How will the Recession Impact Front-Line Customer Service Staff?

Back in 2020, the UK entered a recession due to the economically devastating Covid-19 lockdowns. The UK economy as a whole plunged by around 20% as many businesses ceased trading or closed all together.

Fast forward a matter of 2 years, and the UK has again entered a Recession. This time, the results could be even worse. Experts are predicting that household disposable income will fall by the second largest amount since records began in 1964.

How will the recession affect customer service staff? - LiquidVoice

Source: Office for National Statistics via BBC News

Who will be affected?

A recession affects everyone in a country in some way, but some are hit harder than others. Individuals who seek benefits or have a fixed income, may find it difficult to even afford their shopping.

It’s likely that the sheer number of calls from those finding themselves in difficulty increases. These individuals will turn to organisations they have relationships with for help – to reduce bill payments, cancel subscriptions, and sometimes just to share their problems with someone.

Logistically, this may force changes to shift patterns and staffing numbers, but also a greater emotional pressure on staff. Furthermore, additional training needs so that staff can better understand how to deal with vulnerable customers.

Ultimately, both customers and front-line customer service staff will be affected, and thus, in turn, your organisation as a whole will need to rethink its customer service strategy.

How long will the recession last?

The Covid recession lasted approximately two business quarters, and in that time, the economy took a hit of over 20%. Prior to that, in 2008, there was a global financial crisis that last five quarters.

Experts cannot predict how long this will last for, so as a business, you need to ensure that you plan ahead and implement support processes for your staff.

Many customer service agents gravitate towards the profession precisely because they enjoy interacting with and helping customers. This ‘love for the job’ may start to be stretched when they are relentlessly faced with such complex, difficult, and near impossible issues.

All organisations should equip their front-line staff with the tools, training, and support mechanisms in order for them to do the job effectively and without fear of making mistakes.

This is arguably more the case in the post-Covid operating environment, with agents working remotely, away from floor-walking managers or colleagues with whom to share information or ask advice of.

Agents should be fully versed on the CARE framework, but to rely purely in individual judgements in these trying times is not a strategy. Keeping your fingers crossed is seldom a strategy.

Is it time to reinvest in customer care?

Over the past decade, there has been an increased focus on efficiency across all customer care sectors. Many organisations have analysed their customer care teams and worked on cutting costs for expansion elsewhere in the business, marketing, or product development. When organisations work to reduce spend in the customer care space, the entire business takes a hit over time. The results aren’t always clear or tangible in the beginning, but under-investing in customer care and success can only be negative in the long-term.

There should now be a drive to increase customer experience (CX) and emotional support. Organisations that have client-facing departments, which is most, should re-invest in better technology to empower their staff, additional staff to alleviate capacity strain, and data comprehension abilities to better support the end-customers seeking guidance or support.

What obstacles are there when dealing with vulnerable customers?

Goodwill alone is not easily implemented on a large scale, and many organisations’ efforts to support their vulnerable customers can be hampered by their reliance on specific technologies.

It will be no surprise to many reading this article that the big issues stem from three core sources, all related in one way or another to data – the elephant in the room.

Legacy systems

Legacy systems are a perennial problem for compliance officers and data analysts in customer service and success departments. This is often due to a lack of integration with other systems, which prevents management or supervisors from ever attaining a reliable single view of the customer.

Interactions made by phone may be recorded, stored, and analysed separately from those interactions taking place on other channels. Additionally, different data points may be being recorded across interactions, or quite simply data may not be extractable in a format that can be easily mined by BI platforms. Are you looking for emotion in a voice on telephone or lack of literacy in written communication? These are non-transferrable indicators of vulnerability.

Data quality

A poor quality of data being captured leads to inconsistency and missed opportunities. While this is often a sign of a bigger problem than managing vulnerability alone, it certainly impacts an organisation’s ability to accurately track the numbers of vulnerable customers on its books and therefore hampers efforts to put appropriate safeguarding and support in place, for both staff and end-customers. Recording high-quality cross-channel data should be the norm.

Data privacy & Compliance

Data privacy concerns around capturing vulnerability information are understandable. Information regarding an individual’s wellbeing or financial circumstances must be dealt with securely and with sensitivity. A big factor in this is being able to have faith in the storage and capture systems within the business.

The Liquid Voice platform ingests data from across all customer channels, as well as from legacy datasets, into a single, consistent and secure database. It enables appropriate customer service agents to gain total visibility of any customer interactions and, where necessary see the entire context of a customer’s question. In a recession, this is key in being able to truly help a customer.

Our solution also empowers customer service teams to address compliance issues, track service-level trends over time, and respond to audits and Freedom of Information requests in minutes, not days.

That’s why we’re trusted by major organisations in the emergency services, finance, housing and transport, to help maintain compliance and ensure the smooth running of all their customer interactions.

If you’re ready to plan ahead for the recession and strategically position your business in a way that puts customers first, get in touch today.