If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught Australian businesses anything, it’s the importance of flexibility.
Being able to rapidly respond to changing conditions can be the difference between survival and going under.
Flexibility is particularly important when it comes to an organisation’s contact centre. These critical functions must be able to quickly scale to match customer demand while also dealing with staffing changes such a sudden shift to remote working.
Unfortunately, faced with having to deal with an unforeseen pandemic, many businesses found their contact centres wanting. Platforms and workflows that had operated effectively before the virus were now unable to keep up.
In many cases, the challenges stemmed from the fact that the technology platform underpinning the contact centre was housed in an on-premise facility. Designed and built to support a pre-defined number of agents, the platform could not readily be expanded to match sudden surges in customer demand.
Many contact centres also struggled to support remote workers. Often, incoming calls had to be routed to the mobile phones of agents so they could deal with them from home. However, as call numbers grew, this configuration often led to on-premise line capacity becoming overwhelmed and a poor customer experience.
The scalability of the cloud
One of the most effective ways to overcome these challenges is through the adoption of a cloud-based contact centre platform. Rather than being tied to on-premise hardware and software, capacity is sourced from an external provider and accessed via the internet.
By taking this approach, a business is able to quickly scale up the number of contact centre seats and line capacity as customer demands increase. Once demand returns to a more normal level, that extra capacity can then be turned off.
A cloud-based platform also makes remote working much easier to achieve. Some cloud platforms require agents to have nothing more than a web browser and phone number, which means they can be accessed from home computers over existing internet connections.
These platforms are also being constantly updated with new features and capabilities. Rather than having to go through complex and disruptive projects of upgrading on-premise software, the platform can automatically receive incremental improvements over time.
To ensure a contact centre has the flexibility to deal with unforeseen events in the future, there are some key steps that need to be taken today. They include:
- Review your existing facility: Take time to fully assess your current contact centre and determine exactly how much flexibility it can offer. Can you quickly scale the number of agents or have them working from another location without disruption? Determine what elements will need to be changed.
- Check scale-up costs: Confirm with your contact centre platform provider the cost impact of increasing the number of agents. This cost review should cover hardware as well as the software licences that will be in place.
- Consider cloud migration: If the cost of scaling an on-premise platform is prohibitive, consider shifting to a cloud platform. The benefits may well outweigh the cost.
- Test home networks: Ahead of requiring agents to work remotely, take time to review the performance of their home networks. Tools are available that can check the speed and reliability of domestic internet links to confirm they are suitable for high-quality audio and video calls.
- Audit client devices: Check with agents that they have a suitable client device that can be used for work activity. Also, ensure they have adequate security in place to protect any corporate files that may be used.
- Issue high-quality headsets: To ensure customer experience doesn’t suffer, issue all agents with high-quality headsets for use at home. Consider devices with noise-cancelling capabilities to reduce any background noise when on calls.
- Communicate with customers: Inform your customers that contact centre operations will change during future periods of disruption. Stress, however, that service levels will not suffer and their needs will continue to be met.
By taking a planned approach to contact centre changes, an organisation can significantly increase flexibility without causing issues for either agents or customers. Undertaking this activity now will ensure the organisation is well prepared for when unanticipated events occur in the future.