As with most other industries, COVID-19 threw a real wrench in the gears. But in many ways, the challenges that customer care centers faced during the pandemic weren’t new but just intensified by COVID-19. The volume that inbound call centers were tasked with fielding exploded by about 16%, as did the amount of service tickets. These volume increases compounded challenges, like response time and the need for feedback, that are regularly faced by customer care centers.
Here we examine some of the top challenges for customer care in 2020 as well as the opportunities that adapting to them can bring in 2021.
High Inbound Call Volume
COVID-19 forced millions of people to stay at home. This stay at home orders affected the volume of calls in two ways.
- Customers no longer had the option to visit brick and mortar fronts. Their questions, complaints and feedback now had to be routed through the contact center. Every reason a customer could possibly have to contact you was now the responsibility of your customer care center.
- Customers began to have more time on their hands. All those projects and tasks they had been putting off now came to the forefront. Maybe they had been meaning to update their information on their AAA card, or maybe they had put off taking out a loan to do some major home improvements. Whatever it was, it needed to be done right now.
As a result, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) had a bit of a resurgence in its importance, especially ones equipped with intelligent conversational capability and virtual agents. Conversational IVR is a powerful tool when it comes to managing high inbound call volume because it helps customer care centers serve more customers at once more efficiently. Conversational IVR systems allow you to gather information about your customers before they are routed to a human agent. This speeds up the process by allowing agents to have the necessary information about the nature of the call before their conversation with the customer even begins.
Advanced IVR systems can also allow customers to complete mundane tasks such as filling out forms, changing contact information, or even making payments. This reduces the amount of tasks agents have to complete for each customer.
Going into 2021, customer care centers have an opportunity to provide greater self-service options. Giving your customers options and encouraging self sufficiency gives you the agility to handle the unexpected.
Slow Response/Long Wait Times
The volume a customer care center receives and its response time are directly proportional. As volume increases, so does response time, so this challenge was a foregone conclusion in the wake of the pandemic.
This long response time is due in part to staffing issues related to working from home and onsite closures, call routing inefficiencies, and simply not being equipped to handle the amount of service requests coming in.
COVID-19 fallout caused heavy traffic on all routes of the customer service journey. Digital channels like SMS and webchat saw huge increase inactivity. In fact, our own April SMS Survey Report found that digital channel usage was expected to increase by 78% by 2021 as a result of the pandemic.
Many activities and events that were supposed to happen, didn’t’. Plans had to be cancelled or changed. Not only did the number of customers needing service increase, so did the urgency.
Broken Feedback Loops
One of the keys to providing great customer service is feedback. Learning from your customers where you excelled and even more importantly where you fell short is an integral part of the customer experience. Improving customer service can not be done without knowing what needs fixing.
But, amidst the high call volumes and service tickets, where does feedback fit in when things are changing so quickly?
Around 23% of customer service teams reported that CSAT scores declined during the pandemic.
The customer care center is faced with the challenge of ever-changing circumstances even when it’s not a moment of global crisis. In order to consistently provide excellent customer service, customer care teams must react quickly to these changes. Making your contact center more agile with automation is the best strategy for embracing our new normal. About 42% of teams who automated some of their service workflows this year were more likely to hit their goals. Employing automation may seem daunting but the rewards for great customer care are loyalty, repeat business, and higher revenue.
Going into 2021 we predict we’ll see more investment in behind the scenes areas like agent experience, AI, and workflow automation in response to 2020’s impact.