The COVID-19 outbreak is changing the way we live and work faster than any of us could ever have imagined. With global coronavirus cases continuing to rise and an effective vaccine still thought to be more than a year away, your business can expect serious disruption for many months ahead.

As a result of the current crisis, you are likely to be facing the perfect storm of unpredictable call volumes at a time when many of your agents may not be available to work. Cloud technology is definitely coming into its own, right now, thanks to its flexibility and the fact that it can be used outside the traditional office-based environment.

With no other choice, any business with a contact centre will be forced to embrace the new ‘working from home’ culture. Faced with these adjustments to your working practices, keeping everything running smoothly and those all-important SLAs on track will undoubtedly be one of the toughest challenges you’ll ever have to face.

Thankfully, quick-to-deploy solutions, such as bots, callback and digital channels can provide contact centres with some short-term fixes while also delivering long-term benefits.

To help you make the most of your resources during the current crisis, Geomant are providing you with a structured action plan to follow. This is designed to help you focus on how best to move forward with your contact centre management in the coming weeks and to take a measured approach to the problems that are emerging.

Our Contact Centre Emergency Action Plan for COVID-19 breaks down into seven steps.

1. Deflect calls by offering self-service options

With staff resources likely to be highly stretched in the coming months, you first need to find other appropriate ways of fielding customer enquiries.

Even before the virus took hold, bot technology had been rapidly growing in importance as a vital customer service tool. At a tricky time like this, it can become a game-changer. As the front-line for fielding simple queries, bots can help you focus your staff’s attention where it is really needed.

The simple strategy should be to take a FAQ approach to try to handle as many simple queries as possible with bot technology, before resorting to agent interaction through a call or one-to-one chat.

2. Remind customers you are doing your best

While the coronavirus outbreak is causing unprecedented issues for your business and your customers, you should also spare a thought for your struggling contact centre staff at the frontline. With the potential for a build-up of customer frustration, your agents could well be on the receiving end of abusive outbursts that won’t make their jobs any easier.

Putting a polite message on your system to remind customers that your agents are working under unusual pressure and providing a reasonable explanation for extended queue times would be one good way to diffuse any possible issues.

3. Minimise calls with proactive outbound communication

There is another strategy you can adopt to help keep you on the front foot at a time when you’re likely to be feeling increasingly stressed. If customers need fresh updates from you during the crisis, why not proactively provide it rather than waiting for them to approach you by joining your lengthening contact centre queues?

To do this, you could use your social media platforms or simply add some helpful generic information on your website. But if you communicate on a one-to-one basis with personalised emails or SMS texts, for example, you’ll find that your messaging will become even more powerful.

There’s no question that the combination of a personalised text message with a call-to-action such as ‘reply “yes” to this message and we’ll call you back’ can be an extremely reassuring measure for anxious customers.

4. Reduce calls by shifting them to digital channels

The challenge of dealing with an ever-increasing number of enquiries may well encourage you to bring forward any plans you might have had to offer customers the chance to use digital channels like Webchat, WhatsApp, social media and SMS to communicate with you.

If they are deployed effectively, these digital channels will be a more efficient way of using your agents’ time than a voice call. Better still, as they are less dependent on bandwidth, they will prove to be a more effective solution for your business with agents working from home, particularly as your staff will be less distracted by things like noisy children running around the room.

There are various options available to you. Many organisations are temporarily removing voice as a communications channel, and solely providing digital channel support. Some are creating new teams of digital agents, potentially re-assigned from other parts of the business, while others are implementing a blended approach, using the same agents for both voice and digital.

5. Set your agents up to work from home

To keep everything running smoothly, with the prospect of all or some of your agents being forced to work from home, we’d recommend that you quickly appoint a special Response Team, with a leader in each sub-team and suitable back-up for them.

Equip this team with the full details of your Business Continuity Plan (BCP), so they can help you implement it as seamlessly as possible. If you need to mobilize your workforce, it’s the Response Team that will help you achieve this aim with the minimum disruption.

If you’re using members of staff temporarily requisitioned from other departments that have become less busy during the crisis, you’ll need to provide a high level of contact centre training for them. Particularly as these new recruits will be working in their own space, a long way from physical supervision.

Of course, outdated contact centre technology could well be your biggest barrier to business continuity with your agents working from home. If this is indeed holding you back, Geomant can very quickly provide you with the technology that you need to meet the needs of these difficult times, and beyond.

You might, for example, wish to add Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business contact centre functionality to your existing UC technology or investigate using employees’ mobile phones as endpoints

6. Use filtering to prioritise interactions

The use of interaction filtering to screen for high-priority calls and callback technology can help you effectively manage increases in customer calls during the current COVID-19 crisis.

Prioritising call queues, based on options selected within your voice response system, is another simple step you can take to alleviate the pressure on your staff.

You might decide not to offer an inbound number but use bots on the website instead - offering a callback to only in the most important cases. It may also be worth liaising with other departments in your organisation to delay non-urgent activities that could promote a further rise in call volumes.

7. Prevent queues with a callback service

It won’t need us to tell you that waiting in long contact centre queues can be one of the biggest causes of disenchantment for customers. Unexpected disruptions, like the coronavirus outbreak, may well result in extra calls that make it impossible for you to address customer queries as quickly and efficiently as you would like.

However, with a reliable callback service using virtual queue technology or scheduled callbacks, you can flatten out spikes in demand to improve the overall customer experience.

Need more support?

If you would like additional support for your contact centre during this period of uncertainty, please request a callback from Geomant today here.

We are here to support you through the current crisis in every way that we can. Importantly, we can offer rapid deployment of any technology you might need to assist you during these challenging times.

Rest assured, we can quickly deploy a range of cloud-based solutions for you within days and we are waiving set-up costs, wherever possible, and not asking you to make long-term commitments.

Or, if you’d simply like more information, you may well find the latest COVID-19 updates on our website helpful.

For more information on Geomant’s quick-to-deploy technology offerings click here.

 

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