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Call Centers Today: Challenges and Solutions

Call centers are struggling. The past two years have flipped the switch on how business is conducted, and the majority of the world wasn’t prepared. Customer service and contact centers were some of the most affected branches of organizations. The chain of events caused by COVID-19 was a recipe for disaster for customer support agents and call centers for a number of reasons:

Volume of Inbound Calls

The amount of customers reaching out for help drastically increased (over 40-50%)¹ at the onset of the pandemic. The option of a walk-in appointment or face-to-face resolution wasn’t possible anymore. Remember all of the lines we physically stood in waiting on customer service pre-COVID? All of those people in all of those lines – all over the world – are now theoretically “waiting in line” for remote help. Not surprisingly, this shift also caused a 34% increase² in average hold times.

Difficult Customer Interactions

In a Harvard Business Review³ article, a study of approximately one million calls representing a cross-section of industries saw their level of “difficult” calls double. Calls were not only more challenging in terms of helping the client accomplish their goal, but also reflected an increased level of anxiety, uncertainty, and emotion. 

Customers’ reasons for contacting companies added extra tension and urgency. Unexpected financial hardships, medical and insurance complications, travel cancellations, and technology support-related calls were just a few of the issues dramatically elevating call volume and customer agitation. 

Unreliable Technology 

Agents were dealing with an abundance of intense customer exchanges, as well as working from home for the first time. The infrastructure they had previously used in the office wasn’t available. This often included things like a secure phone line, a dependable internet connection, or a quiet, suitable place to receive calls. The change resulted in more obstacles and frustrations for both agents and customers. 

Lack of Peer Support

The traditional call center environment was replaced with individuals working alone. Agents had reduced access to the support and guidance of their co-workers and managers. This required more effort to assist customers in a timely and accurate manner. Escalated and redirected calls went through the roof. Customer experience (CX) and satisfaction suffered as overall sales saw a decline. The agents themselves experienced burnout from long hours and heightened job dissatisfaction. Employee churn increased, and employee experience (EX) declined. 

How Call Centers Are Recovering

The traditional “call center” as we know it may never return to its former reality. However, businesses that took this time to invest and adapt new technologies to pivot operations to the new normal will come out ahead.

Self-Service Options

Smart organizations are investing in self-service options. This alone can reduce customer support tickets up to 4x! Advances in telecom software have allowed reps to phase out the frequent calls that can be handled by the customer on their own. This frees up agents’ valuable time, further helping businesses increase profit and efficiency. Customers also appreciate the option to help themselves on their own time.

Modern Call Routing 

Agents need latitude in the way they receive and transfer calls. Features like Hunt Groups, Sequential Ring, Simultaneous Ring, and Call Park are an easy fix for problems caused by the new call center normal. With the right unified communications software, you can seamlessly connect your customers with a network of agents – wherever they are. 

Omnichannel Communication

Offering multiple avenues for customer contact is now a necessity. Some examples of omnichannel methods include phone, email, live chat, SMS messaging, chatbots, social media, and mobile apps. More contact options for customers can equal increased agent productivity, improved call reporting and analytics, and a better brand image. All of these correlate to stronger brand loyalty and enhanced CX and EX.

Streamline Call Reporting and Business Analytics

Accurate records are essential to identify trends and analyze call history. In order to address specific problems, you need to know the exact details of your voice platform’s event history. If the reporting process isn’t simple and automated, employees can be burdened with time-wasting tasks and assignments. This busywork takes away from more impactful projects and efforts. 

When using the report functions available with odin, you can distinguish what features are the most and least used. It also documents who is using what service (users, admins, or service providers) as well as keeping meticulous details of changes and modifications to any account. 

Gamification 

Gamification is using game-design elements⁴ in workplace situations. Games are enjoyable and gratifying and can motivate both remote and on-site agents. Gamification is quickly becoming a popular strategy to incentivize call center employees by keeping them engaged and encouraged. It creates an environment where agents are continuously working to achieve goals, improve results, and collaborate with their coworkers. This can create a sense of community and teamwork, even when working in separate locations. Offering badges, prizes, meals, tokens, recognition, and even time off can also help disrupt the monotony of the everyday routine and acknowledge and reward those who are deserving. 

What’s to Come?

The future of call centers depends on how organizations arm agents and customers with the proper services and tools. This includes finding the right unified communications software, training and supporting remote agents, and flexibility to modify strategies when necessary. 

Partnering with an expert like Park Bench Solutions can help you quickly identify areas for improvement and seamlessly put a solution in place. Aside from customization and self-service on the Cisco BroadWorks platform, odin provides a host of other benefits to voice services providers. If you want to differentiate, innovate, and evolve your customer experience, we'd love to talk to you. 

Interested in seeing odin in action? Click here to schedule a demo today! 

 

Sources:

  1. Gartner
  2. CMS Wire
  3. Harvard Business Review
  4. Wikipedia: Gamification

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