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 Centers
Call 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 Centers
The 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-19
While 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 Frustration
As 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.
Both of the options have their downfalls and advantages. However, choosing between the two options is not an easy one. That is why we suggest a mixture of the two. There are no apparent signs that the pandemic is going to let up soon, unfortunately. That means that there will be more difficult interactions to come, and probably for a long time. So, which do you pick?
A mixture of the two would work best, as coaching is vital to keep up with changes, but so are rule updates.
Teamwork is already something that contact centers focus a lot of time enhancing. However, no matter how well the team bonded pre-COVID-19, there is little chance that can persist. Sitting a new agent next to an experienced person is not on the table anymore, and nor is the supervisor walking the floor.
This fact presents an obvious challenge and one that has never been seen in the contact center world. However, luckily, there are options available now that have also never been available to businesses. The internet is so vast, yet so powerful that internet messaging can connect people all over the world in an instant. While this may seem obvious, there are many call centers that have still not started to use the available software to their full extent.
Focusing on keeping teams together and available to communicate is one of the largest factors in keeping business running as well as it did. There are many applications available that will help you with connecting agents. Taking advantage of them and investing in training for those platforms will allow the inexperienced agents to still tap into the wealth of knowledge that is on offer in the company, and at the time that they need it.
Better Coaching Practices
Although we touched on the subject of coaching earlier in the article, we need to look at it in a little more depth. The reason for that is coaching is of enormous importance to any business, and as you may have seen in our other articles
, it makes a huge impact. The primary difference between this coaching to the one above is that this should be for team leads and supervisors, instead of the agents.
Keeping regular schedules of coaching will maintain continuity between your coaching team and agents. For example, many people will try to make a particular time of the week to complete coaching. However, keeping track of performance and continuous monitoring after individual calls is a much better way to address points that need it than trying to remember or keep notes for a week or so.
Covid-19 And Call Centers – Conclusion
While that may sound difficult, there are ways. For example, having instant voice analytics in your business will assist you to see who is performing well and poorly at any time. The primary issue that companies find is how to have a quality assurance team that can keep up with the problems. Most QA businesses will have options that you can use while you are still within the infrastructure or a call center. However, that is not a viable option now.
If you would like to see how our web-based QA system can help you keep on top of coaching and monitoring even while your agents are at home, please use our contact page
, and a Call Criteria representative will contact you for a demo.
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