Combating challenges in the contact centre during COVID-19

As lockdown eases, contact centres are starting to return staff from furlough or working from home it is worth remembering that COVID-19 is still rampant within the population as a whole, and advisers and those that work in contact centres are not immune. A safe, but productive environment should be the concern of every contact centre manager. This brief guide may be of help.

Demand V Customer Service

For those who are experiencing an increase:

  • Be proactive: Make use of communications which encourage your customers to self-serve in order to reduce call volumes

Quick wins: updating FAQ’s on your website, setting up or editing existing IVR recorded messages, sending WhatsApp & SMS updates, compiling online tutorials, offering digital forms. The more pro-active you are in communicating with your customers, the fewer inbound enquiries you should receive.

  • Reduce workload by also cutting down handle time

Consider reducing your workload by cutting down average handle time. Review your existing processes such as scripts, statements or automatic ID&V (identification and verification) checks you have in place. When was the last time someone reviewed these methods, can you save time during the call as well as improving customer satisfaction by cutting these processes down?

  • Channel Analysis: Review your operating model and consider which channels are working well and which aren’t

This is a time for reviewing which communication channels are working particularly with agents working from home. Are there some channels that agents are finding easier to maintain for customer communication and are there some channels where the infrastructure with remote working is just not coping? Also review the reasons why customers are using a particular channel, is it because they are being forced to because they can’t get through on their channel of choice.

  • Automation: Consider which processes you can be automating so that your staff can focus on the more important tasks

As well as using automation to free up agents’ time, why not also consider it as a tool to help temporary or lower skilled staff to guide them through a complex process. As well as considering automation in the contact centre, look at the back office too, why not also consider cutting down long winded processes in order to reduce metrics such as average handling time and agent workload?

For those who are experiencing a decrease, now is the time to focus on the following:

  • Upskilling staff – there will be busier times ahead!

  • Coaching

  • Training

  • 121’s

  • Annual Leave/Time Banking

  • Duvet Days/Study Days

Insights & Regaining Control

Do you have access to the data you need? Working remotely can mean it is difficult to keep a pulse on what’s happening in your contact centre. Visibility of this data, particularly with homeworking is critical. Here are our top tips on maintaining visibility:

  • Ask yourself whether you have the insights you need and whether you are interpreting this data in the best way to manage your contact centre through this unprecedented situation

Consider what you are measuring and what actions you can take from it. For example, make sure you compare stats pre COVID and post COVID. This will uncover rich data such as agent skillsets which are being impacted the greatest. In order to uncover this data, make use of the existing tools you already have (such as your telephony system or your WFM system) which contain reporting capabilities. Also don’t forget to consider Real-Time Adherence. Real-Time Adherence is a great indicator of a change in performance and therefore agent morale and, lack of schedule adherence can be flagged with alarms. It can highlight where a member of your team may be struggling with the workload and gives you excellent visibility of of agent productivity.

  • Find out what your customers are saying

It’s more important now than ever to listen to your customers. One way to gain a holistic view of all your interactions (especially when remote working), is with Interaction Analytics. Interaction Analytics can show you why demand has gone up and whether you can be doing something proactive. It can also show you how your agents are coping – when building search queries for example, include keywords such as ‘running slow’ and ‘not working’ which lets you see what your agents are talking about.

  • Identify inefficiencies with processes and staff

Let’s not forget that the back office is just as vital as the front office in a contact centre. Back Office solutions can enable you identify inefficiencies amongst staff and within certain processes so you can target coaching and training around this. This will help prevent failure demand and improve customer experience.

Agent Engagement

With 60% of our webinar attendees reporting an increase in their agent stress levels in these current times, what practical steps can you put in place to reduce these levels? How to improve agent engagement:

  • Communication is KEY

Make sure you are communicating regularly with your team to boost morale

  • Adjusting KPI’s and Targets

Keep in mind that this is an unusual time and some of the existing KPI’s you have in place will not be relevant in the short term so consider re-assessing these in order to avoid piling unnecessary stress on agents. If you re-align targets which offer hope and encouragement for your agents, morale and engagement will be boosted.

  • Shift Patterns

Consider offering different shift patterns for your agents during this time, especially for those who are having to homeschool. Although this will take time if you have to realign shifts and rotas, it will have a significant effect on your employee engagement and happiness. It may also help those who need support with changes in demand / demand profiles as agent availability may look very different when working from home (no longer needing to travel to offices in many cases and this may mean early/late shifts are now possible for many, where they were not before).

  • Match Agent Personality with Customer Scenarios

You may be dealing with upset customers more than ever during this time. Why not identify the agents who are best at dealing with those difficult calls and upskill them if required, making these agents even better at what they do? This also means you are protecting your agents and customers alike; vulnerable customers are dealing with the most experienced agents and these agents are appropriately trained to deal with these scenarios.

  • Gamification

Gamification can boost employee morale and engagement. Some metrics which are relevant to gamify now might be NPS or CSAT scores.

Future Proofing & Compliance

With all our webinar audience agreeing that some form of homeworking will be part of their strategic future plans, it’s important to consider what the world of remote working will mean in the long run. Here are our top tips to consider with homeworking (in the short-term and the long-term):

  • Take advantage of remote working solutions out there

There is an array of technology out there to assist remote working and the regulators will still be expecting organisations to keep a tab on communications for compliance purposes if you are within an industry that is monitored. It’s also worth not just thinking about the short term remote working solutions you need, but how these short-term solutions will fit into your future strategic goals.

  • Assessing what worked and what didn’t

Transitioning to work from home in a business and compliance sense will take time and will require reliable technology so don’t rush! When things have calmed down, take time out to assess productivity levels during this period – what worked and what didn’t?

  • Look after your employees

Homeworking can be a big step for some employees. Make sure they are taking their lunches and coffee breaks, and these are away from their dedicated workspaces. Also use collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams to encourage communications between employees building morale and engagement.

Author: Alex Stenton-Hibbert – Sales Team Manager,

Business Systems (UK) Ltd

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