The time of customer contact centers is here

July 06, 2020
Jeff Auger
Jeff A. Auger
Director, UHealthSolutions

In these days of COVID-19, helping customers stay connected to your organization is more critical and more challenging than ever. A well-run customer contact center can be the lifeline that enables personalized client service while helping stabilize staff who may be feeling overwhelmed.

Traditionally, call centers played an essential role in delivering reliable customer or patient services. In response to COVID-19, call centers have evolved to be full-on customer contact networks ­­– able to accommodate the record numbers of customers who choose to reach out via computer or phone rather than risking an in-person visit to a business. At the best customer contact centers, the human voice stands in for the high-touch customer experience—calm, reassuring, and ready to provide any critical information the caller may need.

However, not everyone prefers a live person interaction. These days, many customers choose a self-help mode, engaging with a business through an automated telephone menu or voice recognition software, or a company website or customer service portal.

Building contact center capacity to improve customer service requires overcoming a series of hurdles that begin with implementing advanced cyber-security measures to protect phone lines and computer networks and confidential information of patients or customers. Phone systems must also have the capacity to direct inquiries from multiple clients accurately.

And since contact center staff will likely be required to work remotely (as opposed to the centralized call center banks of the past), it means developing, implementing, and monitoring new workflows that facilitate team building and excellent customer service. Depending on the industry and call volume, companies may consider installing advanced AI voice-activated call systems. In some organizations, customer contact center workers may rotate from work-at-home to work-in-office assignments. Managers need to ensure that, while working at home, contact center staff have access to a quiet place where they can conduct confidential conversations. 

In any contact center, some jobs require handling mail and other documents. For these workers at office locations, masking, social distancing, and sanitary precautions must be in place.

Finally, customer contact center managers must be able to measure all of the performance metrics in every mode continually—telephonic, web, and traditional mail—that will indicate the level of service and identify areas for remediation.

These days, when a customer calls, they often are stressed about their situation and eager to get the answers they want or the information they need. This high level of anxiety especially impacts operations at customer contact centers for health care and human service businesses, when lives may be on the line. These centers perform a wide range of functions, not all of which are clinical but may still involve emotionally sensitive and personal conversations. Examples include an elder abuse and protective services hotline that takes reports of abuse and neglect, a pharmacy services contact center that handles requests for life-saving medication, and informational contact centers that triage requests for long-term services and supports.

Providing staff with focused and timely training and support is critically important at health care and human service contact centers. For many functions, virtual training models are adequate, but there is no substitute for the camaraderie that an in-person training session will provide.

To start a conversation on how a well-run customer contact center can help meet your organization’s needs today and in the future, contact Jeff Auger.