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Covid-19 –  How to prepare your contact centre when emergency strikes; The threat of COVID-19 is dominating the UK, and indeed the global, headlines. With the number of reported cases on the increase, the UK government has set out plans on how to respond to a serious disease outbreak if it occurs to make sure that the UK is prepared for any eventuality.

UK businesses are being prompted to do the same, looking at the options for staff, on all issues from  eligibility for sick pay, to working from home in the event of an outbreak. Irrespective of the current crisis, forward planning for business continuity purposes is an important exercise. Organisations need to know how to mobilise their workforce and ensure ‘business as usual’ doesn’t fall apart in the event of a disaster.

Call centres 
While we are yet to know what impact Covid-19 will have on UK businesses, for call centres it presents numerous challenges. Most notably – how to continue operations when staff are office-based.

And that is just the start. Other challenges include reduced staffing levels and a knock-on effect on the service delivered to the end customer. There will inevitably be increased pressure on day-to-day operations, as depending on the contact centre’s nature of business,there may be increased call volumes and with less staff to service the calls, there will be increased waiting times, and increased customer dissatisfaction.

So how do you overcome these hurdles and ensure that your business is ready for the unexpected?

Continuity is the key

Irrespective of whether you have a plan in place or not, the key here is that you are ready to act and put in place some simple solutions to enable greater flexibility within the contact centre.

Here are our top tips:

1. Focus on remote working

With two weeks quarantine periods stipulated, it is highly likely that staff are going to need to work remotely from home at short notice. If your unified communications solution is cloud-based, then mobilising your agents will be quick and easy to achieve – with changes able to be made within just a few days. You should ensure that agents can also access other essential systems, including CRM, ID&V and compliance tools. It may sound obvious, but make sure you have enough laptops and phones for staff to work from. Having the ability to work from home is great – but staff need to have the right tools.

2. Ensure your systems are flexible

Even if you have employees who can work from home when the need arises, it’s not easy to shift resources at the last minute. Before your contact centre is affected, check that your workforce management systems enable to you to quickly make changes to personnel. This will also enable your management team to keep track of who is doing what. One of the most effective ways to add this extra level of flexibility is by introducing cloud-based solutions, which can not only handle every aspect of customer interaction, but also allow your systems to keep functioning off-premise.

3. Keep your customers informed

Whilst staffing levels may be understandably affected, make sure information is available at each of your touch-points to inform customers of any impact to service levels. This may lessen any frustration within the altered customer journey.

4. Use the opportunity to plan

Covid-19 won’t be the last crisis that contact centres will face. To avoid a complete shut-down in operations in the future, put in place (if you don’t have one already) a comprehensive plan governing how to act when an emergency strikes. This should cover things like people, processes, applications, security, compliance and the HR requirements for flexible working and, ideally, make sure it is tested in advance of a disaster occurring.

The reality is that there will always be a time when staff need to work flexibly within the contact centre, whether disaster-related or otherwise. The technology is there to enable contact centres to afford staff greater flexibility and the provision to work from home when getting to the office is simply not possible. With a little planning and preparation, business meltdowns, such as those being predicted, could be a thing of the past.

Contact us to discuss how we can help.

Published in Call Centre Helper, 6th March 2020.