How contact centres can maintain 24-hour customer service during the pandemic | Mark Chana
BPOs like CCI South Africa work with various overseas clients. This means we must provide the same quality of service 24 hours a day, no matter the time zone. With COVID-19 bringing us all fresh challenges, here are some ways contact centre managers can achieve high quality 24/7 service levels.
Contact centres may be experiencing longer call wait times and a significantly increased number of calls due to the pandemic. At CCI South Africa, we quickly switched to a combination of remote working and altered shift patterns to ensure client service wasn’t compromised.
However, we all have to keep on top of the constantly changing situation to ensure that this high-quality service continues. We rely on systems in contact centres and have had to adapt every single one to manage this new way of working.
Of course, one of our biggest challenges as contact centre managers right now is to make sure agents are feeling properly supported and part of the team — whether working from home or the office. For those that have swapped to remote working, there is still a major adjustment being made. Here are some steps call centre leaders can take to ensure agents are happy and customer service continues without interruption.
1. Adjust the forecasting
Contact centres are working with fewer agents in the office and often with increased volume of calls. It’s not easy to predict how the next few weeks will play out, let along the long term. The pandemic is still causing lockdowns around the world, causing uncertainty all round.
When it comes to forecasting, use the data in a different way. Try gathering data from shorter time periods and use that to forecast a shorter time ahead. In other words, don’t try to forecast the next quarter — it’s just not possible right now. Instead, ensure your short term forecasts are based on the most recent, accurate data.
Review the way you’re using data to forecast on a regular basis. Events are still changing on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Stay on top of changing Government regulations and advice both in South Africa and any client countries. And check in with agents regularly to ensure that they’re not overloaded with customer queries. Make sure all channels are being fully utilised to deal with customers, so there is no overload on the phones.
2. Be flexible with scheduling
Managing agents who are split between the office and remote working needs a different approach to scheduling. Routines and normal shift patterns are usually not applicable right now. Stay flexible and adapt your scheduling approach to both agents and customers.
Customers may be calling in at different times as their new working patterns mean they’re not restricted to 9 to 5 office hours. And agents who are working from home will have to balance childcare, family, and other distractions associate with that. Working with them to find ways to sort their schedule will go a long way to helping their state of mind, level of engagement and motivation. This will all have a knock-on effect on the level of customer service.
3. Find new ways to monitor remote agents
Tasks still need to be monitored whether an agent is working remotely or from the office. And as the pandemic is going to create motivational challenges for some agents, finding ways they can self-monitor could help. Communicate regularly and openly with agents and encourage them to come forward if they need extra assistance.
Always ensure the appropriate level of support is offered and encourage self-monitoring. Targets still matter but empowering agents to report on their own performance will help them feel a part of the wider picture and encourage engagement.
These are unprecedented times and contact centres must adapt fast. Regular reporting, an understanding of external changes and, crucially, high levels of communication with agents, contact centres can pull through these challenges.