The following is a weekly-updated list of call & contact center industry reports related to COVID-19. The overview includes:
- news reports relating to spam calls
- new regulations from federal and state governments
- warnings from the FCC, FTC, & FBI
- reports on contact centers that are refusing to switch to a work-from-home model for their agents.
There’s no shortage of call centers that are outright refusing to move to remote work during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Such decisions clearly go against and actively undermine all efforts by the CDC, federal and local government – and the world even – to limit the spread of COVID-19. Further down, you can read why many contact centers are hesitant to switch to WFH and some advice on how they should proceed.
New COVID-19 Cluster in Martinsville Call Center
- At the moment there are 6 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the YoungWilliams call center in Martinsville and 1 death. According to representatives of the child support center, all employees were offered the possibility of working from home. However, out of the total 130 employees, 9 opted to work from the office. Although all CDC cleanliness guidelines were allegedly respected, the disease still spread among the employees. More info here.
- According to an official complaint filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration weeks before the first COVID-19 case was declared, the company’s efforts to prevent the propagation of the virus were not in tune with current regulations. More details here.
911 Call Center Evacuated
- Arlington’s Emergency Communications Center was evacuated on the 15th due to an employee reporting COVID-19 symptoms. The EEC went though a deep clean and all operations were moved to a backup facility. It seems like the move was handled with great care and efficiency as police operations were not disrupted by the incident. Read more here.
AI is Gaining Even More Terrain
- As Call Centers operate at maximum efficiency, statistics show that the AI-powered assistant offered by IBM to businesses and public agencies increased traffic to up to 40%, making countless workflows more efficient. Read more on TheHustle.
- More and more companies are trying to take the human aspect out the call center and streamline their services using AI. However, at the moment, the best use of AI is to integrate it in your company structure and program it to work with your agents. Learn more about the truth about AI in call centers from Customer Think.
Call Centers Secretly Evaluated by Mystery Callers
- Mystery shoppers are migrating to the virtual space as companies are trying to align their services to the standards imposed by the General Services Administration. Find out more on how to implement a mystery shopper evaluation for your company.
COVID-19 Jump Started the Death of the Traditional Call Center
- As voice-centered call centers are obligated to find costly solutions to keep their employees working and their customers satisfied, experts are asking themselves if voice-centered services are going to survive this crisis. It seems like automation and message services are taking a hold on the market. Read more on the death of the call center.
The Supreme Court Stands By the TCPA and Eliminates Exceptions
- The Supreme Court decided that the exception imposed by automated debt collection calls is no longer valid. According to the Supreme Court, the TCPA is now more important than ever in the fight to ensure consumer safety. Find more information here.
Contact Centers Are Crucial for Business During the COVID-19 Era
- A new analysis shows that having a functional call center attached to your business can help boost your sales during the pandemic. As people look for more information and have more questions generated by COVID-19 restrictions, businesses that don’t provide call center services to their clients are at a loss. Read more on the importance of the call center.
More Measures Being Taken to Fight Illegal Robocalls
- The National Association of Attorneys General is urging telecommunication providers to invest more resources in tracking illegal robocalls. More details here.
The Medium Duration of a Call Has Doubled
- According to a report released by Pindrop, the medium duration for a call has increased from a minute and a half to three minutes after the COVID-19 pandemic debuted. They also registered a 1,000+ percent increase in call volume, the longest calls taking up to an hour to be resolved. Read more details in the Pindrop report.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) Is Gaining Traction
- NLP can help call centers working in both the inboud and outbound sectors improve their services. Being able to conduct sentiment analysis, organize large numbers of calls and messages simultaneously, provide solutions to frequent customer queries, and more, Natural Language Processing seems to be able to decrease costs and increase efficiency for all contact center players. Read more on NLP technology.
AI Is Becoming The Hero Call Centers Needed
- We have covered the importance of artificial intelligence in the contact center industry during the pandemic before. However news of its importance floods our news feed every day. It seems AI was not the hero people wanted during the COVID-19 pandemic, but its applications in alleviating the workflow of contact center professionals during these trying times when everybody has questions and businesses are struggling to offer clients the best customer experience is transforming it in the hero we need. Read more on how AI is a key player in the call center world.
Call Centers Are Being Praised for Their Quick Adaptation to the Pandemic
- Call Centers are seeing increased customer traffic as the COVID-19 pandemic has thwarted the plans of millions. After adapting themselves to a WFH policy with efficiency, the media is now applauding the work of call center workers who are providing the much needed support customers are looking for. Read more on what happens when COVID-19 takes the center out of call centers.
