must recreate the same contact center technology environment, as home those employees have been accustomed to using in office.
Queries and requests on the networking tool will be more than before. Corporations should be ready to immediately sort out any failures or trouble in the network, which can lead to a breakdown in services.
Taking it a bit further, corporations must be ready to resolve any people or procedure-related problems. It will require you to rapidly provide virtual training sessions and teach workers on how to use newer technologies, procedures, policies, rules, and toolsets to manage in these unprecedented times. Innovate methods to collaborate efficiently and effectively need to be coined in order to ensure the same level of productivity and quality, despite the workforce being dispersed across locations.
Manage Customer Responses
Here are some of the ways you can best serve the customer demands during this period of crisis with the limited resources you have:
- Start off by addressing the most loyal customers first and assign the callback assist option to other lesser urgent customers. Use data analytics to strategize for adaptable work styles, develop Interactive Voice Response mechanisms and message systems, and make way for prioritizing and distributing requests on the mediums you possess.
- Bring in auxiliary support mediums. Figure out which customer queries can be diverted to other channels, given the current situation. You can use prepared messages to resolve usual queries and educate customers about the other channels to seek help and encourage use of self-help channels such as FAQs. Queue messaging can be used to directly shift customer requests to other mediums such as online chats and virtual employees.
- Utilize the workers in an efficient way. Improvise the operational workflow model to support the right mix of proactive and reactive customer support needs. Your call center support agents need to be adaptable in dealing with incoming and outgoing calls. You need to push your workforce to keep an ear on the ground to figure out any shift in customer demands due to the outbreak.
- Change the way you work by incorporating use of advanced collaboration technological tools, providing field service virtually with the help of images, messages, and video calls, creating more guided help and adopting a proactive approach in communicating with your customers as your business landscape alters.
Automate: AI and Virtual Agents
“That government is best which governs the least”; that holds true for customer service in this time of pandemic too. Before the virus struck, the customers looked for self-serving tools first before calling up a company. It was how time and cost incurred were taken care of. However, the need for AI in customer service has undeniably increased multifold as a result of this pandemic.
Currently, incoming customer requests are more than ever. Companies are witnessing new customer trends as the pandemic widens its reach. It isn’t only because of the virus; disruption in daily life has led to a major spike in queries related to payment issues, ticket cancellations, disbursing unemployment benefits, and inventory inquiries; all count towards the increase in incoming requests, with varying levels of urgency.
The silver lining is that the nature of a lot of customer queries that constitute this volume would be same which implies that you can use automation or virtual agents to resolve a lot of these queries. While AI cannot be a replacement for human agents, it can significantly relieve the pressure on contact volumes by taking care of those customer support queries that do not need human intervention, which is imperative in time like these. It is important that employees are present to resolve complicated and important customer requirements.
While a lot of AI tools are available in the market, the challenge is to implement it right. Remember, the robot is as good as the information that is fed in it. Ideally you should rope in an expert to do this for you. Ask the call center outsourcing company you work with if they can do this for you, as they are already familiar with your customer support processes and that can save your lot of precious time in this tumultuous period. At LiveSalesman, we have helped lot of our clients handle massive number of customer queries though automation.
Turning to Outsourcing: Asking For Help
Call center outsourcing companies have proved to be a boon for corporations around the world. Lot of businesses have engaged customer service outsourcing companies during this covid-19 lockdown to help them with their call center and customer support. Most of the countries that are home to these call center companies are in lockdown as well, however, these customer service outsourcing companies have been very agile and swift in migrating their employees to work from home. They have majorly succeeded in providing same quality service to their clients without much disruption, even in these testing times. Lot of call center outsourcing companies have the prebuilt infrastructure and business continuity procedures in place to be able to deliver uninterrupted critical business functions to their clients even during such unforeseen disasters such as this. At LiveSalesman, we offer Multilingual Disaster Backup Call Center and Customer Support Services that can be rapidly deployed with minimal effort in less than a week. This effectively brings down the pressure on our clients and enables them to focus their efforts on recovery, resumption and future course of action while we take care of their customer support and other back-office tasks in the face of Coronoavirus crisis. Customer service outsourcing companies make for a great viable option to partner with as they help the load off your employees and your customers won’t be bogged down with extended waiting times and poor service at the end of it. Companies around the world are trying their best to assuage panic in customers and deal with them in an empathetic way all the while taking care of the needs of employees. If you are unable to do that with the workforce you have, going for an outsourcing company is the right way to go.
Focus on employees
You should have the same level of focus on employees as on the business. Do remember that the pandemic has affected your workers’ mentality too. You might be required to take measures to motivate your employees and minimize the impact of the virus on their mental state; in effect, to maintain the same level of service standards than before. This includes providing the latest updates to the customers, establish regular communication of any changes that might impact the customer, and appreciating the work done by employees.
The most crucial point to remember at this point in time is this, care for your employees as much as you care about the organization. One must realize that the mental state of employees at this point of time is necessary to be taken care of, even if done to maintain the level of customer service they provide. Provide regular updates to the workers; enable instant conveying of changes, which can impact the customer, and revel with the workers after a good day.
Heads of the companies must understand that this is a new situation for everybody and concerns must be taken care of such as a focus on the health of the family, children, and all-round wellness. They must walk the fine line of reassigning representatives while maintaining a huge influx of workload.
nice organizations have these capabilities in place, they should next focus on the following longer-term actions:
- Scale at pace. None of the capabilities described here are built perfectly overnight. In fact, in all cases where Accenture has implemented contact center analytics or virtual assistant capabilities, MVP solutions were put in place initially and were evolved or extended over time, based on lessons learned. Getting started is critical. Evolving is to be expected. Continuous learning is the name of the game.
- Reimagine the future. The current environment is accelerating future trends. Post-crisis, companies will need to continue to build on capabilities they have stood up in crisis mode as a sustainable and evolving part of their business. Prioritize choices that align with long-term business strategy (in addition to urgent needs) and innovate solutions that can sustain for the long-term.
The way to respond to the current crisis is a prelude to the future trends in a call center and customer support. Given the precariousness for how long this crisis will last and our vulnerability to future pandemics, businesses shouldn’t just focus on short-term solutions but prepare to develop long term operational revamp with innovative solutions that can mitigate the impact of any such future disaster on businesses.