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Article : Coronavirus and Your Call Center: Don't Panic - Plan and Prepare

#contactcenterworld, @BenchmarkPortal

Author: Bruce Belfiore, Senior Research Executive and CEO BenchmarkPortal

COVID-19, more commonly referred to as the Coronavirus, is spreading rapidly as I write this in February, 2020. As a result, there are contact center managers worldwide who are wondering what to expect and how best to prepare. I am not a public health expert, but I will do my best to interpret what I know for our community of professionals.

First, let’s properly frame the crisis. Tens of thousands have been infected worldwide. Most have mild cases and recover within a week or two. An estimated 1% die* (mostly older people with pre-existing medical issues) – tragic on a human level, but limited. So, even if your area gets hit, the impact from a medical viewpoint may seem pretty much like the flu.

The difference with the flu is the actions civil authorities will take to contain the spread of this virus, and the spillover impact that may have on your center. Let’s break this down.

  1. General impact. The medical consensus is that the unknowns of COVID-19 warrant a massive public response. As we have seen in places like China, entire municipalities can be quarantined by civil authorities and bring daily life to a halt.

    Employees:
    1. Cannot go to work normally
    2. Must stay home with their children if schools are closed
    3. Those who can and do come to work may be relying on their employer to provide as "safe" an environment as is reasonably possible. This may include providing tight-fitting face masks, ready supplies of hand sanitizer, constantly-filled hand soap containers in rest rooms, and possibly other actions to make the worksite as virus-free as possible.


You should put up signs reminding people to wash their hands and post announcements that people who develop symptoms should stay home or, if they develop symptoms during their shift, should make this known to their supervisor / manager.

Depending on how things evolve, a center where someone comes down with the symptoms during the work shift (and subsequently tests positive for COVID-19) may result in everyone in the center being quarantined in one manner or another (most probably sent home for self-quarantine). Even the most prepared center for business continuation does not have isolation rooms. So, handling such a situation must be clarified with local health officials ahead of time. I visited a Florida utility that has overnight facilities designed to allow agents to stay overnight (with their families!) during hurricanes. However, even this exceptional center does not have facilities for quarantined patients.

  1. Center-specific impacts. These can range widely, according to the industry sector:

    1. Community service numbers (211, 311, etc.). If Coronavirus hits your community, the calls will be many and anxiety will be high. As managers, we need to be sure we have the latest information and the best possible scripting and training so that the service we provide is optimal. You may want to set up a separate hotline. Some governments, including Nevada, have already confronted the issue.

    2. Suppliers of related products. Distributors of face masks, protective costumes, anti-bacterial products, test kits, respirators, etc. can expect to be deluged with calls and requests. If a rationing program is required, it should be decided ahead of time, posted clearly on your Website, and included in IVR messages before the customer reaches an agent.

    3. Healthcare / Health insurance. The impact here is obvious. Enough said.

    4. Companies with Supply Chains tied to affected countries. Everything from pharmaceuticals to Ferraris could be affected. Expect some anticipatory purchasing (and possibly some panic buying) to reach your contact center operations. Again, decide ahead of time if you will ration what you have.

    5. The next call to your center may be more likely a cancellation than a reservation. You are in for some grim weeks and need to prepare. Airlines, among others, are going to be hit with very stressed people wanting precise information (even where that’s not possible) and others wanting their money back. I recommend some extra coaching and special attention during this period.

    6. Healthcare workers and other first responders who are working overtime due to an outbreak in your area will undoubtedly miss payments. Be ready to handle these situations in a way consistent with your company mission statement and with an eye toward your next Public Utilities Commission review.

    7. Financial services. Investors, large and small are reacting to dramatic stock market news. If you manage a center in the brokerage industry you will need to coach your reps well on appropriate scripts, and make sure they respond to each client as an individual, and not just the latest in a flood of anxious callers asking the same things. To the extent you use low cost communicators (website, IVR, etc.) to alleviate the load on your reps, just be sure the message is delivered really well and in a way that will enhance your brand, not hurt it.

    8. Mental Health hotlines. Coronavirus will have a mental health impact along with the physical health impact. Mental health hotlines around should discuss response strategies so that they can be a positive force in these troubled times.

    9. Life Insurance. Tragically, Coronavirus will claim lives, including the lives of people with life insurance policies. Reps should be prepared for these calls.

  1. Planning and Budgeting impact. This is a test of your business continuation plan. Review it now in light of the specific challenges presented by Coronavirus. If your plan lacks a "stay in touch with local health department" paragraph (as many do), add this now and get yourself tied in with your local authorities. Hopefully they will be a valuable resource for you.

IVR announcements about hold times or service interruption due to the outbreak should be well-designed and ready to roll in case of need. If you have more than one contact center, pre-test your redundancy capabilities. Have your other centers (or outsourcer) ready to take over quickly and seamlessly.

