How Will the Coronavirus Affect Your Customer Service?

As the US braces for the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, business leaders are focusing on the potential impacts around profits, supply chain, and brick and mortar traffic.

What is lost in nearly all of these conversations is the impact on contact centers and field service operations.

Five Areas for Focus During the Crisis

Here are five things your contact center should focus on during this crisis.

1.  Create Custom IVR Prompts

Consider small changes to your IVR system with regard to COVID-19 operations. This could include adding up-front messaging around impacts on customer service or how the epidemic is impacting business. Providing COVID-19 related information right away to customers calling in may help reduce unnecessary calls and reduce call volume to agents.

IVR updates can also be used to direct customers to available online experiences, or to specialist teams for companies who may have particular repercussions on business due to the virus.

2.  Enable Workforce Management / Workforce Optimization

In many industries, contact centers will experience increased call volumes during this crisis. Quick staffing ramp-ups and the training it requires may take too long to provide the immediate relief needed for customer service teams. Unexpected absences will also likely impact staffing.

It is important during this time to actively keep track of changes in call volumes, average handle times, time to answer, and other metrics as often as you can (at a minimum, weekly tracking).  It is also important to have open communication with the entire organization, so that efforts taken during the crisis in other areas of the firm will not have an unexpected impact on the contact center team. 

Evaluate your staffing levels and adjust scheduling quickly to ensure that your company can best manage traffic and maintain a high-quality customer experience. If possible, consider work at home opportunities for agents as needed. Depending on your current technology, those capabilities may be relatively easy to implement.

3.  Allow Agents to Work Remote

Agents typically work in shifts and are physically present in the building to accept interactions. However, with the current crisis and the blocking of any assembly of groups of people, you should allow agents to work from home. Working remotely, agents can still handle their workloads without worry of causing further spread of the virus. However, you’ll want to ensure they are set up appropriately to effectively do their jobs. Temporarily deploying agents to work from home creates several challenges that must be overcome.

You can read about those challenges and how to overcome them in my colleague Ross Hartford’s post here

4.  Re-enforce Soft Skills

Both internally among teams and externally with customers. Soft skills like empathy, patience, concise communication, and problem-solving will likely be tested during the coming weeks. Remind teams of best practices, share examples from top performers, and openly discuss what works in certain situations (and what doesn’t).

5.  Manage Knowledge Share

As information or circumstances change within your organization, keep your team informed. Make sure they have access to the latest information and are able to leverage that knowledge quickly and accurately with customers as needed. This again reinforces the need for tight communication within the entire organization.

 

By focusing on these five key areas, your company can continue to provide the best customer experience to manage the current crisis.

 

Additional Help is Here for You

We have helped a number of our clients quickly respond to this crisis by updating their IVR prompts, evaluating their workforce optimization plans, and providing needed technical help during this time.

Do you need some outside help? Please check out our offer to help you. 

Chris Temper

Authored By Chris Temper

Christopher Temper is PTP's Inside Sales Team Leader and a demand generation specialist. Chris has built his career on providing exceptional customer service and delivering thoughtful, customized solutions that help companies drive results and ROI. Prior to PTP, Chris worked for companies including Cloud Sherpas, Santander and Accenture. In addition to his work at PTP, Chris serves on the executive board of a local trail advocacy group in his home town.

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