How Current Events are Changing the Way Contact Centres Operate

How major world events have effected contact centres and how you can be better prepared for unpredictable challenges

What challenges do contact centres face following world events such as the COVID Pandemic, recent rise in energy prices and more

Today we’re covering some key world events that have happened over the past couple of years and focusing on how they have a knock-on effect on customers and contact centres alike, from increased levels of vulnerable customers due to unemployment, to the logistical issues caused by sanctions and pandemics.

We’re starting off covering the most recent events and how they effected contact centres – COVID-19, Ukraine vs Russia, and the inflation in energy prices. Then we’ll wrap up with some practical advice on how to better prepare your contact centre for unpredictable events that are out of your control.

The COVID-19 pandemic

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate in the UK reached 14.8% in April 2020. This was the highest rate since 1948, the year data collection first began. Additionally, trading between countries decreased worldwide, with many flights and other shipping methods cancelled to reduce spreading of the disease.

Unemployment’s impact on contact centres has been exceptionally large. People all over the UK were quarantined at home and found themselves with a newfound plethora of free time. Because of this, many turned to ordering new products (such as exercise equipment, games and toys) to keep them occupied, which caused an increase in the numbers of customers trying to contact the relevant businesses.

Contact centres also had less workers available, due to many agents and managers either being off sick with Coronavirus or still adapting to working from home, which greatly reduced the number of calls that could be taken per day. This combination of increased demand and decreased capacity was bound to cause major problems for many contact centres.

Additionally, due to the trade routes being slowed or halted completely, we saw a huge increase in shipping times for businesses and customers alike. Particularly where businesses were unable to update their information fast enough. This lead to an increase in customers inquiring about delayed deliveries and missing orders.

Ukraine vs Russia

In more shocking news of 2022, on February 24th Russia launched a full-scale assault on Ukraine.

Ukraine imports roughly £44.5bn and exports £38bn worth of goods, and the invasion will affect not just Ukraine’s trade but everybody who trades with them. Additionally, several countries have placed sanctions upon Russia – for example, the freezing of Russian bank assets.

This conflict impacts the world economy.  Ukraine and Russia are both suppliers of commodities, including titanium, palladium, wheat, and corn. Disruptions to the supply of these can keep prices high. Consumers and providers of these products will feel the repercussions globally.

This again will have a knock-on effect for contact centres as we can expect to see product shortages, unfulfilled orders, cancelled pre-orders, shipping delays and more. Agents will be likely be receiving many more queries about these issues, causing an influx of calls and if escalated, complaints.

Skyrocketing energy prices

Partially a result of the Ukraine vs Russia conflict, on April 1st the default tariff for energy bills increased by an average of £693 per year for a family in the UK. This is even higher for prepay meters, with the average increase being closer to £708. This is particularly a pain-point in the UK but reflects the record rise of 53% in global gas prices.

Whilst wages are yet to catch up, this rise in energy prices will undoubtedly result in more customers becoming financially vulnerable. We are likely to see an increase in customers who are cancelling subscription services, struggling to pay their bills, and more frequently showing signs of distress.

If you’re interested in hearing about the rising energy prices specifically, we have previously published articles regarding how to handle customer complaints in contact centres, and how to manage demand whilst the energy prices rise.

How to prepare your contact centre

World events like these can and do occur regularly, and many areas are completely out of our control. So, it’s vital to be able to adapt to them and understand how different events could impact your customers, your colleagues, and overall, your contact centre.

Here are a handful of practical tips that can help you in difficult times:

  • Bring in temporary staff when expecting a influx of calls so that customers aren't kept waiting for too long. This could be when you are expecting increased demand on your contact centre, or it could be when you are expecting increased complaints or frustration amongst customers in times of shipping delays, product shortages, or increased levels of vulnerability.
  • Make sure agent and manager coaching is up to date and done to the highest standard that you’re able to provide. If this means getting staff to attend a workshop on the current events that could be affecting customers, it will go a long way in ensuring that customers feel listened to and cared for.
  • Keep staff updated and informed on specific problems that will affect customers (such as shipping delays) so that they are better prepared for dealing with certain issues. Additionally, help manage customer expectations and therefore demand on your contact centre by ensuring your website and other relevant channels are up to date with information about shipping issues or product shortages.
  • Create opportunity for feedback with both customers and agents. This way if something unexpected is happening that the manager potentially isn’t aware of, decisions can be made to help the ship run smoothly. Listening to agents who are dealing with customers almost every single day will provide some of the most accurate feedback possible.

Overall, ensuring that your contact centre stays as agile as possible by always being prepared for potential staff shortages, increasing demand, or other unpredictable events, means that you are more likely to get through these tough times with as little damage to your customer base as possible.

About TMAC

At TMAC we want to make every customer conversation valuable, and we believe human to human interactions augmented with AI will provide the best experience. Win back control of your conversations and solve real problems with our three contact centre solutions (Listen, Act & Learn), that put your customers front and centre by helping you listen to them, act on their preference, and coach your teams to success.

Want to chat about how we can help your business? Drop us an email at sales@tmac.ai.

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