Is your contact center built to withstand any crisis?
BY: KEITH KAWASAKI & BOB WEAVER
Thirteen years of contact center operations for the nation’s armed forces have taught us a valuable lesson.
Seamless audience life cycle management during times of crisis requires a radical rethinking of how (and where) you engage your audiences.
Getting your customer care model to an Always Ready for Anything state isn’t simple. But mastering some core concepts will move your contact center operations much closer to this crucial goal.
Start with a mission-ready mindset.
While the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic certainly makes the most dramatic case yet for call center readiness, weather events, acts of terror, and even seasonal or event-based surges are all good reasons to reassess the traditional centralized call center model.
Your call center plays a crucial strategic role for your organization. That’s why you made the investment in technology and human resources. But when a crisis arises and your call center works within an enhanced security environment or involves a complex call path, ensuring continuity is considerably more challenging.
Decentralize to mobilize.
The traditional call center approach relies on a single centralized location. Whether that’s a dedicated space in your facilities or an offsite location, robust call center infrastructure requires significant floor space, networked workstations, computer telephony integration, ultra-high-speed internet connections and servers to support it all.
However, relying on only a centralized call center can put your organization at a disadvantage when disasters—natural or manmade—occur. Suddenly switching to another geographic location can result in a loss of expertise when your primary contact center staff are unable to work.
Ideally, your contact center should be able to switch quickly between a main facility and a distributed solution.
To support our missions for government agencies, iostudio has developed both: a traditional place-based center as well as decentralized training, workforce and call center operations. Working in locations across the country on secured workstations with a cloud-based shared knowledgebase and management platform, iostudio supports our clients and their prospects with demanding SLAs requiring 16-hour-per-day coverage and a 99 percent uptime guarantee.
Cultivate expertise at scale.
The most successful call center operations are built around a key understanding. When the phone rings, the voice on the other end of the line isn’t a lead; it’s a person looking for an answer that may have a profound impact on their life. Delivering the best possible experience requires call center reps who can connect with callers at a been-there level.
Elevating operators to subject matter experts requires you to cultivate a close, collaborative relationship between your call center staff and product owners. As your product or service nears introduction, give operators extensive hands-on time to put your offering through its paces. They’ll approach your solution with the mindset of your prospect and may uncover questions your product developer never considered. In many cases, your support group can also function as the most educated beta testing group possible. Their feedback can lead to enormous improvements in the overall customer experience.
In our work with the Army National Guard and America’s Navy, most calls are fielded by current or former U.S. military personnel or family members. Every operator undergoes an extensive training regimen developed by iostudio. Combining in-person training with video sessions and interactive learning modules ensures that our operators deliver a consistent, compliant call experience every time.
But it’s the been-there-done-that experience each operator brings to the table that makes the real difference.
In our experience, when that young man or young woman who’s driven to serve makes that call and raises their hand, we need to welcome that initiative. Making it easy and seamless for a prospective recruit to talk with someone who’s been through their thought process makes it that much easier to connect them with a recruiter.
Facilitate seamless data connections.
When your customer life cycle workflow requires linking multiple systems and data repositories, a new challenge can arise. Regardless of the number of systems your operators need to access, your prospects must feel that the person they’re talking to truly has all the answers.
Off-the-shelf middleware systems exist to facilitate data handoffs. But oftentimes, a custom solution is the only way to handle connections between data sources that feel invisible to both operator and caller.
The need transcends IT. It calls for a total solutions-based approach that brings together a focused, agile team of engineers. iostudio’s user experience and developer groups work in partnership with our clients to build front-end and back-end user interfaces to supply everything the operator needs for a successful call.
Provide end-to-end security and quality.
While every contact is unique, meeting strict security and quality assurance standards is non-negotiable. Whether you require proper handling of your audience’s basic personally identifiable information (PII) or you need to uphold even stricter health or financial data security requirements, you must account for every possible failure point.
From a hardware standpoint, encrypted internet connections and common access card or other biometrically enabled workstations are really the cost of entry. Robust remote-device management must be equipped with lock-and-wipe capabilities to mitigate risk with a single click.
Once your hardware is secured, your people must be as well. iostudio operators undergo a battery of background checks and must complete multiple training courses on data and information security before acquiring government-issued security clearances.
Compliance with security protocols needs to be reverified constantly. Senior leadership must establish strict standard operating procedures. QA monitoring is a daily or weekly commitment. And ongoing training cycles must be in place to ensure that familiarity with operations doesn’t lead to relaxing the strict standards you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Be ready for anything.
Any call center committed to operational excellence faces these challenges. When your call center is decentralized across eight states, establishing and adhering to documented, verifiable processes and workflows become more complicated by orders of magnitude.
While there are complexities involved in decentralizing your call center operations, the technology-supported, expert-based approach to these vital operations will make an enormous difference in your organization’s performance. And you’ll create an always-ready call center to support your clients’ critical missions.
Ready to explore more ways to make sure your call center is always ready? Drop us a line and let’s get started.
Keith Kawasaki is iostudio’s VP of Client Services & Contract Management. With more than 15 years developing HR marketing programs and leading integrated teams, Keith has brought innovative solutions to the Army, Navy, Marines Corps, UPS and McKesson, among others. Keith is an active member of the Content Council, SOCAP and the Association of Proposal Management Professionals. Contact Keith at 615-724-4202 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Weaver is iostudio’s Director of Customer Engagement. He has led our contact centers for America’s Navy, the Army National Guard and the Department of Defense since 2011. Before joining iostudio, Bob served 27 years in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard, and then worked as a Tennessee Guard recruiter. He is a member of the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals (SOCAP) and Professional Association for Customer Engagement (PACE).