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4 CX Best Practices for Call Volume Surges

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A contact center laughing and working
Image: Asier - stock.adobe.com
Business environments have undergone a sudden and dramatic upheaval that is placing unprecedented pressure on contact centers. The “Contact Us” pages of retail, financial services, travel, and government websites are flashing warning messages of long hold times and urging customers to use self-help channels whenever possible. Similarly, state and local work-from-home mandates have forced contact centers to shift agents to remote working, often with unpredictable work environments.
 
Some of the ramifications of COVID-19 are complex and entail significant reconfiguration: special agent groupings and routing rules, and new prompts and call flows or rules to address changes in business requirements. At the same time, many contact centers are experiencing huge increases in call volumes.
 
Managing through this disruption, while also dealing with internal work-from-home displacements, will tax the capabilities of every IT group. As your team responds to these challenging times, here are some best practices that successful CX and IT teams are implementing.
 
1: When your customers call, make sure they can get through
Call volumes are up, and today’s stressed-out callers will be less tolerant of technical missteps. Long hold times may be forgivable, but dropped calls and other fumbles are not. The very first step in your readiness assessment is to implement system monitoring from your customers’ perspective to determine whether calls are getting through and handled flawlessly. This means dialing into your call center and mimicking their behavior.
 
Set up automated testing to call into your top phone numbers at regularly scheduled intervals—this will quickly reveal system bottlenecks. Once they’re in the system, you need to know for sure that customers can get what they need by defining scripts that verify all IVR inputs are routed correctly.
 
2. Scrutinize voice quality of agents in new environments
One of the major concerns of having contact center agents working from home is whether voice quality will meet CX requirements. The chain of technology between a customer and a remote agent is complex, and there are many points of potential failure. The most erratic and difficult to control is the ISP that supports the last mile to the agent’s computer and softphone.
 
While it’s hard to apply CX validation techniques in these situations, we can: a) validate that the agent’s setup works at a particular moment in time, and b) perform follow-up tests if the agent is experiencing voice quality issues, or if customers report voice quality issues in their interaction with this agent. Extra vigilance is key in these situations.
 
3: Automate your testing and monitoring
Reconfiguring any contact center systems during a crisis means the development team must develop, test, and push changes faster than ever. And, with anxious and stressed-out consumers flooding in, development teams need to be confident that these changes will work flawlessly once deployed. The need to execute with both speed and quality increases the emphasis on automated testing for both agent-assisted and self-help channels. This means we must build solutions with testing and monitoring in mind, automate deployment and configuration, and use test data in production to accurately monitor variance from the design.
 
One consideration here is the alignment of your CX development methodology with wider software development practices. DevOps for CX systems engender unique requirements, and so there are purpose-built solutions that address these. Generally speaking, these solutions increase automation and facilitate an agile approach to CX design and management.
 
4: Prepare for the next unexpected event
As we emerge from the COVID 19 crisis, let’s learn from this experience and plan for the future. This crisis will likely leave a new high watermark for call volume (as well as your other customer engagement channels). It will expose the weaknesses and strengths of your customer engagement infrastructure. It will underscore the need for increased self-service options. For CX-focused teams, this presents an opportunity to shore up areas where improvement is needed, and at the same time, implement measurement and testing procedures to ensure you’re prepared for the next crisis.

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