Global Contact Center Trends During COVID-19 Pandemonium

A Guide To Surviving Financial Darwinism



Matt Wujciak
03/23/2020

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As the continued spread of COVID-19 disrupts workflow management and demands miraculous operational shifts from industries around the globe, the customer service department is no outlier. In fact, the contact center is currently serving as the world’s living, breathing result of economic pandemonium – an ongoing case study that not even the Zuckerbergs or Bezoses of the world can read. 

Contrary to popular belief, the contact center is experiencing an unprecedented increase in overall call volume, with a particular surge in aggressive (if not fanatic) customer inquiries. Unfortunately, many are responding with lackluster B2C communication.

And in case you haven’t heard, it’s a problem - a problem that financial analysts are paralleling economic repercussions with on a global scale. 

As seen in a recent CCW Digital case study, on December 31, 2019 China alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) to several cases of “unusual pneumonia” in Wuhan. Less than 10 weeks later, the stock market faced its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis

As brands scramble to adjust to unfortunate economic circumstances, remote work, and digital transformation, they’re desperately attempting to provide customers with services throughout the pandemic.

Approximately 90 percent of global organizations currently use an on-premises solution for their contact centers (as a primary means of consumer engagement), leaving them ill-equipped to manage the robust scaling of digitization and remote work that has now been behooved by the apocalyptic COVID-19 virus.

This past week, travelers looking to modify their itineraries with Canadian airline WestJet experienced waits in excess of 10 hours. Conglomerate banks and credit card companies, including Capital One, are seeing increased average hold times, disconnections, and plummeting revenue. 

Google even warned Google Store customers to expect “longer than usual” wait times as a result of precautionary employee health measures and limited front-line availability. (That’s Google we’re talking about). 

To put it bluntly, no one’s safe from the behavioral economic consequences brought upon by the novel coronavirus. Not even the commendable, hand-holding customer service centers of industry titans like Google, Amazon, or Twitter.  

Contact center agents, sales reps, and marketers (as the primary consumer-oriented departments experiencing the oxymoronic, never-ending aftermath), are increasingly being ordered to work from home (as you probably knew). But the wheel hasn’t stopped turning. 

AI advancement like you’ve never seen before

The reality is quite the contrary. More customers are calling. Less businesses are answering. While some previous industry leaders (like Planet Fitness) are feeling the effects of lackluster  contingency plans, others like Microsoft and Zoom are offering free AI-driven solutions, a strategy implemented to invest in long-term CLV. (Satisfy customers now, reap benefits later). 

Read More: Sepcial Report Series: Contact Center Security and Fraud Prevention (Featuring Insights From Shep Hyken)

As CCW Digital Principal Analyst, Brian Cantor, recently stated regarding contingency plans (such as implementation of AI-driven infrastructures), “The pandemic is reminding the industry that it is actually a need-to-have.” 

In other words, if you’re a contact center or customer service department that doesn’t have AI-driven infrastructures, effective digital channels, and cloud-based communication COVID-19 is your wake-up call. It’s the industry divergence in customer service that will force many to adapt, while competitors watch their termination unfold. 

The solutions aren’t always foolproof, of course. There’s always going to be a need for human teams (that not even all the Salesforce chatbots, virtual meetings, or IVR functionalities can replace). Worse, there will be some businesses that, by nature, will struggle in an environment of quarantines, social distancing and economic panic. But without question, in the digital era of customer-centricity, COVID-19 has illuminated the importance of AI-powered contact center communication.

The nature of agility is taking place in the Darwinism of today’s contact center. And only ones that can handle AI adaptation will survive the pandemic. 

Take a look at LivePerson, for example. 

As seen in VB: “LivePerson, a global tech company that develops conversational commerce and AI software, says it has observed ‘significant’ increases in volume on its conversational platform, which is used by over 18,000 brands, including Sky, IBM, Vodafone, Virgin Atlantic, and RBS. Overall conversation volume has jumped by about 20% since mid-February, with verticals like airlines and hotels experiencing 96% and 130% climbs, respectively.”

That’s a lot of customer volume coming through a lot of enterprise clients, in a little amount of time. Through AI-driven conversational software that can be implemented into a client’s website, they’ve been able to handle the volume across a plethora of omnichannel mediums, including the likes of SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and more.

Standardized remote practices for the future

Avaya, has also recently doubled down on their AI capabilities, specifically digital (remote) transformation. 

They’ve deployed their software to support over 5 million contact center agents, moving rapidly to enable more than 150,000 remote agents as customers address the challenges presented by COVID-19, Avaya CEO Jim Chirico recently mentioned. 

As more and more employees are being ordered to shelter-in-place and work from home, Sharpen Technologies, another “agent-first” omnichannel cloud contact center platform, recently announced the launch of the Sharpen Quick Start program to enable businesses and nonprofits. 

Read More: How-To-Guide: How To Improve Self Service

"Sharpen has been supporting WAH agents... It’s what we’re built for," said CEO Bill Gildea. "Sharpen Quick Start keeps agents healthy and employed and businesses running at a time when the success of a contact center has never been more linked with a company’s continuing operations and bottom line."

The pre-packaged implementation of Sharpen Quick Smart can be up and running within 48 hours since WAH agents need only a high-speed internet connection and computer to do their job. They’ve even taken it a step further, requiring no initial contracts from clients, with the first 60 days of the platform’s deployment free of charge, which brings me to my final point. 

Financial trade-offs

Serenova, a leading contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) and workforce optimization (WFO) company, recently announced CxEngage Rapid Response, a program to help large organizations immediately scale their contact centers into the cloud within 48 hours, as well. (That seems to be the magic number). 

With CxEngage Rapid Response, clients can quickly implement flexible remote work policies while maintaining continuity for both agents and customers during ongoing pandemonium.

Read More: Special Report Series: Increasing ROI With Omnichannel Chatbots (Sponsored by Salesforce)

More and more customer-centric organizations are extending this offering, while simultaneously investing in their customer’s life-time-value, taking a similar approach to Microsoft and Zoom’s complementary offerings. 

As Simon Copcutt, our Head of Strategic Accounts recently stated:

“Great to see how so many of the leading solution providers we work with are opening up their products for use at no charge while the planet deals with Covid-19. 8x8, Appian Corporation, NICE inContact, Ring Central, [and] Salesforce,” to name a few. 

No one’s safe from the behavioral economic consequences brought upon by the coronavirus. But adapting to digital trends will give you the best chance at being on the favorable side of financial Darwinism. 

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