If you agree with the majority of CFOs, begin by focusing on the most expensive part of your call center operation — people. Assess talent and identify under-performing staff. This helps you prepare for job cuts, if needed. And you identify under-performers who have potential. Investing in your people, both performers and less-skilled folks with upside, during a recession is important. It breeds a sense of loyalty and makes employees want to stay when things pick back up.
In addition to evaluating talent, take the next step with artificial intelligence (AI)-powered voice and chat-bots. This technology is advancing quickly and will prove key to managing interaction growth should the number of agents you employ decline or stay the same.
A recent Temple University study suggests undisclosed chat-bots are as effective as proficient call center workers — and four times more effective than inexperienced workers — in engendering customer purchases. And, while limited to more structured outbound calls, the researchers make a good point when they say, “As millions tell Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant to play music, reorder products and make appointments, the impact of AI new frontiers on our daily life will be ubiquitous in the long run.”
Bots will never replace all call center agents. However, they’re an important part of the emerging workforce. In addition to offloading boring, repetitive tasks that annoy proficient agents, bots can help less-experienced agents perform better as they develop new skills. They become a sort of personal coach that listens to live interactions and offers prompts, hints, tips and even special offers to help agents get customers what they need quickly.
Assessing talent and taking the next step with bots are just a couple of ways that the call center can prepare for a recession. Be sure to ready yourself on all fronts.
Learn from companies that proved resilient during the last great recession. Look for ways to enhance flexibility, spend more wisely, and maintain customer and employee loyalty. Be the voice of reason and a catalyst for change in your organization. Resilience is born out of preparation meeting adversity, so get your team started now.