Have COVID and WFH become an excuse for poor performance?

I realise that this might be an unusually confrontational heading for a blog post and let me head off any potential arguments by stating that everyone at Liquid Voice understands the challenges many businesses have been through over the last 2 years.

And yes, there have been some real and unavoidable changes that have affected organisations’ customer-facing teams during that period, but short-term challenges should not become long-term excuses for sub-standard customer service and compliance.

And yet, we’ve seen a trend developing over the last year or two which should be of concern to any contact centre manager passionate about their work:

Firstly, we’ve heard of multiple examples of remote-working customer service agents being unable or unwilling to help customers, simply because  they are remote (no escalation or support points, no accountability, and clearly not much engagement with their employers).

Additionally, we’ve  and we’ve seen a number of big players force channel shift by reducing the availability of certain channels (particularly pulling back on phone and email, in favour of pushi8ng enquiries through Self-service and chatbots / live chat).

To our minds, both issues stem from a shared root cause: A lack of operational visibility and appropriate controls.

While technology has enabled staff to now work almost anywhere in the world, it’s tempting that all agents need is a good internet connection and remote login to their contact centre solution, but there’s more to it than simply being available:  remote workers need the same (and often more) support and training when working remotely, and the same checks and balances as they would be subject to if sat in the same room as their managers. They need to be empowered to provide the best possible experience to customers, and when they don’t, that also needs to be addressed.

But if your customer interactions are dispersed across multiple channels and platforms, your visibility of the workload your agents are under, and their ability to respond appropriately, leaving them unable to provide customers their best service, and becoming disenfranchised with the work they’re doing.

Similarly, while we have seen channel shift accelerate over the last 2 years, it’s vitally important that companies making changes to the ways they interact with their customer base do it in a customer LED way:  forcing people to use self-serve and live chat may make operational sense in terms of efficiency savings, or responding to unplanned staff shortages, but it can lead to real frustrations for customers:  many of us still value being able to communicate with real people, and some problems just can’t be quickly resolved through self-serve or short-form channels.

Again, my feeling here is that some organisations have embraced channel shift because it ‘can be done’ rather than because it was the right thing to do. I suspect many didn’t – and still don’t – have the overarching visibility of customer interactions to make an informed decision about how to provide the right mix of channels for customers, and likely are not fully aware of the damage they are doing to their reputation as a result.

Given our line of work, you won’t be surprised to know we take a keen interest in measurement and accountability. Companies should be monitoring and tracking customer interactions not just for regulatory or compliance reasons, but for the fundamentals of customer service:  First call resolution, contact frequency and abandonment rate are just as critical as ever, and yet harder to track when customers and agents are interacting over multiple channels and platforms.

This is where gaining one clear view of all your customer interactions, really comes into its own: being able to track and compare customer journeys and challenges across phone, chat and email channels in a single dashboard can both inform decision making about how and when to prioritise certain channels, as well as  catching these common frustrations and operational issues that could be losing you business.

That’s why so many of Liquid Voice’s customers get so much value from our Single Pane of Glass (SPOG) dashboard: it provides a clear, single source of insight into all your customer interactions, whether text, audio or video based, and is completely platform agnostic, so no matter the source of your data, you’ll be able to see and action it from one location.