- T-Mobile managed to move 12,000 agents from their on-site operations to their homes in just two weeks. Read more on Fortune.
Spam calls now declining significantly:
- In a sharp turn contradicting previous estimates, spam calls are going down all over the US.
- Wisconsin spam calls are down by a staggering 53%.
- Another study says the same thing: phones are ringing less due to the Coronavirus.
- The rise in scam texts signals a giant shift in the industry’s bad actors – they are increasingly adopting more effective tactics.
New heroes emerge:
- Call centers are hiring people with disabilities that can work from home in order to supplement their staff during these high-volume times.
India’s Call Centers Are Struggling With WFH
- About 60% of support operations in the US are outsourced to India. From retailers to banks to medical advice, the world’s back office handles them all. But the lockdown imposed on March 24 is putting a big strain on business as most call center employees don’t own a laptop to work from home. Some international companies are therefore redirecting their operations to local providers, leaving a poor country even poorer during the pandemic. More information on how the global lockdown impacts the 4 million IT workers in India on NPR.
Call Centers Are Becoming Part of the Solution
- After the U.S. Department of Labor reported 26 million job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Contra Costa County’s Workforce Development Board has decided to implement a call center service for local businesses. Any business with inquiries on insurance, loans, layoffs and more can contact the WDB COVID-19 Call Center 833-320-1919.
- Henrico County is taking care of its older citizens via call center. Launched on April 13, the initiative looks at providing the elderly with much-needed human interaction. Employees from the public library system volunteer to answer questions and provide emotional comfort. In just 2 weeks the program became so popular that people from other states are calling in to register their old ones, praising the EngAGE initiative.
- On April 27, Hilsborough County opened a special call center for residents to facilitate their access to disaster recovery funds meant to cover essential needs like rent, utility, and mortgage during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A call center offered its services to the Riverside County authorities to help schedule COVID-19 tests.
Would you be willing to loan the services of your call center to facilitate the implementation of a bigger testing effort?
More call center issues related to COVID-19:
- Another employee of Charter Communications has tested positive for COVID-19. The person is employed at Spectrum Call Center in McAllen, Texas.
- Bank call centers are beginning to feel the pressure of the increased call volume mostly due to relief programs provided either by the banks themselves or the federal government.
Scam calls & COVID-19:
- One study correlates a big drop in FTC complaints against spam callers with an overall drop in spam calls. Of course, as last week’s update proves, this is merely a coincidence. One likely scenario is that people simply don’t have the time or the patience to report all the spam callers to the FTC – since we know for a fact that spam calls are just as common now if not more than before COVID-19. Furthermore, declines in spam calls are, however, likely in some states which prohibit cold sales calls during a state of emergency – such as New York. More about the study of FTC complaints during the pandemic.
- CNN says the exact opposite – more scammers are resorting to unseemly tactics to seem more legitimate. The report highlights warnings by the FCC, the FTC, and the FBI against robocalls and robotexts. The latter is a new form of scam that sees bad actors in the industry capitalizing on anxiety. One common tactic is notifying people they’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. These approaches are designed to induce panic, promote false news reports, and sell fake cures, alternative medicine, and bogus supplements. You can read more about how scammers profit off of the pandemic on CNN.
More cases of Contact Centers employees fearing for their lives:
- Health Department call center workers are afraid to go to work in New York.
Rising up to the challenge:
- Florida signs $119M contracts to fix unemployment website and call centers.
- School nurses in Virgnia’s Prince William County volunteer as coronavirus call center workers.
Scams are increasing during COVID-19:
- Study shows scam and spam calls are on the rise in the US amidst pandemic, with scammers predominantly targeting vulnerable elderly people. Social isolation is also driving a rise in answer rates.
- FCC and FTC warn carriers against facilitating scammers.
A new case of a call center infection that could potentially endanger the lives of countless workers and their families:
- A worker in a call center in El Paso was diagnosed with the novel Coronavirus. The Maximus call center works with federal government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the 2020 Census – which makes its jobs essential. But should government-sponsored call centers be exempt from the work-from-home transition?
- Also read: what’s it like working in a contact center during COVID-19?
