Over its first year, COVID-19 lockdowns and high case counts forced many offices to close. While this sparked big challenges for contact centers suddenly faced with overwhelming call volumes, it did have an unexpected silver lining around remote work.
Soon, businesses realized they didn’t need to spend money on rent to operate with the right tools and infrastructure. By the end of 2020, 71% of employed adults were working from home. Additionally, 54% would like to continue to work remotely when the pandemic is over.
Remote work is the reality for many industries, including call centers. According to experts, the remote call center has become the “new normal.” Call centers are more vital now than ever, as customers have more questions and require more customer care. Plus, the work-from-home landscape has also changed the way contact centers use call center technology and software as well.
Top challenges call centers faced during COVID-19.
COVID-19 brought challenges for everybody, contact centers especially. Here are some of the top challenges contact centers faced during COVID-19.
Staffing and turnover.
Agent attrition was a common challenge for call centers even before the pandemic. However, 80% of call centers report stagnating or worsening agent attrition during the pandemic.
DID YOU KNOW?
The COVID-19 pandemic caused 80% of call centers agent attrition to either stagnate or worsen.
And it’s no wonder! Call center agents were always tasked with demonstrating empathy towards customers. But, customers’ increased demand for empathy during COVID-19 was a big burden for agents, many of whom had their own woes as a result of the pandemic.
Recruitment efforts to fill those empty roles was also a huge issue. Increased inbound customer calls meant call centers needed to compensate for high call volumes with reduced staff and new trainees. This resulted in long customer wait times, high abandon rates, and stress for both customers and agents.
Higher customer expectations.
Customer expectations are higher now than ever. Customers want accurate and immediate answers. If not, the consequences could be catastrophic. The remote call center must meet these new standards, or face dips in customer loyalty and satisfaction.
“One lasting impact of the pandemic will be “immediacy.” The need to be available to engage at whatever time and in whichever channel the customer chooses.”
— Peter Lavers, CX and Customer Service Expert, Founder of ThinkCX
Incompatible technology and agent training.
COVID pushed us towards the remote call center, requiring new or updated call center technology for many businesses. Agents need this software to provide an excellent customer experience from their homes.
Of course, training became a big challenge for those who only had in-person training tools and processes, which further highlighted its importance. This also had a huge impact on agent satisfaction levels.
Today’s most popular remote call center technologies.
Here are some call center technologies that took on a different meaning in the age of the remote call center. For most, their purpose became more important during the pandemic.
Thousands of businesses and call centers embraced cloud-based technology during the pandemic. Even healthcare providers used it to facilitate COVID-19 vaccine appointments!
Cloud-based technology allows you to have one system to handle all inbound and outbound calls and messages for your call center. With cloud-based technology, contact center solutions will offer more flexibility and scale easily with your business.
AI is steadily becoming a vital part of omnichannel service, allowing businesses to connect with customers more easily via online platforms. For instance, chatbots that leveraged AI technology were popular before the pandemic, but customers rely on them more now than ever.
It’s important to remember that the value of AI-assisted technology isn’t about providing flashy solutions to your customers, but rather, to enhance the customer support experience. AI helps contact centers facilitate a more human experience, while helping customers gain access to real-time answers.
Now more than ever, remote call centers need AI to tackle longer customer queues, ease the pressure off remote call center agents, and facilitate a more human experience to match the empathy that customers now expect.
AI can help your contact center make sense of customer data and better address customer concerns.
We discussed earlier that customers expect immediacy from call centers. And you’ll get little sympathy from those stuck on hold, whether or not you’ve been dealing with the effect of the pandemic.
That’s why call-back technology saw a huge surge in popularity during this period. In fact, Instead of making customers wait, Fonolo’s Voice Call-Backs offer customers a call-back option as an alternative to waiting on hold.