The truth is that the world wasn't prepared for the pandemic and to sum up the last 12 months, it was a proverbial paradigm shift to unconventional methods to keep businesses from folding. Small businesses that relied upon minimal infrastructure were worst hit because they had no other means to get their business engine to turnover. Although we aren't completely out of the pandemic's shadow, industries have begun mobilization and the momentum is driving demand once again across service sectors. When call centers were flaming out during the lockdown, many were of the notion that this was the beginning of the end for call centers. But months later, it proved otherwise. Businesses learned to navigate challenges to prevent another flameout. Today is a very different place for call centers than it was till a year ago. So in this article, we will focus on what best call center practices to consider to increase your preparedness in the post-COVID world.
17 Useful Tips for Contact Centers in the Post-COVID World
Where the world is headed post-COVID isn't fully known as we are only making a breakthrough bit-by-bit. There is a long learning curve ahead to infer what will be. But we have some tips that you can imbibe today to increase your momentum when 100% normalcy is restored. Here they are -
Evolve Around the Outbreak and Work with Demands
If you're still looking at hiring agents to fill empty work cubicles, it could be counterintuitive to containing the spread of the virus and would be the same as ignoring the elephant in the room. Neither will 100% remote working address the existential crisis that most businesses face today. The effective way, as per the poll data, is to have a hybrid model that focuses on flexibility, productivity, and agent well-being. It is believed hybrid is the new normal of call centers to strike the right balance because a majority of IT forces and decision-makers approve of it.
It's Time to Stringently Review Data Security
2019 saw the highest number of data breaches in the US alone, where numbers soared as high as 1506. To further exasperate woes, the astronomical cost of fixing breaches stood close to $39 M. Most breaches accounted for involved phishing and ransomware downloaded as harmless files on employee devices. These figures should be worrisome as statistics were based on data from pre-COVID times whereas employees worked full-time from an all-encompassing infrastructure. Now imagine not having the infrastructure to alert and defend remote assets from online frauds. These risks can be effectively dealt with by educating agents about vulnerabilities before telecommuting. Here, system admins play a pivotal role in containing breaches because they must routinely monitor agent behavior and regulate access to websites and software. So more power and emphasis should go to the governance of remote machines and agent education to keep data safe.
Include Social Media in your Corporate Communication Strategy
Today, social medial is not just the mouthpiece of businesses. It is a two-way channel for listening and communicating with an audience to build more audience. In the post-COVID world, contact centers should pay more attention to social media engagements to measure people's sentiments. While it's praiseworthy to drive engagement via human agents and chatbots, social media works as a personal tool to know your audience in person. In 2021 and beyond, social media will take the center stage to improve brand credibility. While in the present, we have biometric methods to authenticate social users, in the future, it'll be social media.
Automate Quality Assurance (QA)
We've seen call centers being exceptional at measuring KPIs and grading engagements via phone but the same can't be said in the case of other digital channels. They still lack the finesse to achieve visibility into what actions have been taken against an inquiring customer. Moving ahead, it's vital to use smart tools to have the client journey visible in the sales pipeline. It helps in spotting bottlenecks way before their actual occurrence. In remote working environments, a manual QA is likely to become a hurdle so businesses might need automation to deal with trainee errors that are systematically handled to avoid reoccurrence.
Voice Will Drive Customer Experience
The pandemic dislocated the backbone of the in-person delivery model. Organizations that heavily depended on this approach were the worst hit. To address this situation, call centers are now placing voice in the heart of their customer touchpoint where first encounters take place. Empowering call centers to speak to customers would humanize interactions like it did in the pre-COVID era. This method emphasizes values than projecting a corporate image where a human agent is rarely the first interaction. Having an empathetic communication strategy makes customers lend an ear to let you help them. That said, the next important concern is how you can transmit and receive voice clearly without vexing customers. It's important to expand your inventory with noise cancellation earphones that don't transmit anything besides the agent's voice.
Place Customers at the Heart of Contract Center
Previously, the customer-centric approach was easier because the experience was delivered from a well-equipped infrastructure. However, in the future when the hybrid system kicks in, customers would have gotten used to the new model which isn't as taut as it used to be. This would agitate them if businesses decide to roll back into previous methods.
It's necessary to use chatbots and other similar technologies to avoid chokepoints in call volumes, but carefully. It only takes minor missteps to frustrate customers before they turn hostile to technology-enabled support. As business philosophy evolves, it might be a good thing to see if your digital delivery is in line with customer expectations to maintain competitiveness.
Put More Emphasis on Talent than Location
As remote-hybrid working takes shape, organizations will have more flexibility in hiring. They can tap into offshore markets for talents who can work via remote infrastructure. If your company can adopt the remote onboarding strategy, you can maintain competitive edge by bringing high-powered employees under your fold who can independently manage targets. The post-COVID is the time to expand your talent pool by reaching agents who are physically disabled, single parents, or other capable talents looking for remote working opportunities.
