Best practices for customer service

Best practices for contact centers to manage customer service in the midst of a crisis


  • tim richter
    Tim Richter
  • Mar 23, 2020
TLDR

Best practices for managing customer service in the face of the most common scenarios, including: agent burn out, handling routine inquiries, lagging productivity, a voice-only call center, long wait times.

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Amid the new reality of social distancing and ‘shelter-in-place’ orders brought on by the coronavirus, businesses worldwide are scrambling to adapt to change. 

Nowhere is this more evident than in call and contact centers, who bear a massive burden of inbound calls and messages. Effective crisis communications, both within an organization as well as between a company and its customers, requires a delicate balance between providing relevant information in a timely manner without contributing to panic or already heightened states of stress.

Practical steps for managing common scenarios

Check-in with your team early and often: Run 15-minute stand up meetings with a different group/team of agents every day. Get a sense for how overwhelmed they possibly are––not just from call volume, but from managing emotional conversations and their own personal stress. Based on what you hear, consider the below:

If your agents are burning out: Breakup shifts into shorter intervals. For example, If you had agents working one shift a day, from 8 a.m. to noon or noon to 4 p.m., consider having agents work two shifts a day broken up with a two-hour break. For example, 8 to 10 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. In this “2-on-2-off” schedule, agents get the same total time per day but with more opportunity to decompress.

If your agents are handling routine inquiries: Add a chatbot and program it up with answers to the most typical questions your agents are getting. Further, consider reaching out to customers with proactive alerts information to answer the most common questions you receive.

If productivity is suffering: First, acknowledge that it’s OK and this is to be expected. Then, ask what systems, applications, workflows they wish they had access to in order to be more efficient, or what existing ones are failing them. If you are running an on-premise system, responding to this will require building bridges with other departments and professionals outside the contact center. There are ways to augment your contact center without ripping-and-replacing. Facilitate collaboration channels for hot topics requiring immediate consultation. Start now: there are broad-sweeping factors shaping the future of the contact center. Now’s a good time to prepare for them. 

If you currently have a voice-only call center: Introduce a digital channel such as web chat, SMS, WhatsApp or FB Messenger. Why? With voice calls, agents can only handle one at a time, driving long wait times. With voice and digital channels, agents can handle a voice call and also handle one or more digital channel interactions at the same time. 

If long wait times persist in your call center: Offer callers the option to get a call back without losing their place in the queue. Or, if you’ve implemented a new digital channel, notify your customers of the new option through an IVR menu

Watch this on-demand webinar about creating an alerts and notifications strategy.

The timeframe for navigating the current situation is being measured in months, not weeks. Take the time now to mindfully adjust your contact center operations, since changes will be relevant for a significant time.

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tim richter

Tim Richter

Tim Richter is Senior Product Marketing Manager for Twilio Flex. He has over 15 years of experience in the communications industry in product management and product marketing roles. As a frequent speaker and content contributor for the contact center market in particular, Tim places emphasis on deeply understanding evolving customer needs first and then tailoring solutions that fit. You can reach him at trichter [at] twilio.com.