Best Practices for Supporting Vulnerable Customers in Times of Crisis

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In times of crisis, whether it be a natural disaster, a global pandemic, or unforeseen emergencies, contact centres play a crucial role in providing support and assistance to both customers and agents.

These moments of need demand heightened sensitivity and proactive measures to ensure the well-being of vulnerable customers while also supporting the mental health and effectiveness of agents.

In this blog post, we’ll offer valuable insights into effectively supporting vulnerable customers during times of crisis. We also shed light on how these moments can affect your agents and suggest ways to provide them with the necessary support.

How to Handle Vulnerable Customers – and Support Your Agents Along the Way

When crisis strikes unexpectedly, a one-size-fits-all approach to customer service won’t cut it. Heightened emotions, urgent needs, and disruptions to the everyday demand a concerted, tailored response that supports vulnerable customers and the agents who serve them.

Dive into a variety of best practices and tips below that will help you handle vulnerable customers when they need your contact centre the most.

Persona Customer Journeys

The first step in an effective crisis strategy is to make sure you’ve mapped out different customer journeys, identifying key touchpoints and pain points for various customer segments.

This allows agents to tailor their approach based on the specific needs of vulnerable customers, ensuring they receive the support and assistance they require promptly.

By understanding the customer journey, your contact centre can proactively address issues before they escalate and provide personalised care to those who need it most.

Forecasting and Scheduling

Effective forecasting and scheduling are critical during times of crisis. By leveraging historical data and predictive analytics, your contact centre can forecast call volumes and allocate resources accordingly.

This ensures that an adequate number of agents is available to handle incoming enquiries, minimising wait times and providing timely support to customers in need.

Additionally, flexible scheduling practices will allow you to adapt quickly to changing demand, ensuring optimal coverage during peak periods and taking in weather conditions and other environmental impacts.

Utilising IVRs to Route Calls Effectively

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems are valuable tools for contact centres to streamline call routing and prioritise enquiries during times of crisis.

By configuring IVR menus to offer self-service options for routine enquiries, your contact centre can alleviate pressure on your agents and expedite the resolution process for customers.

Furthermore, IVR can be used to identify and prioritise calls from vulnerable customers, ensuring they receive immediate assistance from trained agents.

By leveraging IVR effectively, you can improve efficiency, enhance customer satisfaction, and allocate resources more efficiently during crises.

Monitoring Customer Sentiment

In times of crisis, emotions run high, and customer sentiment can fluctuate rapidly. Tools such as sentiment analysis can monitor customer interactions in real-time, identifying signs of distress or frustration.

By gauging customer sentiment, agents can adjust their tone and approach, accordingly, showing empathy and understanding towards vulnerable customers.

Additionally, sentiment analysis enables you to identify emerging trends and issues, allowing you to address concerns promptly and prevent further escalation.

Why not also implement a follow-up system to ensure that vulnerable customers receive ongoing support beyond their initial interaction?

Regular check-ins demonstrate care and empathy, fostering stronger relationships and building trust over time.

The Impact on Agents

But it’s not just vulnerable customers that we need to look out for in trying times and moments of need. The increase in demand and often the situation itself can cause extra stress for your agents.

In fact, according to a study by the Institute of Customer Service, the number of agents who have experienced hostility from customers has risen by 10% since February 2022, with nearly half (45%) of those surveyed reporting that they have been subjected to hostility.

So, how can you best support your agents during these times?

The Right Tools for the Job

By providing your agents with the right tools to excel in their roles and strategically automating tasks where feasible, you will not only empower your agents but also streamline their workflow, enabling them to dedicate their energy to addressing the inquiries that truly make a difference.

Emotional Support Resources

Offering resources such as counselling services or support groups for agents grappling with their own emotional challenges can significantly contribute to fostering a supportive work environment.

This proactive approach not only nurtures the well-being of your team but also cultivates a culture of empathy and understanding, enabling agents to authentically extend compassion to customers during challenging interactions.

Additionally, designating mental health first aiders can foster mutual support among agents, ultimately enhancing morale and well-being.

Clear Communication Channels

Ensure that agents have access to clear communication channels to escalate issues or seek guidance when dealing with vulnerable customers.

Having a support network in place enables agents to provide better assistance without feeling overwhelmed. Consider implementing call-down periods after demanding calls to allow agents time to decompress.

Training Your Agents

Train agents to recognise signs of vulnerability, such as distress or confusion, and adapt their communication style accordingly. Offer personalised assistance, taking into account the unique needs and circumstances of each customer.

Using tools such as quality monitoring can help identify conversations that need attention based on customer feedback, performance data and text analytics and allow you to deliver personalised coaching programmes that have a real impact on your agent performance and improve customer experience.

Both agents and vulnerable customers during times of crisis require a proactive and compassionate approach.

Prioritising the well-being of both customers and agents fosters trust, loyalty, and resilience, helping you to strengthen your contact centre’s ability to weather any storm that may arise.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Calabrio – View the Original Article

For more information about Calabrio - visit the Calabrio Website

About Calabrio

Calabrio Calabrio is a trusted ally to leading brands. The digital foundation of a customer-centric contact centre, the Calabrio ONE workforce performance suite helps enrich and understand human interactions, empowering your contact centre as a brand guardian. We maximise agent performance, exceed customer expectations, and boost workforce efficiency using connected data, AI-fuelled analytics, automated workforce management, and personalised coaching. Only Calabrio ONE unites workforce optimisation (WFO), agent engagement, and business intelligence solutions into a cloud-native, fully integrated suite that adapts to your business.

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Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.

Author: Calabrio

Published On: 28th May 2024
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