The massive impact of Covid-19 on call centers and customer support teams must drive a significant call to action for leaders of these organizations. In particular, there are three actions every customer operations leader must consider.
The Employee Perspective
Call centers in certain industries have been deemed “essential” by the Department of Homeland Security. Employees of these call centers are expected to risk their own health, and the health of their families, by coming to work.
If the employees do not come to work, they may face repercussions, up to and including termination. This, at a time, when having health insurance is critical.
Writer Hamilton Nolan recently interviewed call center workers across industries and published the article, “Worried Call Center Workers Do Not Understand Why They Are Risking Their Lives for Customer Service”.
Per Nolan, call center employees feel that their employers have been very reactive during this crisis. The measures they have taken are not sufficient to protect them from the virus. They are being asked to risk their lives for relatively low paying jobs.
The Consumer Perspective
During this crisis I have had to contact a number of technology providers for help with time sensitive issues. And, I have been unpleasantly surprised at the enormous drop in customer service speed and quality.
I incorrectly assumed that if a company specializes in technology, automation or eCommerce that they would have stellar online help and/or enable their employees to work from home as part of their disaster recovery plans. This is definitely not the case.
If I get asked to talk to an “automated service bot” again, I might scream – LOL! When I wrote the recent blog post, “3 ways AI will enhance customer experience”, I had no idea how applicable it would be to our current circumstances.
AI blogger, Kyle Wiggers, recently shared that COVID-19 has accelerated the need for AI-powered contact center messaging. And, that some of these call centers are deploying solutions before they are ready. That is likely the case as almost every CRM and AI provider has updated their offerings to address Covid-19 work demands.
The Avaya website states, “This pandemic is changing where and how we work—right now, and possibly for a while. Avaya can help with remote work solutions for employees and contact center agents.”
Salesforce.com just launched “Salesforce Care for Employee and Customer Support”. This is a pre-configured employee help center, customer service, and contact center application for responding to inquiries fast, and keeping customers and employees informed. Salesforce is also offering free 24×7 support with Salesforce experts to help customers successfully deploy and use the Salesforce Care solutions.
Replicant just released AI Voice Responder. Per its press release, this AI solution can be deployed within days to answer customer calls, prioritize them based on urgency, and respond to frequently asked questions. This will help free up the live agents to address more complex issues.
3 Calls to Action For Leaders
The massive impact of Covid-19 on call centers and customer support teams must drive a significant call to action for leaders of these organizations.
These leaders must:
- Proactively design a work from home program that maintains company security measures, while providing employees the flexibility to work from anywhere in a crisis. Red tape can not overshadow reality.
- Re-evaluate call center and customer support staff compensation. Offer front line employees pay and benefits that more closely align with their value. Covid-19 has shined a light on the importance that front line employees offer to a business, in good times and bad.
- Modernize customer support operations and leverage better processes and tools to increase flexibility and allow organizations to do more with less.
- Tools automate good processes. Step one is evaluating customer facing processes and streamlining and enhancing where necessary.
- Step two is leveraging CRM, AI and other tools to automate processes and free up agents to focus on the most pressing matters.
The time to act is now!
© 2020, Marci Reynolds. All rights reserved.