Britain’s contact centres are overwhelmed
The impact of COVID-19 on the marketplace has been significant for everyone, from business leaders, to call centre operators. Companies are either rethinking the way they work entirely or deal with an influx of calls from customers and people who need more support than ever before. The Economist recently reported on this phenomenon, sharing that the UK’s call centres are more overwhelmed than ever before.
There are countless companies around the UK right now taking more calls from nervous clients than they know how to manage. Whether it’s British Airways dealing with refunds for flights that simply can’t take off, or healthcare companies managing conversations with patients worried for their health, the demand is sky-rocketing. The issue is so bad that Virgin Media emailed it’s 5.5 million broadband and cable customers to ask them to stop calling.
Everyone from broadband providers, to banks, insurance companies, and more are feeling the pinch of a changing environment.
So, what’s going on with the contact centre in the face of all of this chaos? Is the UK rolling out more efficient measures to ensure customers get the support they need in the weeks to come?
Well, not exactly.
According to the Economist, call centres are struggling. Many have even been forced to shut down physical locations to protect their employees.
COVID-19 has put the call centre industry (employing over 1.3 million Britons), in a tough situation. Only around 10-20% of the UK contact centre workforce currently works from home regularly, according to the CCMA, but that has turned into a significant issue lately.
Many contact centre employees are responsible for dealing with sensitive information, taking payments, and talking to customers about policies or personal details. Simply telling agents to work from home might not be an option for some brands.
However, if a site keeps the contact centre open as normal and a single employee catches COVID-19, that could mean hundreds or thousands of team members are at risk. A call centre in Cardiff for Sky was closed for a day after a worker got a diagnosis in March.
Everywhere you look, contact centres in the UK are struggling to stay afloat. In February, there were a dozen call centres dealing with customers queries for Virgin.
Now, there are just seven, with many overseas contact centres closing. Although the British contact centres for Virgin are still open for now, the staff numbers are fluctuating wildly, as people take time off for health or family purposes.
To try and deal with the influx of calls, Virgin has been redistributing its staff, asking employees used to making sales calls to handle customer service instead.
Staff has been spread thin over several floors, ensuring there’s enough of a gap between employees to keep the risk as low as possible, yet the threat still remains.
So, why not just send your employees home and ask them to work from a CCaaS service? Well, this could be an option for some companies, but it’s a tricky process.
Many supervisors and managers are still worried about managing agents effectively when they can’t really interact with their teams. What’s more, security and privacy issues abound for businesses that don’t know how to keep their employees protected if they’re not located in the office.
Despite the challenges, the Economist reports a work from home policy is possible. The Sensee call centre has a workforce made up completely out of remote employees. The brand works with the government and has various financial firms as clients.
To keep things running smoothly, supervisors keep an eye on staff using webcams. They also make sure that agents keep desks clear so no-one can see any information they’re not supposed to.
There are options out there for contact centres that want to replace the in-office environment with something more flexible. CCaaS providers are continually updating their offerings to make cloud-based contact centre tools more secure.
However, the question right now is whether contact centres in the UK are willing to make such a massive shift.
It seems some forward-thinking companies are beginning to pivot towards a complete home-working solution for their employees. However, more brands will need to adapt if the industry in the UK is going to stay afloat.