Have contact centres survived COVID?

Have contact centres survived COVID?

One Year of COVID – Have contact Centres survived?

On the surface, I know this is a silly question.

Some contact centres have never been busier (I know of many examples where they have expanded or rolled out new services to double in size).

Some, like those in travel, have suffered.

The concentration, naturally, has been how to cope with the new world with different services, customer expectations, changes in volumes and social distancing (read Work from Home/WFH).

There has been a proliferation of reshoring, upgrades or technology, and a heap of new trends – all of which have been an added burden or distraction from …. Offering the best customer experience.

Managing a contact centre is not easy.

You need to worry about service levels, KPIs, workforce planning, technology, information flow, recruitment, HR …

I’ll stop there before I fill the page.

Basically, a contact centre manager has to be a jack of all trades … well a master of all trades would be nearer the truth!

It was already a difficult role/function and COVID has certainly made things more challenging

How COVID has impacted Contact Centres

Talking to people in the industry a few things keep coming up:

1. Interaction in the industry is not happening

You used to attend training or conference or a breakfast and listen to the speakers THEN talk to your counterparts and learn.

I know COVID has reduced this opportunity but we all need fresh ideas.

As Covey said on time management spend 5% of your day on non-urgent and Non-important.

I can’t count the great ideas I have picked up over a coffee or in a break at a conference.

2. Team building

Working side by side you learn about your colleagues, make friends, and build confidence in each other.

Working remotely interactions are purely subject driven.

The lack of social interaction can survive a short while but team development means trust and this is built in more ways than purely work-related.

How does a new recruit blend into a team if they have only met on screen?

I am on a charity Board and we did zoom meeting for nearly a year.

The team spirit was definitely taking a hit and when we did have a face to face at the end of last year the attitude of the meeting immediately improved.

Better decisions were made more quickly.



3. The Basics!

When you are in the middle of a storm it’s sometimes difficult to continue the basics.

However, if they get forgotten too long then the standards drop and sometimes that’s difficult to see or identify when you are in the middle of that storm.

Yet again I see basic functions not happening, dropping the coaching, evaluating service levels, productive team meetings, one on ones ….

The longer these are avoided then that becomes the routine, which in turn reflects in a downward trend in productivity or staff retention or … name your indicator!

Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s been hard and there have been few options other than to move to WFH and change operations.

Individually the stats show individual productivity is increased (generally not just contact centres) but that’s the headline.

Like COVID itself, we just don’t know the long term effects.

Individual performance might well be masking a lower level of team performance, a lack of new ideas, increased staff turnover, stagnation, keeping up with trends and so on.

We operate in an extrovert world, dealing with people and solving their problems.

If contact centres become introverted will this see a degradation of that service?

I am hearing some examples that it is and I do hope it’s not a trend.

Contact Centres have always been about sharing and developing so let’s make 2021 the year we re-find our mojo!

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About Derek Finch 7 Articles

Derek Finch has over 25 years’ experience in managing contact centres across a wide variety of sectors including Government, Not for Profit and Commerce.

Derek was the former national Chair of the ATA has been elected Life Member of the Auscontact Association and is currently a senior consultant for CX Consult who specialise in providing consulting services to contact centres in Australia.

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