The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a paradigm shift across all industries, but the contact center and customer experience industries have seen especially dramatic changes. Social distancing and shelter in place policies across the nation and the world have affected how customers interact with businesses. The same policies have also changed how employees work. The spread of COVID-19 has resulted in many contact centers moving to work from home models, and accelerated a trend towards remote working, short term and long term. These changes have resulted in a significant impact on the contact center industries in many ways.
The pandemic and the resulting policies have resulted in very high call volumes for many contact centers. A survey conducted by NICE InContact found that 92% of their contact center participants experienced an increased volume of interactions across both traditional and digital channels. The increase in voice interactions can be attributed to shelter in place policies, since customers who would usually prefer to go to a physical location were no longer able to do this. However, this sudden spike in call volume often results in much longer hold times, which can be frustrating to customers. This may be the reason for the increased digital engagement since frustrated callers stuck on hold could have tried to find alternate channels to reach out to companies. This increase in volume was further compounded by the quick transition to remote working – this affected contact scheduling and staffing.
Companies need cloud solutions to support remote workers, especially long term. Cloud contact center solutions simplified the move from on-premise to WFH since it enables agents to continue using the same technology from any location. The sudden transition to WFH accelerated many companies’ move to cloud-based solutions. In addition, cloud-based solutions can just as easily support transitions back to the office, when that becomes necessary. The flexibility offered by cloud-based software will be valuable in today’s rapidly changing world.
Many businesses will be operating with lockdowns and social distancing for the foreseeable future. And even when these restrictions are lifted, it is unlikely that there will be a rapid move back to offices, due to regulations for opening offices safely. Many technology companies have committed to permanent WFH schedules for some employees, and contact centers may follow this trend. Even if contact centers do not make remote working permanent, it’s likely to be a long-term solution for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Contact center decision makers will have to make sure that their businesses will thrive and continue to improve even with agents working remotely.
With the rise in WFH, enterprises will need to actively focus on security. The physical security of a central office with local networks is no longer applicable to most businesses, so cybersecurity plays a much more important role. Companies will need to revisit all aspects of security, such as password and SSO solutions, encryption, firewall rules and many more. It will also be important to stress the importance of security to agents and employees working remotely, to make sure these new policies are implemented and followed correctly across the company.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had widespread affects across the globe, especially for the contact center industry. These were just a few ways that “business as usual” has changed in the last few months, but it’s important for decision makers to stay on top of the new, evolving business landscape to thrive in a post-pandemic world.