Small business reopens their doors with social distancing and CDC rules in place.

How to safely operate your small business call center as businesses reopen

Small businesses are anticipating when they can reopen their call centers and doors as new developments continue in the COVID-19 pandemic. Since mid-March, many small business call centers have either sent staff to work from home, worked with limited staffing at their site, or closed their doors all together.

As local governments across the US begin to ease restrictions, many small businesses are wondering how to get employees back to work safely, especially in a small business call center. It will still be a while before social distancing is eliminated and it is important to keep local and CDC guidelines in mind when working through a reopening strategy. The Center for Disease Control illustrate in this graphic that people must be 6 feet apart to follow COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.

It is likely that as communities begin to reopen, small businesses will need to operate with limited staffing due to safety guidelines. For example, a small business call center that once had 25 agents, may now have less than 10 agents in their office due to social distancing to keep everyone safe. So, how do you maximize efficiency when you potentially have less staff? Here are three suggestions.

Be transparent

Tell your customers what is going on during a greeting at the beginning of the call to set expectations. You may be experiencing higher than normal call volumes and customers want to know how long it’s going to take to get help. Give them options like a saving their place in the hold line and a call back so they don’t have to listen to hold music. Or tell them how to reach you digitally via your website, social media, or email. Customers appreciate when you are considerate of their time.

Anticipate customer needs

Your small business is likely getting a lot of the same questions during the pandemic. With a limited staff, agents need to get to customer information quickly to provide exceptional service during an already stressful time. Call trees, menus, routing and staffing appropriately can help agents quickly answer customer inquiries. It also allows agents to see what kind of inquiries to prioritize based on customer needs. For example, during the pandemic Amazon prioritized sending specific items like hand sanitizer to consumers more quickly than non-essential items. 

Train your agents

Your agents are looking for guidance and leadership right now. Their world, like everyone’s, has changed drastically these past few months. It is important to set expectations and offer direct guidance on how to deal with stressed customers when they are likely to be understaffed in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

Having the proper quality and workforce management software in place will give supervisors the opportunity to see how the agent is responding to help guide improvements. This tool also helps supervisors establish KPI’s and deliver them to agents and executives in a way that is easy to digest.

As small businesses begin to inch towards a new normal, call centers can expect to be short staffed, especially for those who don’t have work-from-home capabilities. To ensure future survival, it is critical for businesses to invest in technology to acquire critical features they need to thrive. 

Find ways to reduce your small business call center costs

A transition could look something like this:

As you business and/or contact center operates at reduced capacity, you may also want to consider  ways to reduce operating costs.

As your business and/or contact center operates at reduced capacity, you may also want to consider  ways to reduce operating costs. A call center agent is usually the most valuable asset at an organization, which also accounts for why a call center’s budget highest cost is for labor. This means that an agent needs to be productive to reduce the cost of every interaction. As efficiency increases, costs decrease which means that with time businesses may not need to replace staff that leaves. 

One way to reduce call center costs and increase efficiency with a limited staff as businesses reopen is to direct customers to self-service options. IVR, automated chatbots with AI, and email. There are just a few of the other ways agents can divert traffic to take care of the more complex calls. Rusty Jensen, NICE inContact Vice President of Sales, explains how transparency, metrics and training can help small business call centers improve productivity and decrease costs. 

Learn more about how our software is helping businesses continue operating as communities across the globe begin to reopen.