Last week I wrote part one of our COVID-19 blog series discussing the current impacts the virus is having on the call center and customer experience industry. Companies are shutting down call center operations and looking at alternative ways to meet customer needs. Many are supplementing their call center operations with additional remote agents, while others are looking to advanced cloud technology and AI to provide customer support without human interactions.
Since writing my initial post, many cities have shut down all non-essential places of work. Some of the epicenters of the virus are completely confined to their homes. All industries are undergoing swift change to support a remote workforce. Many companies are making necessary changes to support the current situation, but I am curious what impacts it may have long-term.
How will COVID-19 change the call center space right now and long-term? Will it make a lasting impact as companies better prepare themselves for any potential crisis in the future?
I asked CX industry leaders, Christa Heibel, CEO and Founder of CH Consulting, John Goodman, Vice Chairman at Customer Care Measurement and Consulting, and our very own Ted Hunting, SVP of Marketing at Bright Pattern “How do you think COVID-19 will change the contact center industry?”
Author and CX expert, John Goodman provided an interesting perspective on how COVID-19 will change the contact center space, not only from the operational perspective, but how consumers will act differently due to shifts in their schedules. Goodman stated, “Beyond the obvious staffing challenges which are mitigated by at-home reps, customer needs and attitudes should evolve and contact centers can leverage and cater to these changes.”
As consumers have become more mobile in the last decade, new channels have emerged to help consumers access customer support when they’re unable to talk on the phone. Because people are currently in less of a hurry with nowhere to go, Goodman thinks that customers will be more willing to try self-service options, listen to full IVR menus (within reason), and take on some onerous tasks over the phone. For example, Goodman talked on how he was able to update the information on his insurance, which he had been meaning to do for nearly a year.
Netflix stock continues to rise as more consumers are turning to online streaming services during the COVID-19 pandemic, but what will customers do when they realize they have binged all the binge worthy shows? Goodman believes that consumers will begin to look to education and try to learn new things and be creative during this time at home. “I’ve been meaning to view videos on Microsoft Teams and Salesforce applications for months. I may actually do it now,” said Goodman. He continued to recommend companies to resend educational materials that will make the customer smarter and less apt to make mistakes as well as getting more value out of the product. For example, PetSmart has videos on pet care and training. Which are stand-alone but also subtly push hiring a trainer.
“Alexandra Petri pointed out in the Saturday Washington Post that Newton discovered Gravity during the plague in 1687,” said Goodman. This is a time to be more creative with our time. Goodman recommends asking customers for new product ideas and solicit articles, videos, and testimonials from customers. “Legos asks customers and kids to submit new model ideas – while some companies actually offer a small % of the resulting revenue, most just give recognition – like Starbucks would publish your picture,” said Goodman.
Christa Heibel, founder of a leading CX consulting firm, agreed that the pandemic will have a lasting effect on how contact centers interact with customers. “The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many traditional brick and mortar operations to move to work at home models as we deal with this crisis. I predict that this will open up new labor and create a new focus on global, multi-vendor workforce management capacity planning and contingencies,” said Heibel.
CX speaker and industry expert Ted Hunting thinks that companies are beginning to rethink their business models like never before.“Work from home models will become more readily accepted. Not just in the contact center industry but for employees in every industry, leading to a higher quality of life for employees,” said Hunting.
Hunting continued, “Large enterprises who saw cloud computing for their contact centers as ‘less secure’, are now seeing that on-premise solutions can actually pose significantly greater risks to their businesses continuity and the safety of their people.”
Hunting also believes that the realization of the importance and need for dispersed workforces will accelerate the already strong wave toward mobility and communication over different channels (communication that is more effortless). “Now more than ever companies will realize that employees empowered through cloud applications and easier ways to communicate are critical to company success and employee safety and quality of life,” said Hunting. “Companies will now see this as a “win-win” for company and employee satisfaction, where in the past it was often seen as a tradeoff.”
Hunting left the conversation on a positive note. “With every crisis, goodness usually follows and I believe that will happen after COVID-19 too,”said Hunting.
If you are experiencing a spike in calls as a result of the outbreak or need to deploy a remote workforce, Bright Pattern is prepared to deliver consultations and cloud services to existing and new customers. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 925-548-0532, or request a demo.