Changes in Attitudes…
By Colin Taylor
Last spring when the Covid19 pandemic began, companies were forced to make many changes to how they operated. With the offices closed, they sent their agents to work from home. This was a learning experience for the center leadership, the company, and the agents. According to the research we completed in May 2020, only 15% of contact centers had active and existing remote or agents working from home. This was also a new experience for customers and callers.
It took days, and in some cases weeks, for organizations to complete the shift to work-from-home (WFH). There were equipment shortages, technology issues, and insufficient bandwidth which resulted in not all agents being able to work from home. The result was longer waits to get calls answered. We all grew accustomed to hearing, “We are experiencing higher than expected contact volume,” and were asked to wait or call back. A few organizations even provided an estimated time to answer (ETA). My personal favorite ETA was the local tax authority that advised me that my call would be answered in 72 hours!
Of course, there was a sense that we were all ”in this together,” and that Covid was playing havoc with all of our lives and employment patterns. So we were patient, and time passed. Our personal lives and work routines slowly adapted to a new norm. Yet, the contact centers we called were still experiencing a higher than expected call volume. So we cut them some slack. Working from home isn’t easy, working without many of the tools and supports that we would have in the office, not to say anything about having your spouse and children also working from home.
Then finally we moved past the lockdowns, and the economy and our lives began to open up, albeit slowly. Soon we can leave our homes and can start to go to restaurants, gyms and personal care salons. Normalcy seems close at hand. And yet, many contact center operators have, after the initial scramble to shift their agent to WFH (work from home),settled in and became complacent behind the general “higher than expected call volume” messaging and the general air of forgiveness that their customers have extended. But maybe it is time to revisit this approach.
As we return to normal, the sense of goodwill on the part of many consumers is fading, the feeling of ”we are all in this together” is being replaced by the feeling that organizations are now employing the pandemic as a reason (excuse) to provide degraded and otherwise poor service. Now, this isn’t to suggest that all contact centers are employing this approach, but here are clues to the organizations that maybe taking this approach. One organization I recently dealt with; Staples; still has the “ We are experiencing higher than expected contact volume” message when the call is first placed in the queue. This is even though each call placed to them; I had to call five times; appears to route directly to an agent without delay.
If we keep playing this message when the situation doesn’t warrant it we run the risk that it will lose all value, much like the boy crying wolf long after the wolf has left the scene.
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