Customer Demand for Complex Support Increases
In a survey by Calabrio, it was found that customer expectation has grown in folds during the pandemic. Some experts predict that customer's urge to want more out of customer service is likely to stay. The transition that we are currently facing will lead to customers wanting personalized experience in areas with limited scope, causing a crisis within customer-facing teams who can't figure how best to satisfy their clients through customer experience. It'll cause a deluge of phone calls and requests from agitated customers citing technical issues. Moving ahead, businesses should find ways to strike a perfect balance between bot-assist and agent support to render an experience closest to what customer expects.
Customer Journey Maps Will Need Tweaking
Processes have altered during the pandemic causing a shift in customer experience from what was to what is. Therefore to align with the change, it may be imperative to adjust customer journeys. With the increase in eCommerce-like adoption, customer behavior is never going to look the same it did in the past. It might force small and large businesses to look closer at behaviors to engage customers strategically. One of several instances we've seen this occur is the delivery times that have been pushed further due to high demands.
Prioritize Employee Mental Health
Up in the list of manager's priorities are employee's mental wellbeing because it directly impacts the level of experience received by callers. In post-COVID times telecommuting has placed the spotlight on those working extended shifts. Not having a clear view of how your team is coping with stress will lead to more challenges. So it's important to invest in technologies that allow tracking your team and their emotional levels to ensure their skills are optimally used without burnouts. Using real-time analytics will give an insight into the agent's stress levels.
Communicate Casual Messages to Phenomenal Ideas with Videos
In 2021 and beyond we're likely to see a spike in demand for videos across contact centers. There are more ways through which video is revolutionizing call centers. Some of which include staff training, remote team meetings, customer engagements, and employee welfare reviews. Especially when it comes to customer engagement, video has helped in explaining to customers how products work or how services are delivered like it is done F2F. Videos have also proven as an ideal tool to educate the audience about the company, its offerings, and other insight that are straightforward as reading text from a book. With a larger-than-life practical application, use video whenever wherever possible to your advantage.
Cloud: The New Beginning for Businesses of the Future
We have seen a mass migration of businesses into the Cloud and the large-scale adoption is not without fruit. Many organizations that have transitioned have managed to keep costs under check by minimizing dependency on expensive infrastructure. The virtualization helped many organizations to have their visions come to life as the engagement was nearly the same as in-store experience for their clients. Cloud is now the most standard choice from Google to unicorn startups. In the post-COVID world, the demand will soar for a Cloud-based business model and it's better to be prepared for the change than take the last flight. With the hybrid model taking flight, Cloud providers are geared to handle the demand to migrate business partially or fully.
Measure and Interpret Numbers with Metrics and Smart Dashboards
Want to know what numbers are telling, give your call center the ability to read numbers and their hidden meanings to help take a transformative step. With the call center being a hub for communication, every phone call, email, and clickthrough creates data points that tell something. If you want this information translated into actionable events, start adopting analytics to populate your dashboards with information that you can understand and make decisions based on it. Moving forward, data will be seen as the pillar, and analytics the altar where it all converges to provide meaningful insights. Tomorrow's business leaders will need one or more of these metrics data to tell them where their business is headed and how best to recognize opportunities.
Track Engagements to Deliver Greater Experience
If you want your agents to deliver a great customer experience, they'll need the right kind of support from your organization. So how to tell you're incentivizing agents to help them do better? You'll need the power of analytics. It reads patterns from client interactions in real time through speech, sales qualification, and more to tell how your teams are performing. For sample size, we recommend using not just the recent data, but also old ones to improve the manager's ability to guide and coach if needed. The analogy is that a happy agent brings more value than those in a pressure cooker.
Properly Managing Relationships with Vulnerable Customers
COVID-19 has transpired into a crisis for not just service providers but also service receivers. Unemployment, illness, financial insecurity, and there are many more issues that became exasperated by the pandemic. Therefore, the onus is on organizations to identify vulnerable customers and manage relationships through real-time interactions, and an empathetic approach.
Gamify the Work Environment to Stimulate Productivity
With most companies entering the second year of the pandemic, there is fresh fear of productivity lag with agents seeking comfort in the work from home culture. Some say returning workers may not be as productive as they might have been the last year. To overcome this situation, businesses must ensure a positive work environment through constant engagement and recognizing contributors to improve morale. A great way to achieve this beyond financial incentive to gamify the environment with leaderboards, badges, and points.
Enable Agents to do More with Knowledge Base
With increasing workload, triggered by the spurt in business reopening, agents deserve a great amount of autonomy and agility to cope with the surge in queries. With 80% of agents working independently, it's no longer an option to turn around and seek help from colleagues. So you must make standard answers quickly available to agents to improve their agility in serving customers in a fast-paced environment.
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