Are contact centers recession-proof?
Well, it depends on the industry your contact center sits within. According to economists, the four most recession-proof industries are:
- Computers and information technology
Even though many contact centers are struggling to hire and retain talent in the wake of the pandemic, customer service and call and contact center departments can be stable places in hard times. This is because call and contact centers offer services that people and organizations can’t do without, no matter the state of up or down markets the economy faces. Quality customer service representatives and good customer experiences are always in demand.
Outlook for 2023: How to protect your call or contact center during an economic downturn
Here are a few pointers for how savvy contact center leaders will skillfully navigate choppy economic waters in the coming year of predictions for an economic downturn.
They’ll invest in self-service solutions
Don’t succumb to the knee-jerk impulse to slash costs and budgets at all costs. Instead, prioritize your budget around investing in self-service options across all customer touchpoints. Providing support that is available 24/7 is a strategic move that could help bring in more revenue to offset losses elsewhere while at the same time nipping staffing shortages (and labor costs) in the bud.
They’ll focus on upskilling existing agents
You’ll make higher returns over the long run by investing in your current talent. Use this time to focus on coaching agents, cross-training, and updating onboarding processes and eLearning modules so agents are incentivized to stay.
The call center industry is notorious for its high turnover rates, and one of the main reasons for this is a lack of proper training and development. If you want to avoid the costly expenses and damaged morale that come with high turnover, the journey starts on the very first day of a new agent’s job.
A strong agent experience and employee onboarding program is essential to helping your teams feel confident in their abilities and become fully integrated, high-performing contributors.
They’ll double down on risk mitigation to avoid undue compliance headaches
It’s never the time to skimp on risk mitigation, but this is really not the time to leave yourself vulnerable to legal ramifications and compliance situations that are entirely avoidable. Tools like speech analytics, agent scripting, and built-in omnichannel consent capture can be the difference between choppy waters and a sunken ship.
Tips Contact Centers Can Turn to In Times of Economic Uncertainty
The dreaded “R” word has been bandied about a lot in the news lately. No, we’re not talking about bad reviews we’re talking about that other scary R-word: recession. An economic slow-down or downturn depending on the headline. Whatever the label, it all amounts to the same thing in practice: slowed growth and tighter budgets.
While some signs of a slow-down were noted in August (there was a rare realignment in interest rates not seen since 2009, along with a few other historical indicators) that alone isn’t necessarily a harbinger of doom. But this is not to say that executives and senior leadership should sit around twiddling their thumbs wondering when they should start preparing. Enacting coping strategies well in advance is a proven way to ensure your business remains agile when the time comes to flex.
Recessions don’t strike the same way twice, and their impact is felt differently from industry to industry. We can’t predict the future but we can learn from the past. In light of the recent economic pessimism, we took a look back at the last recession and the contact centers that emerged intact.
In the last recession, the businesses that stood out from the crowd shifted their focus to existing customers by providing better customer service experiences. This was cited in a McKinsey report as one of the fastest and simplest ways to outshine competitors and thrive. They also scaled back costs where they could by reducing inefficiency with new technology. The most successful companies were those that promoted organic growth through:
- fine-tuning their processes to improve operational efficacy
- investing internally
- focusing on customer experience
In this post, we consider the ways in which contact centers can hone in on these three factors to weather any storm. After all, recessions can be viewed as forced efficiency through innovation. And with the robust advances in technology over the last decade, it can be difficult to weigh the benefits of what’s out there to use. By deploying these tactics you can set yourself up for success.
Map the consumer journey to find points of inefficiency.
Agents are the highest cost to call center operations. A top priority for most contact centers is reducing cost per call (CPC). When trying to assess your CPC take a look at your call volume during a defined point in time. Next, calculate the total cost associated with that time period (agent salaries, software tools, and all other overhead). Divide that figure by the number of agents on the clock during the specified time. Then ask yourself the following questions to determine the areas you should optimize:
- How many agents does it take to fulfill a single service call?
- Are calls being routed multiple times?
- Do consumers call in for the same reason?
- Are there service calls that don’t need a phone call?
- How can agents be made more efficient?
Doing this accomplishes two things:
- it’s an initial step toward mapping your customer journey.
- it’ll pave the way to breaking down internal silos that could be costing you money.
Minimize inefficiencies with low-cost engagement methods.
Now that you know your CPC, can some phone calls be replaced with an alternative channel like email, SMS, or webchat? A Forrester study found that the average cost of a customer service phone call ranged anywhere between $6 and $25 – a total on average of nearly $20 per interaction.
Webchat and text, on the other hand, are significantly less spendy at around $1 to $5 per session. Layer in automation and self-service options such as a chatbot or knowledge base and the average spend per interaction can lower to just .25 cents.
Forrester Three Year Risk-Adjusted Financial Summary illustrates the average YOY gains of investing in multichannel
Move to all-in-one platforms while you have the budget
In your contact center during a recession, the availability of more than one or two channels is crucial to making your agents more efficient. Adding channels can make your workforce more efficient by taking sessions from a 1-o-1 agent to person call ratio to a 3-to-1 agent to SMS, email, phone, or webchat interaction depending on agent ability and issue difficulty.
Omnichannel is more than just offering multiple channels, though. You’ll want to be sure you’re deploying a solution that is both channel-agnostic and integrates business intelligence, too. Seek out all-in-one platforms that tie channels together across a universal experience on the front end and offer analytics and reporting on the back end.
Turning to the back end, ask yourself:
- Can chatbots/ IVRs be used to service the most frequent service calls?
- How can you improve your self-service?
With a platform that offers a streamlined approach to leverage data and gain insights into your operations, you can reduce the total cost of ownership over multiple tools or on-prem systems. This means that the cost and time it took your team to manage those operations is now freed up.
Focus on the consumer
Consumer behavior has changed dramatically over the last decade and Innovations in technology have changed hand in hand with them. These innovations have not only lowered the cost of engagement with new channels, but they’ve also helped consumers connect on their channel of choice. This enables businesses to collect more information about an individual’s unique needs to create more personalized experiences
Gaining even a slight advantage over the competition during slower growth periods means greater success when the economy is in full swing. LiveVox can help you leapfrog the competition by empowering faster, smarter decisions. LiveVox offers a one-stop-shop solution that empowers contact centers to incrementally test new strategies with a fully integrated omnichannel platform that includes all the channels, analytics, and customer journey mapping needed to try, analyze, and scale more effective digital engagement strategies whether a contact center recession is coming or not.