Surviving a PR Nightmare: Tactics for the Contact Center
By Jay Minnucci
Every contact center should have a comprehensive recovery plan for the "typical"
disaster. Whether caused by fire, flood, earthquake or other similar event, being
prepared for the loss of the use of a building is a fundamental planning requirement.
Contact centers are the faces of our organizations—there is simply too much
at stake to ignore this activity. Not every worst-case scenario, though, fits the
definition of a "traditional" disaster. Many events can take shape that will not
bring down a building, yet can have a disastrous impact on performance results,
customer loyalty, employee satisfaction and/or revenue.
The first inclination with a PR disaster is to think of it as a temporary (though
potentially significant) increase in call volume, but that is only a small part
of the problem. Here is a more complete overview of the impact of a PR nightmare
for the contact center:
- An increase in call volume that is nearly impossible to predict in terms of size
- A likely increase in talk time
- A substantial increase in the emotional level of callers
- Concern and second-guessing from agents about their employer
The first step? Separate the calls. Assigning a different toll-free number is a
great way, if you can do it. Of course, you have very little control in a PR disaster,
so other media outlets may wind up publicizing your regular number anyway. Even
if you can segment only a portion of these calls, though, the efforts are worthwhile.
Since the segment will be very specific, you may be able to borrow staff from other
parts of the organization for staffing.
Whether you can segment the calls or not, there are other considerations in this
type of situation:
- Significantly strengthen your escalation resources. Depending on how emotional the
situation gets, some percentage of customers will not be satisfied until they get
transferred to someone with "more authority." While your first response to that
request will be to attempt to handle the call at the agent level, you will only
fan the flames if you make it too difficult for callers to get to another resource.
- Resist the temptation to throw supervisors and managers on the front lines. They
will be busy enough with escalated calls, upset staff and managing the communication
flow to make any dent in the queue.
- It is counter-intuitive, but you actually need to schedule more off-phone time for
agents. They will need to vent, and they very well may have suggestions on how to
improve the situation. And if they know they have time every day to meet to discuss
the situation, they will be more likely to stay plugged in when scheduled for phone
- Do whatever you can to get company leadership in front of the agents. That may not
be possible in some instances, especially where the contact center is far removed
geographically from the corporate office. Do your best to work around those obstacles
with video conferences or any other tool at your disposal. Executive visibility
is crucial at this time.
When the contact volume subsides, you need to fully tend to concerns agents have
with the company. Lingering doubts about the integrity of the organization, the
quality of products, and the commitment level to customers and employees can only
lead to poor performance results. Think of the drop-off in contact volume as the
beginning of the end, not the final step.
SNAPSHOT: PSCU Financial Services
by Susan Hash
Hartford Life's CEM strategy is "a closed loop" in which customer interactions are
regularly measured and feedback is provided to the frontline employees. Contact
center managers play a critical role in driving CEM success across the organization.
While managers track traditional productivity metrics—such as average speed
of answer, service levels and handle times—to ensure that calls are being
answered efficiently, they also routinely review after-call surveys, customer loyalty
and customer retention data. At the initial point of contact, customer segmentation
plays a key role to ensure that customers are routed to the right person to handle
their request, and that unnecessary call transfers are eliminated. First-contact
resolution, considered to be a critical measure of the customer experience, is tracked
at the rep level to create an awareness among frontline staff of how to handle calls
in a manner that doesn't drive a subsequent contact. To close the loop, the contact
center's productivity metrics and customer data are integrated into the employee
Read the full story here. (PDF)