The coronavirus outbreak has had a profound effect on nearly every facet of modern business, from sales and marketing to customer service and beyond. At the start of 2020, few would have predicted the global economy would experience such a downturn, and many were unprepared when the World Health Organization classified COVID-19 as a pandemic back on March 11. In response, companies of all sizes and in every industry have had to carefully reassess their operations and make adjustments to key workflows. As the situation continues to evolve over the coming months, organizations will need to remain adaptable to find practical solutions to a variety of business challenges.
To better understand how companies are responding to COVID-19, the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company conducted a detailed study on the specific work streams business leaders are prioritizing. The survey identified 5 areas of concern shared by organizations around the world, including:
- Workforce protection
- Supply-chain stabilization
- Customer engagement
- Financial stress testing
- Nerve-center integration
While each of these work streams has its own unique challenges, nearly all require some form of internal communication and the active collaboration of managers, employees, vendors and other business partners. Of course, calls for social distancing and self-isolation have further complicated these workforce management and customer outreach efforts. So how can businesses streamline their operations in the face of such a disruptive crisis?
Call center automation and IVR solutions
Whether your organization is grappling with the impact of COVID-19 or any other global crisis, your business phone line is likely the first line of defense. As such, your ability to field and properly route callers to the appropriate destination is essential, both for maximizing efficiency and maintaining high-quality customer service. That’s where IVR solutions come in.
Interactive voice response (IVR) systems have been around for decades, but recent innovations in call tracking, routing and processing have given business more control over how their phone lines operate. As noted by TechTarget, modern IVR systems can be used to manage both outbound and inbound calls, while also offering a range of self-service features and automated support options. Depending on your specific needs and call volume, reorganizing your IVR menu options could give your employees and customers a more direct means of resolving their inquiries.
Here are a few use case examples of how IVR can benefit your business during times of crisis:
Setting up a dedicated hotline
When disasters strike, businesses often receive an influx of calls from concerned patrons and business partners. This can put undue strain on your sales and customer service lines, especially if your representatives do not have the specific information callers are looking for. Using a flexible IVR, companies can create new hotlines and menu options that route crisis-related to calls to dedicated service agents. Organizations can also set up automated systems to help callers find answers to frequently ask questions, locate open branches and more.
Understanding the nature of inbound calls
While intuitive routing and self-service options can help stem the tide of inbound calls, companies need to look at the bigger picture to stay adaptable. That’s why many business phone providers offer advanced call tracking and reporting features that provide real-time data on call center operations. By integrating this functionality into your phone system, you can create detailed reports that show how many calls you receive, who is calling, how long they remained on the line and other important call metrics.
Reducing wait times and call abandons
During times of increased call volume, customers usually spend more time on hold or in queue waiting to speak with a service representative. Long wait times can have a major impact on your ability to deliver high-quality customer service, which in turn can damage your company’s reputation. According to a 2019 Study from the call center staffing firm Arise, nearly two-thirds of surveyed consumers are only willing to wait 2 minutes (or less) to speak with a representative, while 15% felt that any hold time is unacceptable. The more your business can do to ensure calls are answered immediately, the better overall service you can provide.
Streamlining remote work pathways
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to move at least some of their employees to a temporary work-from-home basis. This transition would likely not have been possible without a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system in place, which removes the need for dedicated hardware. But before you can set up a remote workforce, however, you first need to establish Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) routes that allow employees to directly connect to internal systems and networks. Of course, security is a top concern, which is why businesses should work with VoIP providers that can safeguard their customer and call data.
Providing vendors with a direct line of communication
Supply chain disruptions are a common outcome of national and global crises, often leading to delays in product or service timetables. To mitigate these risks, businesses must stay in constant contact with their vendors, suppliers and business partners to receive accurate updates on inventory, deliveries and more. Creating an IVR extension or hotline specifically tailored to these types of calls can help improve supply chain visibility and remove barriers to urgent communications.
While there’s no telling how long the coronavirus pandemic will last, it’s clear that it has had a profound impact on how businesses approach disaster response. Even after this public health emergency has passed, there will likely be other situations in the future that may force companies to take drastic measures. No matter the cause, preparation and planning is crucial for maintaining profitability and staying connected with customers in times of crisis.