Customer Experience News & Trends

COVID-19 just made customer service work a lot harder: Here’s help to keep up morale

While many employees are working less because of COVID-19, customer service professionals are working harder than ever. Their hours are longer. The demand is complex and draining. 

Once the pandemic took a stronghold in the United States, researchers at Tethr looked at the level of difficulty in 1 million calls to contact centers.

“In short, the analysis paints a troubling picture for customer experience and customer service leaders,” researchers told The Harvard Business Review.

In about two weeks’ time, customer service professionals got double the number of calls considered “difficult.” Essentially, 20% of the calls across industries were related to the pandemic – from canceling plans or orders to asking for changes to billing cycles. On many calls, customers were emotionally charged and anxious, making the job even more challenging for service reps.

To make matters worse, the researchers uncovered more technical difficulties during calls – an uptick in people saying, “I didn’t hear that” or “I can’t understand what you’re saying.”

The problem: More service pros are working from home and don’t have the infrastructure and support they normally have in the contact center.

Needless to say, customer service professionals are under unprecedented demand and stress.

Here are four tactics to help front-line customer service pros do their jobs effectively and keep up their morale.

1. Loosen the policy-noose

Customer service pros are handling post-COVID-19 situations with pre-COVID-19 policies and procedures.

Many of those policies leave employees feeling like their hands are tied, which frustrates them and customers. Update policies to reflect your business and our global reality now.

2. Increase front-line pros’ power

Eliminate the need for transfers to others to approve anything. Encourage your customer service pros to rely on the training they’ve already received and updates you’ll continue to give them to make the right decisions for the customer and your company.

Give reps flexibility, options, exceptions and the power to fix customers’ most common issues immediately.

3. Coach now

With demand as high as it is, front-line service pros need more feedback more frequently. Try to touch base at least once a day (you should be able to do it virtually) to encourage good work, remind them of resources and confirm they have everything they need.

It’s OK to leave the weekly check-ins behind for now, researchers said. It’s not business as usual, and contact centers can’t run like they always have.

4. Connect employees

Front-line employees learn a lot from each other when they work side-by-side. They also lean on each other. If they’re working remotely, they’ve likely lost that important connection.

Help them stay connected with best practices, anecdotes and moral support through instant messaging apps like Slack and periodic group get-togethers on platforms like Zoom.

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