Across the UK, many organizations have reverted to home working as a result of the pandemic. Almost overnight, firms grappled with how to maintain the feeling of ‘business as usual’ for customers and staff as they sought to enable their employees to work remotely. Within this environment, customer service teams have become increasingly overwhelmed, and many are still getting to grips - and playing catch up - with the move towards remote working.
But, with the right technology in place, making the transition towards remote working is a lot easier than organizations think. This is because today’s SaaS technologies make it possible for teams to adopt this vital trend. Ultimately, these days, cloud technologies are allowing customer service teams to look after customers remotely – which is crucial when considering the government’s message that people should not come into work unless they absolutely have to.
To unpack this remote working trend, consider that between 9th and 20th April, ONS saw that 45 percent of employed adults in the UK said they had worked from home. Further, Morgan Stanley points out that only 34 percent of UK white-collar employees have gone back to work and that 69 percent of employees in London have not returned to work. Clearly, remote working shows signs of continuing to be important. So, what should organizations consider as they continue the transition from an on-premise contact center set up towards further enabling their teams to work remotely?
Is your technology flexible and future proof?
In order to completely future-proof contact centers, brands need to choose a customer service software solution that allows for fully unifying channels, workflows, and processes. The right technology will allow for this consolidation, making your set-up far more nimble, especially when it comes to working remotely. Plus, by migrating your infrastructure to the cloud, IT teams and organizations as a whole gain more flexibility and the means to integrate with other systems. This makes unifying data, optimizing processes and offering an agile experience much more achievable.
Additionally, unlike on-premise solutions, cloud-based customer service solutions don’t require any hardware or ongoing maintenance and can be adjusted in real-time without any code injection or assistance from IT. This makes you much more flexible, and if you’re worried about the switch disrupting your customer experience, the ability to keep existing email addresses and phone numbers, through number porting, removes this potential hiccup. Cloud-based solutions enable agents to deliver unified cross-channel customer service regardless of where in the world they’re located, or what in the world is going on, so long as they have an internet connection.
Communicate about your technology changes
These are confusing times for businesses, but customers are also feeling unsettled. Be sure to communicate how you’re managing changes internally and––this is key––be transparent about what your customers may experience as a result. This helps you to better manage their expectations, which will alleviate some of the pressure your customer service department will undoubtedly be feeling.
Make customer data easily accessible to agents
You’ll want to make sure that every customer is met with an agent who knows who they are and what their history with your business is. Failing to show this level of personalization will only serve to intensify their concerns, signaling that their inquiry is not being taken seriously.
In a remote set-up, it’s not as easy as placing the customer on hold and popping over to a colleague to ask to be filled in on a particular situation. This is why it’s crucial that your customer service software can easily track customer interactions across different communication channels. Whether a customer has called, emailed, messaged, or used a carrier pigeon (okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration), agents should be able to see the latest interactions along with any relevant customer data that can help provide more context, such as order number or delivery status. In this way, they can provide personalized and superior service.
Speed up problem resolution through empowerment
The most important thing to remember when running your contact center remotely is agents need to be able to act independently to speed up resolutions for valued customers. Having to constantly coordinate with co-workers or managers will only keep customers waiting longer.
It’s always been important to respond to your customers with empathy, but, given the current situation, this has become vital. Chances are, if your customers are still working from home, a call center agent might be the only person outside of members of their family who they speak to in a day. In this case, giving a few extra minutes of attention to someone can ensure a truly impactful experience. Encouraging your agents to open up a little more than usual––after all, they’re also navigating new waters––can remind the customer that there’s someone just like them on the other end of the line. After all, we’re all in this together.
Ensure your business continuity plans enable you to scale
Online grocery orders and meal-kit subscriptions are already seeing a significant increase along with healthcare and wellness-related purchases. Many of these businesses have already experienced the effect of Covid-19 with website crashes and long checkout queues. Unsurprisingly, travel websites and traditional retailers will be among those hardest hit.
This will also have a knock-on effect on your customer service. Increased demand likely means an increase in inquiries from (anxious) customers, so make sure your platform — and remote team — can cope with this fluctuating workload. Having an omnichannel solution is key to managing this. Instead of having to continuously switch between channels, agents can make informed decisions and prioritize the most important inquiries as they come in, regardless of where they come from.
Enabling customer service teams to scale to meet demands remotely allows you to be prepared for retaining more customers should any demands peak or decline.
It also means that you can keep your business running effectively during some of the most stressful economic times the UK has experienced. What is more, remote workers have generally been found to be more productive, motivated and satisfied than their in-house counterparts.
So, perhaps making the transition from an on-premise contact center setup towards enabling remote working is not such a bad idea in the long-term. But, to do it - and do it well - means ensuring that your teams are equipped with the right SaaS technologies they need to succeed.
Mads Fosselius, Founder and CEO, Dixa