Management decisions in call centers are getting more difficult than ever due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the impact the lockdown and remote working policies have had are varied depending on the types of organization and even sectors within them. But, how do we deal with it as an industry? Between March 11th, when the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, and March 26th, Harvard Business Review completed a survey of difficulty that the customers using call centers had to resolve their issues. They also found that, during this time, it was more than twice as difficult for the customer to get a resolution than it was before. The reason for that increase in difficulty was an obvious, yet unavoidable one. More people than ever were facing emotional and anxiety-inducing situations that they wanted clarification for than ever before. However, customer feelings directly correspond to the hardship that the customer service representatives faced during the call.
Covid-19 And Call CentersCall center agents have a huge demand placed on them all of the time, no matter what the current global situation is. That is not something hidden, nor is it anything unexpected. Dealing with angry customers is something that any experienced agent is accustomed to already. However, now that the agents are working from home, with little to no direct support, things are getting harder for those agents by the day – and it does not look like it is letting up any time soon. That is not an enlightening view on the future of call centers as it is. However, when you factor in the problems that come with a lack of infrastructure that business ran call center offers, agents and customers face a more challenging problem.
How Covid-19 Affects Contact CentersThe infrastructure demise that has taken control has inevitably had more impact than anyone was prepared for. Although most people now have an internet connection with a phone line, they are not always the best connections, and they are certainly not set up the way a contact center would be. That fact leads to a considerable increase in difficulty getting new sales of any type. That is because a tough call, or interaction, as seen by the HBR, show only to have a 6% chance of a cross-sell or up-sell. Furthermore, the customers are 16% less likely to stay with a company for a promotional offer than they are without facing the difficulty. Therefore, a lot of money is lost through bad connections as a result of working from home.
How To Help Call Centers During Covid-19While there is never a “one-size-fits-all” answer to situations like this, there are things that you can do to help your business. In the next sections, we will explore what some of those things are and how they could help.
Reduce Customer FrustrationAs you probably already know, there are many regulations that revolve around call centers as it is. To make things worse, each contact center has its own policies about how agents can interact with customers, what offers they are allowed to provide, rules of extensions on payments, etc. You may ask what difference that makes to the frustration of either agent or customers. Well, findings show that low performing agents have started to use Covid-19 as a reason not to help the customer, with statements such as “I’m sorry, there is nothing I can do to help.” Furthermore, adding to the confusion, agents will pass calls to more experienced team members, supervisors, and managers more than usual as they are unsure of what they can do because of the existing policies pre-COVID-19. That leaves the customer frustrated and often having to explain their situation multiple times. Even if the more experienced agents can help the customer more than the person who took the call, they are already in the frustrated mindset of leaving the company for that reason. That makes it more difficult for the seasoned agents to get a result that benefits both the customer and the company than it would have if the initial call taker were the experienced agent. There are now two options that you have as a business:
- Extra coaching for the lower performers. – That leads to increased costs and training hours.
- Allowing exceptions. – Allowing the agents to make the decision to make exceptions in certain situations.