Crisis in the Call Center (Part 2) – How To Combat High Call Volume During a Crisis


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handle-call-center-crisisBy definition, a crisis means there’s no time to plan. Even top teams fail to understand what it takes to plan for disruption. That’s why so many businesses were caught flat-footed during this recent coronavirus outbreak. According to McKinsey, “companies that navigate disruptions better often succeed because they invest in their core customer segments and anticipate their behaviors.”

This crisis is bringing a surge in disruption regardless of the business vertical. When the world’s biggest technology firms are curtailing travel, canceling events or encouraging people to work from home (even my employer has issued a global work-from-home policy), you know it’s only a matter of time before contact centers will have to make some hard decisions.

What if your agents must work remotely? Remote work presents new challenges to onboarding and training. Is your organization prepared for that very real possibility? Travel, hospitality and airlines are experiencing record call volume. Hospitals and other healthcare providers need help with managing high contact volumes, as public health agencies advise citizens to call rather than to visit their healthcare providers. As we refrain from travel considerably, the disruption affects several other industries too.

Let’s think about these contact center challenges differently and approach old problems in a new way.

3 Myths About Self-Service Adoption

During a crisis, companies need a reliable, repeatable system for handling customer interactions. First, you must start with a deep understanding of their mindset. What are their preferred behaviors? What are their needs? What are their habits? Where are they on the digital adoption spectrum?

Then, we’ll help you work backward to find the right solution. Let’s start by debunking a few CX myths.

Myth No. 1 – Build it and they will come. Getting people to take any action or follow a path that you decide is best rarely works. Think of the travel and hospitality industries right now. If you have a question about your itinerary, booking or travel insurance, you do not want to hear a computer-generated voice telling you, “We are experiencing high call volume. Your estimated wait time is 50 minutes. Please visit our website for important policy information.”

Please don’t ask me to read the fine print.

Digital self-service software exists that guides customers through an intuitive process. Guided self-service can help them through the entire experience with little friction when you place their needs and wants front and center. 

Giving an anxious customer a logical, ordered, clear pathway lets them know you care. And during a crisis, this can mean the difference between keeping a customer or losing them for life. For example, you can use voice and visual multimodal coaching every step of the way. You can answer questions using a bot. You can engage proactively with personalized “next best actions” where appropriate.

Myth No. 2 – Demographics matter. We all make assumptions about age and gender when it comes to technology. If you assume that Baby Boomers prefer to talk to an agent and Millennials only want to text or chat, you’d be wrong.

The truth is much more nuanced. Psychographics play a greater role in digital adoption. Intent and effort matter. Questions to consider when mapping an intelligent assistant customer journey would be:

  • Are customers aware that self-service options are available?
  • Is it easy for them to find the right self-service tools specific to their needs?
  • Does digital support maximize first contact resolution?
  • Are digital channels connected to provide a seamless escalation to a customer service representative?

Myth No. 3 – Self-service for high-value, high-risk interactions doesn’t work.

When the stakes are high, you can still get people to use self-service. Here’s where putting yourself in your customer’s shoes can help shift your perspective.

What may be perceived as high-risk by the call center may represent high effort for the customer. If you offer an effortless option that resolves your customer’s issue, self-service would not be a burden; they’d be willing and eager to use self-service.

This is especially true when a customer feels anxious or stressed and doesn’t want to wait to speak to a human associate. Again, think of the travel, insurance, hospitals, hospitality, airlines — all are experiencing high call peaks due to the coronavirus.

Leadership During Times of Crisis

Take your customers by the hand and lead them down a clear path. You are now witnessing a powerful moment in the customer journey.

In times of crisis, people are hoping for three virtues from a business: empathy, clarity, and guidance. Companies that stay close to their customer and respond quickly and with compassion will survive any crisis.

Read Part 1 in the Series: How To Prepare Your Call Center for Coronavirus

Join the conversation. Register for our upcoming webinar: How To Combat High Call Volume During Times of High Anxiety.

Nicolette Beard
As a former publisher and editor, I'm passionate about the written word. I craft content to help drive the autonomous customer experience (CX) revolution. My goal is to show call center leaders how to reduce the increasing complexity of the customer journey.


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