Changing working practices in contact centre operations – challenges & lessons
In these challenging times, keeping standards in customer care at their optimum levels is an exceedingly formidable challenge.
During the crisis, when customer interaction volumes are at their highest, having a simultaneous wholesale switch to remote working for contact centre staff is putting massive pressure on operators, supervisors, and managers alike. Maintaining standards needs not only a shift in the way that people work but also a change in attitudes and perceptions.
There’s a way through the current situation, however: with an open approach to communication, collaboration, mentoring and helping one another, the people who are now staffing contact centres from their homes are — with a little help from technology — able to cope.
Coping with high customer interactions volume
With the strains that everyone’s feeling currently, many contact centres are experiencing exceptionally high call volumes, plus digital communications via the usual channels, too. With other support options not available to customers and end-users (visiting the store, asking questions in person), the social effects of isolation are hitting home; it’s to the customer service agent that everyone needing help has to turn.
That puts the onus on the resilience, scalability and availability of the contact centre’s software platform, as you might expect. It also means needing software that’s suited to, and capable of absorbing sudden changes in the ways that people feel they want to communicate.
Where just a few weeks ago, communications would switch channel as people moved from home, to commute, to work — from call to messaging apps to SMS, for example — digital-only interactions are now the most common way customers are contacting companies.
What’s required to respond best to the current situation is a combination of technology — such as RingCentral Engage Digital — and a shift in the way that staff and their managers work.
Adapting to the challenges of staff changes
Of the many outcomes concerning the shift to remote working, one that’s worth acknowledging in this context is that employees will be behaving differently from normal. The proximity to close family and children, especially, will mean that staff will often need to work different hours from the usual shift patterns.
Furthermore, shifts might need to change suddenly, as people respond quickly to crises in the home or to fit into other householders’ work and life patterns in lockdown. There is, of course, an element of trust between staff and managers required in this respect, but the acceptance that change is inevitable in extraordinary circumstances is a critical first step everyone needs to take.
Gauging the room
Contact centre operation professionals have developed certain instincts for their work. But how much of that experience is contingent on being able to “read the room” by walking the contact centre floor? Now, ensuring that staff are getting the backing they need is more challenging. To monitor interactions between stressed end-users and a remote team is tricky — too heavy-handed and staff feel more pressure; too light a hand. Those at the virtual “coal face” begin to feel more isolated and unaided than they should.
With the right tools at their disposal, contact centre professionals can channel their instincts and experience into getting that balance right. Clearly, that will need innovative technology. It’s the type of oversight and individual backing for staff that solutions like RingCentral’s Collaborative Contact Centre cloud technology bring — and, it’s currently the subject of an offer of free seat licenses.
Keep your customer service up and running at all times
Commitment to keeping up the highest levels of customer care is currently requiring a realignment, both of technology but primarily of approach and attitude. The best contact centres can adapt quickly, and maintain a coherent working environment, one where efficiency is manifest in the ways it is still providing exceptional customer experiences, despite all the challenges.
To keep this momentum going in difficult times, RingCentral is offering free seat licences for 90 days for customer service agents, during this period of lockdown and limited movement. It’s a solution that’s well-suited for massively distributed contact centres which, of course, unfortunately, every contact centre now is.
The current baptism of fire in the complexities of remote working that most are experiencing is gradually being overcome, and there may well be significant changes to come. With proof-of-concept “testing” being forced on contact centre decision-makers and business owners, platforms like RingCentral’s are proving that not only can remote contact centre operations be achieved, but they can be maintained with little or no negative impact on the standards that have been worked for, often over many years.
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