Social distancing. Work from home. Flatten the curve. These are terms that are now part of our everyday lives. Our new reality impacts the way we live, work, and play, and everyone is learning to adapt to the many changes we’re experiencing thanks to COVID-19.
The contact center is on the forefront of many of these changes. As essential workers in many cases, contact center agents are on the frontlines providing information to consumers, citizen, patients, students, and so on. In many cases, face-to-face interactions are not an option, requiring contact centers to play an increasing role throughout the customer journey.
Across a range of vertical industries, many contact centers have had to quickly adapt to increased interaction volumes. Call and email volumes for travel and hospitality businesses skyrocketed as travel plans continue to be cancelled or changed. In the meantime, hospitals and health care-related organizations are receiving more calls and inquiries than ever before, as people seek information on where to get access to testing, or what to do if they or a loved one have corona virus symptoms. Local governments and agencies are being inundated with calls from people trying to figure out where and how to go for testing, what the local policies are for shelter-in-place, how to file for unemployment, public transportation schedules – the list goes on and on.
At the same time, with the need for social distancing and the mandate to work from home where possible, contact centers are being challenged more than ever. Contact center workers and supervisors typically work in close quarters, making social distancing a challenge. In fact, according to an article entitled The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them:
“The biggest outbreaks of corona virus are in prisons, religious ceremonies, and workplaces, such a meat packing facilities and call centers. Any environment that is enclosed, with poor air circulation and high density of people, spells trouble.”
Cloud Contact Centers Shining Through
For many organizations, enabling agents and supervisors to work from home (WFH) is the best or only option. This is where cloud-based solutions truly shine.
While many premises-based contact centers make it possible for agents to work remotely, it’s much faster and easier with a cloud service. Premises-based solutions may not offer all of functionality for WFH agents, and it’s generally more costly to have remote agents from a PSTN perspective.
With CCaaS, agents and supervisors have access to all of the system’s features and capabilities from any location, including omnichannel capabilities, analytics, monitoring, quality and performance management, workforce management and optimization, and more. The cloud also makes it easier to add capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI) and bots to assist agents and automate customer interactions.
Cloud-based contact centers offer a range of other benefits, including:
- Business continuity
- Continuous updates
- Speed and ease of deployment
- Licensing and the ability to consume functionality on an as-needed basis
- No software to download to the desktop
With cloud services, organizations around the globe have been able to quickly transition agents from physical call centers to remote, home-based environments.
However, not every company was able to respond as quickly and effectively. Many weren’t prepared for the spike in call volume resulting in very long hold times and frustrated customers. In addition, as organizations tried to encourage customers to use digital channels rather than phone calls, customers experienced quality issues and long hold times there as well. In fact, while reaching out to a large retailer recently, I was number 648 in queue for web chat and had to wait over two hours for a chat agent.
And the challenge continues. With constantly-changing regulations and guidance, companies continue to scramble to change their IVR menus to provide new information and options. For example, restaurants and retailers had to move to curbside pickup rather than their traditional models, generally with reduced or changed hours of operation, which meant updating their IVR menus and options in order to provide the most current information.
All of these changes – whether a simple IVR menu change or new prompt, or new routing rules, or a whole new CCaaS system – require testing to ensure that everything is working the way it’s supposed to, and that customers get the information they need when they need it.
A Webinar On Why Now is the Time to Make Your Cloud Move
If you haven’t already moved your contact center to the cloud, it’s time to take a closer look at why and how to make the transition. On Tuesday, June 16th, Cyara invited me to host a webinar discussing Why Moving Your Contact Center to the Cloud is More Important than Ever. Attendees learned not only the benefits of moving to the cloud, but also best practices for accelerating the migration and reducing risk. You can access a free, on-demand version of the webinar and listen to it any time right here.