Coronavirus – 5 immediate actions to reduce contact center overload

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Yesterday I was talking with Henry Truong, our VP of Enterprise Solutions, about the current challenges people have to get timely support from companies. It seems like, irrespective of industry or company size, waiting times are currently very long, often hours. Henry used to be the CTO of TeleTec (TTEC), a contact center BPO with more than 50,000 agents, and although never at this scale, he has seen a lot of emergencies over the years. I thought it would be useful to share his experience, insights and recommendations, boiled down to 5 strategies. Watch the video for my conversation with Henry, or read the summary below.


Here’s what contact center leaders need to do immediately to help their employees and customers:

  1. Focus on agent health and security

    • Agent health is the first priority. Do you have policies in place to minimize the spread of the disease? Do you have an effective and fast information distribution mechanism to communicate HR policies and best practices re. the virus? Did you adjust working shift hours to allow for more disinfection measures at contact center physical workplaces? Did you make your HR time-off policy more flexible to prevent the spread of sickness in the workplace?
    • If you are shifting operations to work-from-home (WFH): How will you equip WFH agents with the technology and connectivity they need? How will you provide remote IT helpdesk support?
  2. Update agent training procedures

    • Communicating new procedures. Can you switch to asynchronous learning? How will you help agents in a WFH context?
    • Increasing service training efficiency. Can you implement microlearning approaches? How will you track efficiency and get immediate feedback on how agents are doing? Can you deploy ‘whisper-agent’ bots that can assist human agents with new SOPs?
  3. Implement call triaging and shift call centers from inbound to outbound

    • Can you use automation to deflect routine incoming calls and provide immediate responses and resolutions.
    • For the calls that can’t be deflected, can you use automation to triage the calls, collect information in an automated way, and use call-back to turn the call from inbound to outbound.
  4. Drive channel shift strategies

    • Think about how and where to introduce customers to alternative channels (such as web, app, messaging). Ensure that these channels have virtual assistants readily available that can handle routine requests.
    • Make sure the fulfillment process on these digital channels is absolutely frictionless to avoid customers reverting back to calling.
  5. Create data task force governance

    • Use a data-driven strategy to monitor the situation on a real-time basis and make decisions to improve the customer experience, maximize agent resource availability, as well as using automation to augment service capacity.
    • Implement a command center that will direct the execution of the above strategy, assemble the right resources, govern virtual assistant applications, and manage the allocation of resources across service channels.

It is clear from the above conversation that automation can play a big role as first line of defense. We see 5 concrete areas where virtual assistants can be deployed quickly:

  • IT Helpdesk bots that can help with routine IT support questions, specifically related to any shifts to working-from-home.
  • COVID-19 HR bot that communicates health information about the virus, specific company policies, as well as provide guidance on what to do and who to contact in case of issues
  • Call center proxy bot, that can be installed before calls hit the contact center to perform deflection and call triage.
  • Agent Assist bots that help with agent training, and give them access to updated JobAids and SOPs
  • Chatbots on websites/apps/messaging that can answer questions and resolve routine problems.

Rulai has created a rapid response team of expert bot builders that can help companies build bots in record time (think days, not months). We’ve also created and pre-trained a COVID-19 HR bot that can be customized to handle company specific HR policies. The bot is in sync with information from trusted sources like WHO and CDC. We are making this bot available free of charge to anyone. Please request a free account here.

Marc Vanlerberghe