How call centres became vital during COVID-19

/ Contact Centres

A newly published study has noted the vital service performed by call centres during the COVID-19 pandemic – even going as far as to suggest that some contact centre workers deserve recognition similar to the weekly minute’s applause that was given to front-line NHS employees.

Writing in the journal International Union Rights, Professor Philip Taylor of Strathclyde Business School calls contact centre workers the “invisible front line” operating helplines and emergency numbers that will have saved lives over the course of 2020.

He adds: “With face-to-face service prohibited, phone, email, internet and other contact become vital.

“Vulnerable people, shielding, may rely on telecom call handlers for connectivity, or financial service agents responding to urgent money queries, or civil servants processing state benefits or furlough payments.”

Across all industries, the pandemic has placed greater emphasis on remote services, whether that’s home delivery and click-and-collect in retail, working from home in office jobs, or increased use of call centres in many different sectors.

Professor Taylor’s article highlights the contribution made by those unseen call centre workers, alongside visible services like doctors, nurses, cleaners, delivery drivers, shop and postal workers.

Creating social distance in call centres

In addition to providing a vital service to customers and other callers, contact centre agents faced the need to socially distance from one another during the early stages of the pandemic.

Professor Taylor conducted an online survey of call centre agents as part of the research for his article, collecting 3,000 responses in April-June 2020.

He found that:

  • Nearly half of respondents were sitting more than two metres from their nearest colleague while at work.
  • Most workplaces installed signage and attempted to establish a one-way system of moving around.
  • But many continued to hold face-to-face meetings among staff.

This was still early in the outbreak, and it’s likely that conditions were still improving in many workplaces, but it shows the challenges that were faced by employers and employees alike while continuing to offer an uninterrupted essential service to callers.

How call centre technology can help

Until a working vaccine can be widely distributed – which could take until late spring 2021 or beyond – there are several call centre technologies that can help to support social distancing efforts in the workplace.

Daviker Workforce Management is one example. It uses intelligent statistical analysis to determine the most efficient staffing levels to meet demand for each shift – fewer staff on-site means more distance per person as a matter of course, and also saves you money.

Scheduled shifts are automatically distributed to your workforce via email and SMS, so there’s no need to see people face-to-face to let them know when they are going to be working.

And your contact centre agents can also access their shifts and submit requests (e.g. annual leave) via the Web Portal, further supporting distant working, even for those who cannot work from home.

To find out more, and to ensure your call centre staff can continue to provide their vital service whatever the coming months might bring, contact Daviker today.

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