What COVID Surges Mean for Contact Centers
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What COVID Surges Mean for Contact Centers

Harry Chang
February 16, 2022 3 min read

The recent explosion of COVID-19 cases worldwide, driven by the Omicron variant, has demonstrated that the pandemic is far from over. By most counts, we have now experienced four significant spikes in cases since March 2020. 

With increasingly contagious variants, and changing safety protocols, more contact center agents are yet again unavailable for work. This, of course, has increased pressure on contact centers already battling staffing shortages, inconsistencies with outsourcing partners, and unpredictable call volume spikes.

While nearly every industry has been impacted, led by travel, hospitality, and healthcare, the ripple effect for contact centers in particular has been in their ability to serve customers.  

Recent months have made it clear: workforces and staffing fluctuations aren’t going anywhere. Here’s what contact center leaders should take away from the latest pandemic-driven disruption.

Employees are stretched thin

Workers all over the world were already exhausted – and resigning at record-setting rates – prior to the latest COVID-19 surge. But the most recent wrinkle has added even greater stress to employees’ lives as absences increase, childcare and school closures become more unpredictable, and customers become angrier

In contact centers, this has highlighted the need for additional employee support. If you’re leading a team, it’s important to view your employees as a reflection of your brand. Customers calling brands with greater support resources regularly use that to inform their total spend with a business. 

Harvard Business Review’s list of employee support strategies include training and upskilling. Learn more about how AI can help employees learn new skills rather than compete against humans.

The need for flexibility has never been higher

With unpredictable staff numbers day-to-day, entire departments can be forced to sit out weeks at time. Unfortunately, call volumes in most industries are not just impossible to forecast, but rising by the month. 

Contact centers experiencing difficulties with under- or over-staffing are great fits for conversational AI. Replicant’s Thinking Machine can not only fully resolve tier-1 customer requests, it scales up and down based on your needs.

It can be positioned in front of live agents, during after-hours or weekends, or be turned on and off based on your headcount and call volumes. The best part? You only pay for what you use. 

Download The Great Resignation: Why Your Contact Center Won't Survive Without Automation

Traditional solutions are no longer enough

The challenges of 2021 were unprecedented and have accelerated the need for innovation in the contact center. It’s imperative that every stakeholder in your organization’s customer service operation takes a step back in 2022 to reassess how they traditionally addressed uncertainty and risk, and evaluate the limits of those solutions against recent challenges.

Drawbacks of Seasonal or Temporary Hiring:

  • Rely on past KPIs to forecast the future
  • Result in sunk training costs
  • Don’t guarantee lower AHTs, high CSAT scores, or lower hold times
  • Expensive, sometimes require paying for agents to not be online
  • Can harm your brand

Whereas temporary employees, agent assistant solutions, and BPOs can excel in performing “damage control” in times of need, modern automation offers a long-term foundation that can completely transform the capabilities of a contact center.

Replicant’s conversational AI provides guaranteed 24/7 service, only needs to be trained once, and can do the job of unlimited tier-1 agents while protecting your brand’s reputation. 

Conversational AI should automate routine tasks

Replicant’s Thinking Machine goes beyond “talking the talk”; it acts as a high-performing agent and integrates seamlessly with the most commonly used systems. Its common use cases include authenticating callers, opening service tickets, updating customer information, closing cases once resolved, and much more. Conversational AI can also completely replace your IVR.

The offloading of routine calls and repetitive back-office work is one of the leading reasons agents love Replicant as much as customers. With less hold times, and more engaging calls, agents are able to deal with the kinds of creative, high-empathy calls that only humans can handle. 

Download The Great Resignation: Why Your Contact Center Won't Survive Without Automation