How do we plan for the unexpected? Even more worryingly, how do businesses develop contingency plans for when operations must cease or significantly reduce in multiple cities and regions all at once?
We think of businesses ceasing operations in 2020 as something that will never happen. However, recent events have shown that this is not necessarily the case. The new coronavirus pandemic is bringing a sense of fear, yet typical contingency plans are not enough to battle the crisis. Now that the virus is a global issue, working from an alternative site is unlikely to be a solution.
How do businesses face such disruption and still ensure that regular day-to-day operations bounce back to usual within a matter of days? How do these organisations successfully protect their workforce from short and long-term unexpected change, as well as ensure the ripple effects of this are not passed to customers via a company’s customer service teams?
As COVID-19 remains an escalating health emergency, its impact on how brands are serving their customers cannot be ignored. Even the most seemingly stable of companies are stumbling as a result of enforced staff absence – and this includes customer service agents who act as the voice of a brand.
Unveiling the deeper issues
Coronavirus is indeed pushing businesses into drastic measures with regards to their customer service operations. However, it is in fact shining a somewhat premature light on the deeper issues and requirements that are bringing greater demands to the modern call center. Some may argue that with heightened customer expectations and the greater impact of unplanned events, these issues need to be solved now, rather than put off even longer.
The traditional contact center is operationally fragile, and at a time where businesses desperately need to achieve continuity, the fixed working model will no longer suffice. Organisations of all types need to be considering a modern approach to customer service, shifting away from traditional and fixed ways of working to a fluid model that flexes alongside strategized contingency plans.
Unfortunately for many businesses, it has taken a disastrous health emergency such as COVID-19 to make them realise that call center operations must be flexible in order to ensure business survival. As innovators are developing intuitive solutions to offer combined disaster recovery and personalised customer support, it is now the time for organisations of all types to re-consider their modern business contingency plans.
For example, advanced AI chatbots are now in the spotlight, and are commonly used by many businesses to answer low complexity questions. These chatbots are usually implemented as a part of an equally low-cost integrated AI support model. However, we all know that these chatbots aren’t the most intuitive for complex queries, or for those queries that require a more ‘human’ level of understanding and empathy. This is where gig customer service is taking charge.
With gig customer service, all customer queries are dealt with by gig workers logging into remote gig platforms, via a secure system from anywhere in the world. Gig workers on such platforms receive specialist training to support customers, and are successfully able to do so without being grounded to a physical customer service center. Gig customer service is the perfect example of a fluid model, and one that taps into the gig crowd network to provide businesses with additional talent pools to help manage an unexpected rise in customer enquiries. It is this flexibility in managing customer support that will help businesses achieve stability, should workers be forced out of fixed office environments.
In the event of medical emergency like seen as with COVID-19, businesses can also instil some stability by allowing staff to work usual business hours from the safety of their homes using gig platforms. These technologies are truly flexible, enabling customer service agents to work wherever they may be in the world. For a business’s contingency plan, it is the perfect solution.
Both of these options are sustainable ways of working in the event of disruption. In fact, they could represent the future of all customer service offerings, with staff being able to provide first class customer service without the need to be physically present in a call centre. Indeed, these models could be the vital answer for maintaining customer support and reducing the economic burden COVID-19 is having on business.
Although we hope it not be the case, such an event could happen again. Severe disruption could be just around the corner at any given moment, and now, companies are formulating these disaster recovery plans to ensure their survival. This has not gone unnoticed by governments across the world. For example, in the US, Congress has approved a bumper emergency aid package to combat the outbreak, while the UK government has acknowledged that up to a fifth of the workforce may be off sick during the peak of a coronavirus epidemic.
These fluid models are all about finding the comfortable balance between remote and onsite workers that can easily adapt to ever-changing and at times, volatile environments. Regardless of circumstance, technology of this sort is helping us to provide better, more optimised service in times of uncertainties