Try as we might to plan for the unexpected, it is doubtful that any organisation planned for the epidemic we are all experiencing today. COVID-19 is taking over daily life for people and businesses around the world. Its full impact is not yet known, nor do we know how long it will take to overcome the health and safety challenges it poses to our communities.
In times like these, it’s easy to forget that it’s your front-line contact centre agents and team leaders who make the biggest impact on customer experience. They are on the front line of a brand’s relationship with customers and the public. They provide essential services that in some cases deliver life-sustaining support of banks, healthcare organisations, telecommunications, travel and insurance, just to name a few.
The people who work in contact centres are often dealing with their own personal situations amidst the coronavirus outbreak, yet they continue to show up for work and give their very best each day. They provide empathy, compassion and expertise to directly help individuals during one of the most stressful times in history. It’s inspiring and humbling.
Some agents field questions about medical treatments or testing. Some help banking or mobile customers pause payments due to a furlough or lay off. Others track restaurant delivery orders to follow-up about when those chicken wings will arrive. Whilst others allow customers to buy or replace products virtually when physical shops are closed.
Contact centre agents truly are the lifeblood of our new reality, when things are fluid and unpredictable. In their interactions with customers, contact centre employees provide crucial communications to those in need or they allow some semblance of regular life. They are the voice of the brand to customers looking for help.
Contact centre agents are more important than ever
The need for customers to reach organisations accelerated nearly overnight. Airlines, hotels and other travel-related businesses are reporting hours-long hold times. Government agencies are getting overwhelmed with calls about unemployment benefits, health tips, lockdowns, and more. Call volumes for anything even remotely related to coronavirus are surging, putting strain on the employees and systems designed to provide great experiences. Websites, emails and other static resources don’t provide the individual attention and reassurance that people are looking for right now. They are looking for help and calling contact centres to find answers.
It’s never been more critical for businesses and agencies to be available to help customers. And how they deliver customer experiences is adapting to this changing environment. Here are a few examples:
Work-from-home goes front-and-centre
During this unprecedented time, companies including TTEC are shifting contact centre operations to work-from-home situations as much as possible to maintain business continuity and allow agents to be available for customers safely even during lockdowns and curfews. Some are literally bringing desktop computers home, whilst others connect their own devices to networks to work remotely in a secure environment. We are also adding to our work-from-home workforce to increase the amount of support we can provide clients from nearly anywhere.
In a few isolated cases, highly sensitive or regulated operations may prevent a complete move to remote work. Government and financial regulations require extra security on some accounts where a move home just isn’t possible. In those circumstances, TTEC has undertaken WHO-recommended cleaning and prevention measures including deep cleanings multiple times per day, fogging of entire locations, temperature checks and social distancing. And we are keeping all employees informed with regular tips on prevention and self-care, along with news about what the company is doing to maintain employee safety and health.
Use of messaging
Voice calls can only be stretched so far. Instead, many companies and customers are opting to include messaging options including Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and direct SMS texts. Unlike voice or even live chat, messaging allows one agent to conduct up to 4 conversations at once. Background noise is never a problem. And just like when texting friends and family, emojis and shortcuts enable the personal connection users are looking for. Messaging can be deployed with minimal IT support and can be configured and implemented quickly, sometimes within days.
Not every customer interaction needs a human. And that’s ok. A blend of AI, robotics, journey/workflow management, and innovation can both meet customer needs and gain incredible efficiencies in the contact centre. Customer-facing AI-enabled bots can replace or supplement human interactions for simple, repeatable questions, whilst time-consuming back-office work is streamlined via automation to eliminate associate administrative time so they can focus on helping customers. This frees up agents to deal directly with customers on more complex, emotional issues where personal connection matters most.
In these trying times, there is enormous value in human connections. We humans are made to interact with one another — economically and emotionally. Contact centres are working hard to fill the void and bring humanity to business during the pandemic and every day. And when they get it right, we’re all better for it.
Please visit http://www.ttec.com/emea/coronavirus to read more about TTEC’s crisis management solution and client case studies.