For the majority of the year 2020, organizations have lost their ability to deliver in-person service to their customers. Meanwhile, customers endured increasingly complex scenarios requiring a high level of customer service. In case it was ever in question, this has been the year that call centers proved to be critical for doing business. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the contact center has acted as a conduit enabling organizations to maintain communication with customers – and unsurprisingly, the quality of these interactions is more important than ever.
The intensified focus on customer experience means that service levels need to increase. Why? Many consumers are treating this time as a proving ground for companies – “who looked after me?” “Who stood by me?” It is well known that acquiring new customers is more costly than keeping existing ones, and with the upcoming years forecasted to be a difficult time for business, ensuring you retain your current customers should be at the heart of your approach.
TIME TO TAKE STOCK
Against a backdrop of unprecedented and unpredictable demand for call center services, organizations need to maintain and improve the customer experience while adapting to new platforms, working patterns (hybrid home and office working), and keeping their best employees.
Focus on what is important and make significant structural changes. We’ve already proved we can deliver quickly on programs when we need to, so now is the time to be bold. Today I’m going to outline some of the key areas to focus on as you adapt to these strange times so that when economies rebound your organization will be well-positioned to grow with it. They are:
- Make A Real Connection with Your Customers
- Use the Cloud to Your Advantage
- Empower and Retain Your Employees
- Build for Business as Unusual
MAKE A REAL CONNECTION WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS
What do we invest in to deliver better service? It’s simple, voice and video.
Voice and video are the best channels for complex or high-stakes interactions – and right now, almost every interaction would fall under one of these categories. Business cycles you have known and planned for are now being re-written. Every payday, loan payment, bill, etc. is now on a new cycle that will drive additional demand into your call center because customers will be in a different scenario than before. These are stressful situations for your customers, and many of them just want to speak and be heard – only a voice call can deliver the empathy required in these interactions.
If we’re moving people to voice interactions, that voice quality needs to be perfect – no matter where your employees are. High audio quality will afford clearer calls, with fewer mistakes, and better overall satisfaction.
With social distancing here to stay for some time, the role of the call center can be reinvented to replace those customer interactions that were once face-to-face interactions with audio calls. Plan to migrate these audio calls to secure video solutions to ensure that you maintain a relationship with customers that have been built-up through face-to-face contact.
USE CLOUD TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Since the emergence of COVID-19, over 50% of call center employees have transitioned to working from home (Frost & Sullivan, 2020) – most of whom rely on cloud platforms to facilitate their work. Which begs the question, is working from home the new normal? No – even though social distancing will be in place for some time, we can’t assume that all employees have the ability or desire to continue working from home for good. That said, we also shouldn’t expect working from home via the Cloud to go away when (and if) we return to ‘normal’ either. What we should expect is a blend of the two.
Cloud systems come with significant benefits of flexibility, scalability, and agility. This means frequent updates and new features being added. With headsets and other devices now integrated into the cloud system for a better employee experience, make sure your IT department can remotely audit and update devices to keep them performing at their best.
The best way to ensure that your customer service reps have the ability to deliver great customer experiences from anywhere will rest on the device you equip them with. Most call center employees are focused on delivering excellent service through voice calls. In these uncertain times, consumers need to have a level of trust in the organization, and in the individual employee they are speaking with. The intrusion of background noise could cause customers to lose trust in the representative and be unwilling to share delicate personal information with them. Additionally, the use of unapproved audio devices (or not using a headset at all) will cause audio problems on calls. leading to mistakes due to misunderstanding the caller, longer calls, and general frustration.
EMPOWER AND RETAIN YOUR EMPLOYEES
We’ve just completed the world’s largest ‘work from home’ experiment – turns out it works for most people. Unfortunately, this might not bode well for employee retention. Yes, you can now hire from a broader talent pool, but the flip side of that is that your most skilled employees can also pursue opportunities anywhere in the world – and the cost of personnel acquisition and training can be high. If you aren’t looking after employees and creating a good work environment for them, they will likely leave.
Additionally, call center employees tend to be younger and more sociable, which puts you at risk of losing them to other industries if they don’t feel a sense of team camaraderie. How will you keep your teams connected while they are working in different places? The increasing complexity of interactions means that teams need to work together to find a resolution quickly and efficiently. This knowledge sharing is also critical to help newer team members onboard quicker. Organizations need to have systems and processes in place to do this remotely.
BUILD FOR BUSINESS AS UNUSUAL
In normal times, customers remember good service. In today’s uncertain times it is even more important to create great experiences that drive loyalty. What we used to call ‘normal’ won’t be coming back for some time, so prepare for business as unusual. Reinvent your call center with voice at the heart to deliver better service, gain loyalty, and keep valuable customers. Make real connections with your customers and replace what would have been face-to-face interactions with high-quality voice and video calls. Make the most of your move to the Cloud with proper tools to deliver better, more responsive service. Empower your employees to work in a way that allows them to feel comfortable and make sure they feel trusted and taken care of. To keep a sense of organizational unity and keep your agents from feeling isolated, connect them through video as a stand-in for face-to-face meetings and social interactions.
This renewed focus on customer service will see your organization emerge from this crisis with a loyal customer base, and stronger than ever.
Welcome to business as unusual.