If you already have some at-home agents, consider what would happen if you had to have all of your agents working at home tomorrow. If your system allows for at-home agents, but you have never used this option, now is the time to do a pilot. If your system does not allow for at-home agents, now may be the time to consider acquiring these capabilities.

Consider impacts on your Customer Experience Journey – from start to finish. Determine where your systems and processes are vulnerable. Give special attention to your IVR and systems efficiency. In addition to expanding at-home capabilities, you may want to consider or expand your automation capabilities, including virtual agents. Virtual agents cannot be created overnight, but you may want to include a virtual agent study in your plans for next year.

One last bit of advice. At work, stay away from the politics. Coronavirus is a human health problem with important managerial impacts. Keep your focus on the health and well-being of your people, while providing superior service to your customers.

And don’t forget to wash your hands.

#contactcenterworld, @BenchmarkPortal

 

 

 


About BenchmarkPortal:
Company LogoBenchmarkPortal is the source for Contact Center best practices with our Benchmarking, Education and Consulting services. Our mission is to help you run your center more efficiently and effectively. We are still continually growing our database, already the world's largest, for call center metrics by conducting data drives twice a year to have the most up to date information in the industry.
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Today's Tip of the Day - Measuring Performance

Read today's tip or listen to it on podcast.

Published: Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Printer Friendly Version Printer friendly version

2020 Buyers Guide Telecoms

 
1.) 
Cloud IT Services GmbH

Dialfire
Dialfire offers you a complete call center solution that is simple and intuitive to use and adapts to your needs. It's completely cloud-based, saving you the hassle of setting up a phone system and installing software. In addition to predictive dialing and call blending of inbound calls, you can create personalized campaigns through an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. Features include automated workflows and full control over the agent screen.

You can see the full list of features here:

2.) 
Cloudonix

Cloudonix
Cloudonix provides businesses with software development tools (APIs/SDKs) enabling contextual communications, using existing communications tools and workflows.
Connect your website or mobile APP directly to your call or contact center, keeping the context of who the caller is, why they are calling, and how they got to you as part of the call.

3.) 
Connectica Solutions, LLC

PBX On The Cloud
We provide complete Cloud-based PBX/Phone Systems, including predictive and progressive dialers, phone lines in more than 75 countries and low cost international rates.
We specialize in the US and Latin American market.
PH: +1 (346) 444-3555

4.) 
Layer One Technologies

Layer One Technologies provides information and communication technology (ICT) services to businesses in the greater Charlotte area. Whatever your cabling needs, we have you covered.
PH: (980) 288-4800

5.) 
Megacall

VOIP services
Stay in contact quickly and easily with your international offices through Megacall.

Megacall will fulfill all your telecommunication requirements and on top of that go the extra mile and surprise you with new possibilities for your business, speed to action your requests and keeping within your budget.

📞 Virtual Switchboard
🔌 SIP trunk
🔢 Virtual number
📠 Call Center Solutions
PH: +34 952 667 511

6.) 
NetSapiens

SNAPsolution
Our SNAPsolution – UC and Collaboration tools – can be quickly deployed so you can realize your ROI just as quick. netsapiens offers a comprehensive suite of unified communications (UC) & Contact Center (CC) feature-sets to service providers. Custom-built to provide our partners with unprecedented levels of flexibility, customization, and ease of use.

netsapiens allows you to control your margins in order to improve your ROI. As a provider of a facilities-based solution, you are able to personally choose your origination, termination, hardware costs, etc. to fit your budget. We also allow you to strategically price your product for a maximum return on your investment by charging on a conc...
(read more)
PH: 7608463385

7.) 
Nuxiba Technologies

CenterWare
Build a strong business presence and improve customer relationships!

Offer custom-tailored solutions throughout your sales cycles and customer interactions and assess service levels and control corporate goal achievement through reports and statistics.

Obtain detailed reports based on relevant activity in your contact center, access our quality module to assess calls and performance, apply surveys, develop scripts, record conversations, and more!

Schedule a live demo or request a quote today!

8.) 
Televergence

Long Distance and Toll Free Specialists for Contact Centers
Televergence is a facilities based US Nationwide High volume/High Capacity Inbound and Outbound VoIP Carrier for Contact Centers. We specialize in termination (outbound) and origination (toll free and local DID) for the contact center. We have a technical staff that is up to date on the majority of platforms in use today, including asterisk and Vicci dial, as well as many of the currently in use software platforms.
Contact Centers generally see cost reduction and containment when using Televergence as their contact center telecom carrier. Televergence is the only active US VoIP carrier certified by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), which enables our services to qualify for meeting corporations Supplier Diversity Needs.
PH: 213-943-2023
 

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