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The spread of COVID-19 has presented contact centers with unique challenges. Millions of customers still need support as companies continue providing vital services that keep the world running. Meanwhile, daily operations of contact centers face severe disruptions. A number of offices have been shut down. Those that continue bringing employees in are doing so at their own peril as contact center facilities aren’t designed to accommodate social distancing practices. As a result, companies end up in a no-win situation in which they have to choose between serving customers or keeping agents healthy.

The negative effects of working in offices

Companies are likely to face obstacles whichever path they choose. Requiring employees to keep coming to the office puts them at an increased risk of catching COVID-19. This not only endangers people’s lives but also results in public backlash and even lawsuits.

French outsourcing firm Teleperformance SE, for instance, was ordered to temporarily shut one of its contact centers in Portugal after some employees were tested positive for COVID-19. The incident drew criticism from local health authorities and workers’ union SNCC.

Slate, a popular online magazine, published a diary written by a Charter Communications call center employee. The piece alleges that hundreds of agents are fearful for their health as they sit in tightly packed, open-air cubicles with limited remote work options. Also, the employee accuses the company of prioritizing business calculations over the collective well-being.

Bringing employees to premises and putting them at risk for the coronavirus can end up in serious lawsuits. A Walmart employee in Illinois has died from complications of COVID-19. His family then filed a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging that the retailer knew about the man’s symptoms and ignored them. The company said that it has increased safety measures across stores to keep customers and employees safe.

Many industries experience a spike in customer calls

Failing to provide exceptional service can also have dire consequences. Unhappy customers will be more likely to take their business to your competitors and your company may suffer a blow to its reputation. What’s more, a number of industries are experiencing a spike in call traffic.

Internet providers in particular are under pressure as many workers and school children shift to working and learning from home. This results in an influx of demands as people face connectivity issues or want to upgrade their plan, which often requires assistance from contact center agents.

Retailers face similar problems. Some of their stores might be closed but the rise in online shopping has essentially transformed these companies into e-commerce enterprises that have to provide shoppers with 24/7 phone and chat support.

Travel and leisure companies are also hit hard. Airlines are not only sustaining financial losses as flights got grounded worldwide but are dealing with numerous calls from travelers who want their flights canceled, rescheduled, or refunded.

Customers who wanted to change their itineraries with Canadian airline WestJet, for example, had to wait over 10 hours to reach customer service centers.

British Airways even played a message to call back later or visit the company’s website to travelers trying to reach its customer support teams.

RingCentral’s solutions for work-at-home agents

Companies with contact centers based on traditional on-premises, business-telephone systems might feel as if they’re stuck in a no-win situation.

Yet to figure out how to set up employees to work safely from home, these firms balance between business needs and health concerns. But there’s a way out of this situation: embracing the cloud.

RingCentral’s Contact Center solutions can be deployed within 48 hours to enable agents to work from their homes. These cloud-based tools are developed with managers’ and employees’ needs in mind.

A management team, for instance, is provided with analytics and reports about workers’ performance and customer experience. The program also enables supervisors to coach employees and offer administrative support. Managers can use gamification to motivate staff by giving challenges, badges, and prizes and receive feedback on how everyone is performing relative to the rest of the team.

Agents benefit as well by having access to a powerful toolset that requires nothing more than an internet connection and a browser. Remote team members can connect through video conferences. Collaboration is made easy too as the software enables agents to support each other and mentor junior colleagues, and even reach beyond the contact center to experts who can help.

Many companies are already using RingCentral’s solutions to set up their work-from-home workforce and continue serving customers without putting employees at risk. Explore our work-from-home resource center to learn how to be a #wfh master with RingCentral.

Originally published Apr 23, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022

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