COVID-19: 3 Simple Steps to Handle Increased Contact Centre Demand

A picture of three steps

Tony Lorentzen of Nuance shares three simple steps to address COVID-19 demands in your contact centre.

Over the last few weeks, contact centres have organized and implemented strategies that increase capacity, automate more conversations and enable agents to work effectively and safely from home.

From helping contact centres through this difficult period, here are some recommended best practices to enterprises regarding how to service the increased demand from consumers.

Each of these tips is grouped into three steps to consider as your team addresses peak demands.

Step 1: Audit Your Current System and Offerings

Address Your Agent Routing Set-up: Because your agents may be reassigned, work remotely, or in worst-case scenarios, not able to work at all, determine if any changes will need to be made when it comes to sending inbound calls or chats to their appropriate destinations. In some scenarios, you may have to direct customers calling in by phone to other forms of communication (e.g. chat via your app or website)

Conduct a Quick Audit of Your Information and Offerings: In some cases, the services you’re offering may no longer be relevant. For example, if you have a pharmacy application, and you may consider switching to a “delivery-only” or “drive-thru-only” se-up; and you may need to update your system’s existing verbiage or options. If you tell consumers the hours of operation, be sure those are still accurate.

Step 2: Determine Necessary Changes That Need to Happen

Work With Your Conversational AI Team to Recognize Inbound Calls and Messages That Mention “Coronavirus”: If you are using natural language (e.g. “How can I help you today?”), coordinate with your team so that your system can recognize various utterances or mentions of “coronavirus” like “COVID”, COVID-19″, “the virus”, “corona”. If you don’t have natural language recognition, consider adding an up-front question to address coronavirus issues.

Consider Shifting Inbound Voice Calls to Digital: To address the high call demands, allow customers to seamlessly shift to digital. This could be accomplished with simple prompts pointing a customer to the website or, more effective, offer the option and use SMS to send a link to the customer’s mobile device so they can seamlessly switch modalities.

Leverage Transcription Technology: If contact centre agents are not available, leverage real-time transcription technology to create a script of a caller’s request which your agents can work on in free time, using a proactive outbound communication system to send SMS and email to provide the caller with the necessary information.

Broadcast Key Messages Upfront: What is the first thing you want to convey to customers reaching out? You may consider proactively addressing extended wait times. In other cases, you may want to communicate a concrete message that could reduce calls to your agents (e.g. “There will be no cancellation penalty or change fees for reservations made before [date].”)

Keep Your Message Concise: To make sure your message is well received, avoid a lengthy introduction. Consumers are aware of the current situation so keep focused on what you are doing to address it. If the business wants to express concern, just use a short simple phrase and move quickly to informative content.

Strategically Place Your Updated Information: If you need to communicate more than one message to callers, work with your business team to determine which message has the highest priority. That one should be the first message customers hear. For example, you may want to just put the “extended hold times” message at the end of the exchange, just before it is transferred to a live agent.

Have Backup Voice Talent Ready: In the case of voice channels, new automated messaging may need to be recorded quickly, at a time when your existing voice talent is unavailable. If that happens, it’s best to use another trained voice talent in a professional recording studio that closest matches your existing talent, to avoid caller confusion or reduced credibility.

Step #3: Monitor and Reassess

Once you have updated your system, it’s critical to monitor logs and reports to see if changes are necessary. In normal times, it is recommended to let new enhancements “sit” for a few weeks to gauge how individuals respond. In today’s unique case, you may need to make quick adjustments. Keep track of misrouted calls, hang-ups, or any other indication that adjustments may be needed.

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