How COVID-19 is Affecting the Call Center
by Levi Fox
Jared lived in Salt Lake City as a contracted employee at a software company. He was on pace to receive an offer letter to be a full-time employee, but with the breakout of the Coronavirus and the impact the business felt, they laid off all contract employees, putting Jared out of work.
Immediately, Jared filed for unemployment. Weeks went by and he had heard nothing and hadn’t received any benefits. He called the unemployment offices, where he was on hold for 11 hours—until the call dropped. He tried calling again, but after another couple of hours, he gave up.
This is not an uncommon occurrence.
Vice Magazine ran a story in which the writers attempted to call the unemployment offices of all 50 states, only to be answered by 2 state labor agencies. Two!
How come, it seems, when Americans need help the most, they are least likely to receive it?
Since the beginning of March, over 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment. In April, according to data from the National Multifamily Housing Council, nearly a third of Americans didn’t pay their rent.
With many call centers run on hardware and office-based operations, COVID-19 and stay-at-home mandates are creating a huge problem for customers needing support.
To put it bluntly, things are not normal out there. This pandemic is creating hysteria: ranging from the inability to pay bank loans, rent, an increase in insurance claims, and even things as simple as long wait times for Amazon orders.
The uptick of customer service calls is met with two very unsatisfying realities:
There are not enough agents to handle the demand.
Call centers have never been more important -- or more strapped.
India and the Philippines have been coined as the “call center capitals of the world.” The country with the most outsourced call centers in India, which is under strict lockdown of its 1.3 billion citizens. And earlier this month, Philippine police and army troops locked off the capital of Manila and surrounding areas, halting much of the metropolitan labor forces.
With the influx of stay at home orders and the increase of customer service requests and calls coming in, the outcome is disastrous. No one seems to be getting the help they need at this crucial time.
Most call centers are not prepared for remote work.
Many companies are not set up to handle these stay-at-home orders. With offices full of cubicles, hardline phone systems, and on-prem hardware, taking their operations remote is impossible.
According to the Economic Times, the distribution company Synnex saw their business cut in half.
“Of the 150,000 staff in restricted movement locations, approximately 70,000 are unable to work currently,” Chris Caldwell, its president told analysts last week. Its workforce is both in India and the Philippines. “As governments continue to refine the strategy to deal with the Covid-19 virus, our expectations are further restrictions will be put in place affecting many more of our staff,” Caldwell said.
And a spokesperson for the National Association of Software and Service Companies said the remote transfer of call center agents is the “largest work-from-home scale project anywhere.”
And that’s where customer service solutions like CONTAQT come in.
With CONTAQT, call centers can easily convert to remote work with our software because it’s in the cloud (or browser-based), and comes loaded with advanced tools for effectively managing at-home agents. We have a flexible, advanced technology that accommodates both office and virtual operations. In reality, most agents could be ready to work at home tomorrow with as little as a laptop, a headset, and a stable internet connection. There’s no software to download and install.