Author: Ariful Anam, Manager, Sales and Marketing, Fusion BPO Services
The COVID-19 pandemic has become a worldwide crisis affecting people and businesses alike. Nothing ever prepared us for such a crisis. To say that the epidemic has caught various industries, including the call center industry, unprepared is an understatement.
With the virus taking its toll worldwide and CDC continuing to stress on social distancing and issuing strict regulations about how many people can be present in a single gathering, the call center industry took a big hit. Industry stalwarts started taking immediate action and transitioned a large number of its workforce to a home-based environment to support the business continuity plan of their clients in the best possible way.
While contact centers adapted to the transition pretty quickly, they have faced quite a few challenges in the process. And challenges are just lessons in disguise. If contact centres can learn from these challenges, they can achieve better resilience against any future crisis.
So, what are the lessons learned so far by contact centers from this global pandemic attack? Here we share a few lessons we have learned from the crisis.
Most contact centers have cramped working floors with shared equipment. Desk-sharing strategy or hot-seating is also common in call centers where agents can pick any unoccupied system in the workstation in their shift. Such shared and overcrowded workspace is a big no today. Therefore, contact centers were forced to move over fifty percent of their employees to a work-at-home environment. Previously agents chose to work from home, but today, it has become a requirement.
So, it is the responsibility of the call center to arrange the work-at-home setup needed for agents to operate from home. Many agents do not have computers, USB headsets, and other necessary tools needed for customer service. Those who have computers don’t know how to run the software, troubleshoot basic internet problems by themselves. So, equipping every home-based agent with the required tools takes a systematic approach and frequent demonstrating sessions from the IT team.
While having remote agents on the payroll allows you to hire the best talents from anywhere in the globe without having to accommodate them in your brick and mortar setup, the process is not devoid of challenges. A common challenge faced by call centers as they have to switch their on-premise operation to home-based setup suddenly is remote employee scheduling.
Agents need to follow their shift timing strictly to avoid overlapping and to provide 24/7 assistance as per the promise. To handle a large number of remote employees, contact centers are relying on workforce management software, time, and attendance systems greatly. It is helping them schedule thousands of agents in one go without chances of overlapping. However, stricter HR policies had to be implemented to make sure agents adhere to their allotted shift timings.
Another important continuity strategy the COVID-19 has taught call centers is the ability to flexibly and quickly change the location of operation to handle fast-moving emergencies.
Call centers must be flexible enough to close one or more office locations and reroute customer inquiries to alternative locations or reallocating agents across multiple active locations or businesses to handle the sudden surge in customer inquiries better. If you need to reallocate your customer service agents to a different sector, you must work hon prepping them in advance.
Though showing empathy has always been the priority for customer service, at present, it is even more important because everyone is affected by COVID-19 in some way.
For instance, maybe a customer is calling to enquire about the delayed delivery of emergency medicine, or another is calling to stop auto deduction of payments from his account because his employer hasn’t been able to pay him due to business loss. Therefore, it is expected from CX professionals to listen, think, and empathize so that customers feel that the company genuinely cares for them.
Employees are the biggest strength of any organization. Taking care of the company’s most valuable asset during a crisis like this is very crucial. If remote employees of your call center are not treated well, they won’t perform or act responsibly.
While for many, work-at-home gives a desirable work-life balance, some call center employees remain unhappy because their employers expect them to be available all the time as they are working from home. Such expectations only degrade performance. You have to ensure employees don’t burn out due to the excessive workload and compulsory overtime.
Offering fringe benefits to best performers, appreciating good works in front of the team over Skype or Zoom video conference will make them feel important and motivated as well.
To make the home-based agents feel a part of the team, the company can introduce some fun employee engagement activities. Introducing incentive programs to foster the spirit of healthy competition among the team while pursuing a goal is also a good idea.
Every crisis brings along new challenges and opportunities with it. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the call center industry to learn many new lessons, adopt a new working pattern, and excel despite the challenges to become an essential part of their clients’ business continuity plan.
The lessons learned from this crisis will surely help the call center industry be better prepared for any new crisis in the future. Sure, each crisis will have its challenges. But with quick learning, adaptability, and flexibility, call centers will be able to respond better to the crisis.
About Fusion BPO Services:
Founded in 2003, Fusion BPO Services is a global outsourcing services provider with dual headquarters in Draper, Utah in the US and Kolkata, India. Its end to end outsourcing solutions include the complete portfolio of integrated contact center services, accounts receivable management, and custom IT solutions. To meet client’s evolving strategic sourcing needs, Fusion BPO Services offers capabilities across eight countries – USA, Canada, UK, India, Philippines, El Salvador, Jamaica, and Albania.
Published: Monday, June 1, 2020
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