Adapting your contact center for the future of remote work: Insights, solutions and more

By David Robertson, Managing Director, President of Sales, Avaya Canada

David Robertson, managing director and president of sales at Avaya Canada

COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on contact centers worldwide. Phones are ringing off the hook. Emotions are escalating. Organizations are struggling to support agents in different areas of the world and at home. What will happen next time? This certainly won’t be the last significant challenge (naturally occurring, human-caused or technology-related) to strike. As the core of customer experience, contact centers are expected to skillfully navigate shifts and handle the “what ifs.” 

Here are four things to keep in mind as you adapt your contact center for the future of remote work:

Managing Increased Inquiries 

Research from Accenture shows that 58% more customers prefer to solve urgent or complex issues by calling for support rather than using other modes of interaction. Every organization, regardless of size or industry, is struggling to handle a massive increase in call volume during this time of crisis. Companies need to maintain amazing quality and responsiveness of service (for both COVID-19 and existing general inquiries) without overloading their agents or call handling infrastructure. 

What you need: automated inbound communications solutions and Mobility-as-a-Service. The former allows you to set up hotlines and interactive voice applications on-demand, automate personalized messages giving customers pertinent information based on their needs, capture customer input leveraging auto-forms, and more to keep agents available for handling more complex and/or urgent interactions. The latter redirects smartphone callers to a mobile website for them to leverage personalized self-serve resources. This helps reduce toll-free charges and customer wait times while freeing up agents and managers taking calls. If a customer declines the mobile experience, they will be immediately transferred to a live person along with contextual information for a more intuitive and responsive experience.   

Proactive Outreach to Customers

Proactive outreach has been proven to reduce call volumes by as much as 30% and increase customer retention rates by 3-5%. This is a key tool that should be implemented in times of crisis as well as part of a long-term communications resiliency plan. Organizations need a way to quickly and efficiently reach groups of customers or their entire customer base as part of a comprehensive engagement strategy–pandemic or not. 

What you need: a cloud-based notification solution. Health systems can proactively reach out to specific groups of people (ex: patients with chronic health conditions who are self-isolating to avoid infection) or their entire customer base with COVID-19 news and updates as developments quickly change. Outside of times of crisis, proactive outreach can be used for functions that drive operations but are not required on the frontlines (i.e. reminding patients of upcoming appointments or bills that are due). Retailers can proactively contact customers regarding shipping updates or delays. Financial service providers can keep their customers informed on changes in policies, relief programs and more. 

The Agent Desktop Experience 

COVID-19 has taught us in no uncertain terms that employees need to remain connected to the rest of the organization wherever they are (at home, a remote location or a new temporary location) with whatever devices they’re using to continue maintaining customer relationships and delivering outstanding service experiences.  

What you need: a flexible, browser-based agent desktop application that provides full in-office functionality. All users need is a browser for getting started with advanced features like end-to-end call recording, screen capture, real-time transcriptions, intelligent voice response and more. Agents can communicate efficiently the way they want and need to, and supervisors can maintain access to the right tools to easily manage remote agents, including reporting and analytics.

IT Communications Infrastructure Resilience, Security and Scale

Around 90% of global organizations use an on-premise solution for their contact centers and they now need to manage the rapid scaling and resiliency requirements necessitated by the spread of COVID-19. Contact centers need the tools and resources to be up and running like business is usual, even (and especially) when it’s not. 

How: A cloud contact center solution under a subscription model. Organizations can quickly and securely scale to support spikes in volume, supporting tens of thousands of agents if necessary, and ramp down as needed. There’s no need to store unused licenses for occasional peaks, and you never have to pay for unused capacity. Under a subscription model, businesses also get immediate access to the latest contact center capabilities related to self-service, AI, performance management and more to stay ahead of customer expectations and effectively drive through points of inflection. 

5 Steps to Assess and Improve

All we can do is focus on how to shift direction to get through this crisis and any other major change that happens down the road. Here are five steps for doing so: 

  1. Assess your current technical environment and industry developments 
  2. Understand mission critical applications along with success metrics and business outcomes
  3. Determine how to leverage your current environment in the short-term 
  4. Determine what new functionality can be implemented with more investment (start with easy applications that are generally considered “low hanging fruit” – see here for examples)
  5. Develop your timeline and path with alignment on which are the most critical solutions to implement first 

COVID-19 has forced contact centers to make drastic changes at a speed that will disrupt customer experiences simply because they weren’t prepared for it. This time of crisis is hectic and overwhelming, but you don’t have to go it alone. Look to a vendor that offers a holistic, end-to-end consultative approach for getting you where you are now to where you want to be–quickly, efficiently and securely. Whatever you do, partner with someone who understands the complexity and reality of the journey and has a proven track record of success.