Meanwhile, unemployment call centers and websites are facing a volume surge:
- With over 190,000 Ohioans filing for unemployment benefits as of last week, call centers working with the Department of Job and Family Services are getting overwhelmed by the rising call volume.
- Massachusetts issues guidance for debt collectors during COVID-19.
Many more reports are coming in of call centers refusing to make the switch:
- In Washington State, one of the areas most affected by the Coronavirus, a Wells Fargo call center is refusing to send employees to work from home.
- In Arizona, call center agents fear for their lives at an OnTrack Call Center.
- In Syracuse, N.Y – the top state by the number of infections in the US – Spectrum support personnel are still working at the office.
- Another Arizona call center, this time belonging to Consumer Cellular, is also refusing to send people home, prompting agents to fear they’re part of “one big germ pool”.
Meanwhile, we’re seeing examples of call centers that could potentially be epicenters of infection in their communities:
- A worker was diagnosed with COVID-19 in Auburn, Maine. The person was employed by the building to clean the offices of a call center belonging to TD Bank.
- Emergency call center workers are not safe either – a San Francisco 911 operator working in a call center recently tested positive for Coronavirus.
About sales calls and spam calls:
- In NYC, sales calls are prohibited during the Coronavirus state of emergency, in accordance with a law signed by Gov. Cuomo back in December 2019.
Call centers are spots where hundreds and hundreds of people work in proximity. Depending on the type of call center, agents might even be working less than 6 feet from each other for 8 hours a day or more. Clearly, the potential for infection right there is immense.
It might be a difficult decision from a business perspective, but in the long run, it ensures call centers remain open – even if it means operating remotely, from home.
Control Is Essential in a Call Center
Look – of course, many contact centers value control over their employees. These are places that provide some of the most valuable customer interactions that drive businesses. And right now – it’s the most important time for positive customer experience.
Since everyone’s especially anxious over the news, businesses that can do anything to not add to that anxiety should strive to do so.
But that doesn’t mean call centers can’t switch to remote agents. There are tools out there that permit efficient supervision of employees and allow for business continuity even in times of crises, such as the Coronavirus Pandemic.
And it’s not difficult to understand why executives in these call centers want that level of control for their people. Traditionally the call center space has been a very diverse one when it comes to background. Entry-level call agents come from all walks of life and lack of trust from managers is almost constant.
But guess what?
The Jobs Are Essential to the Employees Too
These jobs are important now especially because most call agent jobs are entry-level positions. They are the backbone of many successful careers. A lot of people started out as call agents.
The decision to become a call center agent is never one taken lightly. People need jobs, they need stability, they need a paycheck. And how does the coronavirus affect these needs? Simple – the needs are even more urgent.
So, there’s a very LOW chance that people won’t work if they are sent home. Typically, home is an environment that allows for quicker breaks with fewer distractions compared to a workspace.
There may be exceptions, but provided executives take the chance to select good remote contact center solutions, these exceptions will be monitored and the risks can be mitigated even more efficiently than in brick-and-mortar offices.
Business Continuity Is Essential to Call Centers
Good contact center solutions don’t have to cost business continuity. It’s a fundamental truth that many call centers seem to forget because they forego doing the appropriate research. It’s 2020 and there are tools at their disposal for quick and easy business continuity.
Most technology providers, like us, actively look for business opportunities and that means making sure any new client does not lose business by making the switch.
There are contingency plans in place that prevent this. If a provider offers a remote solution, you can be sure they’re already using a remote solution themselves. Engineers and support agents take into account priorities during this time and, seeing as they’re already efficiently working from home, they will be ready for new tasks.
So the earlier contact centers make the move to remote, the sooner they’ll secure their business.
Moving to Remote Work Now Saves Businesses Later
Not all states or countries are equally affected by the Coronavirus. Some places still seem relatively safe – Nebraska, Idaho, and other states. However, that only gives businesses in those areas an advantage in that they’re able to make the move slower, more calculated, and with fewer risks.
However, every call center, wherever it is, must take any leeway time to streamline processes, acquire new software, and secure their data before they are obligated to move towards remote work.
Furthermore, call centers that are ready to make the move should do so irrespective of how the Coronavirus Pandemic is evolving in their locality.
Efficient Remote Solutions are Essential
We’ve kept saying this and are saying it again: before you make the move, take a bit of time to ensure you have the overall best solution you could get for remote contact centers right now.
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Are you an executive in a contact center? Do you have over 30 seats? You’re eligible for this offer!