What Happens When COVID-19 Takes the 'Center' Out of Call Centers?
With social distancing measures in place and sanitization precautions a major priority, "human touch" is probably the last thing customers want or expect from retailers right now. But what about the human voice? It's more important than ever.
In fact, service demand levels are spiking at companies across the board right now, even doubling in some cases. It's one of the more interesting — and surprising — externalities to result from the widespread shift to work-from-home models at companies today. And it's something that many of them are struggling with.
Here are three tips to help retailers rapidly adjust to the new world of center-less call centers — without compromising their service levels.
Introduce Remote Options for Onboarding and Training
Great customer service representatives probably weren't born that way; they were made, through excellent onboarding and training practices, that is. Yet these are two areas where companies were consistently missing the ball in the pre-shelter-in-place era. Back then, a paltry 12 percent of employees said their companies were doing a "great job" of onboarding new hires, according to Gallup.
Now that everyone's on lockdown, remote options for onboarding and training are the only way you're going to get new hires up to speed and ready to contribute in a timely manner. And bear in mind that 80 percent of employees believe working remotely increases their productivity on the job, according to this survey. Therefore, more robust remote work options should be a win-win.
Take Advantage of Advanced Collaboration Tools
How quickly and effectively call-center reps resolve service requests is the litmus test of your organization’s success. Your company's reputation — and potentially even the future value of a given customer — hang in the balance with every call. Just consider the following stats:
- The majority of customers will stop doing business with a company if they have a poor service experience.
- Meanwhile, table stakes keep getting higher: A full 59 percent of customers indicated that their expectations for customer support are greater now than they were one year ago.
In that context, it's critical to ensure all remote employees can quickly access the resources and information they need to be effective in their roles — and advanced workforce collaboration tools can help. Finally, if you aren't sure if employees have the tools they need, conduct an audit or simply send out a survey. One study found that 35 percent of employees don't feel like they have the right tools and equipment to work remotely. You don't want to count your organization among them.
Seek Support From Strategic Partners
We're in a moment of unprecedented change — and managing it is anything but simple. For companies attempting to rapidly overhaul their customer service operations while continuing to deliver top-quality service, there are a host of hurdles along the way. For example:
- How do you ensure the security of networks, software, phone lines and other technologies across a remotely distributed workforce?
- How can you safeguard the privacy of customer information when intake isn't happening in one supervised, centralized environment?
- What are the best practices for managing new contractors and integrating them into existing teams and processes?
Companies confronting these and similar challenges right now should consider all of the ways strategic partners can help. In fact, experts believe it will take some time for our economy to rebound from the impacts of COVID-19, which means more employees are expected to be displaced. Against that backdrop, strategic partners can help connect you with a pipeline of displaced workers that will contribute considerable business value.
We've recently seen a dramatic shift to remote work solutions at companies across industries — and along with it, unprecedented service desk volumes and similar requests for support. For those struggling to find qualified call-center staff should consider the three best practices outlined in this article. Strategically, it's your best bet for keeping vital roles filled while everyone remains on lockdown.
Greg Dyer is the president of commercial staffing at Randstad US, an employment/recruitment agency for temporary and permanent staffing.
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Greg leads a team of strategic account directors and in-house leaders at Randstad US. He has a proven track record of establishing solid go-to-market strategies, setting and communicating vision and goals, and executing and delivering outstanding results in terms of growth and profitability. He is responsible for strategic commercial sales, client delivery and account management for many of Randstad's largest, most complex clients. Under Greg’s leadership, Randstad has significantly improved its strategic client delivery and fulfillment in many client staffing programs.