COVID-19 and the Virtual Contact Center: Digital Transformation is Shaping the New Normal

How call centers can prepare for the COVID-19 crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has the entire world reeling. No country has been spared. Countless businesses have been shuttered. And no one still understands what the future holds or how economies around the world will respond.

With more and more businesses being forced online to survive, contact centers may soon find themselves with high call volumes coupled with increased complexity in the nature of the calls. Systems will be challenged because processes and transactions that were formerly offline are suddenly online. With the need to build capacities in a very short time, customer service automation and contact center chatbots will be crucial in solving issues and meeting demand.

We take you through four pain points you may experience due to the current COVID-19 crisis and how you can mitigate them by using customer service automation.

Higher contact volume vs. reduced personnel

These are uncertain times for all of us and with employees being susceptible to illness or not being able to meet the surge in demand on their own, customer service automation can bridge many gaps. Of course, AI solutions do need human teams to complement them, but the current scenario calls for immediate AI-powered customer service.

AI solutions are so sophisticated and adaptable that they can be set up within days to render customer care and support calls. While AI powered solutions can be used to answer the more basic and repetitive queries that do come up during a global crisis scenario, live agents can be used to answer more intricate and complex questions.

A few simple ways of automating a contact center and optimizing it will be to use automated callback technology to deal with huge queues in calls, upfront messaging to deal with repetitive questions, and interactive voice response.

The key is to choose advanced, agile and intelligent chatbot services that interpret user requests, store customer details for reuse during future conversations, understand the voice or mood of an agitated customer versus a calm customer, and also use a reassuring and dependable voice. Above all, they need to be conversational employing natural language systems.

Productivity and cost management

Contact centers typically face many issues when it comes to people management. High employee turnover means hiring and training new staff members becomes a challenge. With COVID-19 necessitating the need for quick onboarding time, companies need to keep an eye on productivity and be vigilant about their hiring processes. Hiring temporary people, for example, is a stop-gap solution at best.

Chatbots and automation take time to implement. In the interim, effective contact center scripts and agent communications help keep agents productive and on-track. Provide clear direction on who handles what aspect of every crisis scenario and a very clear-cut resolution plan. Training agents across teams about various functionalities and creating knowledge databases will ensure that everyone understands critical functions. A crisis management team will also be able to help manage the volume of calls you get in the contact center and ensure business continuity. When dealing with anxious customers, it is important to make sure that processes and scripts are put in place to address this continuously.

Agent empowerment and protection

With the onset of the pandemic, calls and interactions become exceedingly complex. With IT teams under a lot of stress, allowing for easy collaboration among teams and seamless handover protocols, especially in different locations, really boosts functionality. Customizing techniques to help agents navigate customer frustration, for example, can really help them and make their job easier.

Here is an interesting case scenario. With COVID-19 changing the game, many agents still stick to old policies that predate the pandemic. It is necessary to revise the playbooks, update policies and motivate reps so that they don’t hide behind old policies and wash their hands off a problem. Equip them with language and conversation techniques that can get the job done, and assuage customer fears and anxieties. Another tactic that helps is to follow good coaching techniques and practices. Instead of having siloed practice sessions, for instance, many managers integrate coaching into workflows.

The COVID-19 healthcare crisis has inadvertently sped digital transformation in all major industries and workplaces. In the future, we will see many companies making the leap and using mobile work and conferencing tools as well as remote workforces. Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work reports that 98% of its respondents prefer remote working. A virtual contact center, for example, can be the new normal.

Read More:AI & ML in Contact Center – The Next Thing for Improving Customer Relationships

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