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How To Recession-Proof Your Contact Center

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  • Economic indicators like interest rates and fuel prices point to a looming recession. For businesses, this means less customer spending and tighter budgets, which can put pressure on call centers tasked with keeping customers happy and satisfied. 

    Taking steps to recession-proof a call center can ensure the success of the call center and the overall business. When a call center functions more efficiently, customers are well-served and the overall business benefits. 

    This article explores ways to adjust and optimize a call center to make it more resilient in the face of the impending recession. But first, why is it necessary to recession-proof a call center? 

    Why you need to recession-proof your contact center

    Customers become more demanding 

    In a recession, customers are under more pressure than usual and tend to become more demanding of the businesses they support. If something doesn’t work as expected, they are more likely to react sharply. Similarly, they might demand more value from a product or service to justify what they are paying. For call centers, such factors can result in impatient customers who require quick answers.

    If the call center isn’t optimized for this kind of behavior, the business could lose customers. Such instances also expose any inefficiencies in a call center’s KPIs, like customer satisfaction (CSAT), first contact resolution (FCR), net promoter score (NPS®), and agent utilization rates (AUR).

    Budgets tighten 

    Recessions go hand in hand with reduced spending across all business lines. With less money going around, businesses begin hunting for cost-cutting opportunities. It’s not uncommon for call centers to be among the first targets. To avoid budget cuts, call centers must realign themselves with prevailing conditions. 

    Recession-proofing can be a middle ground for businesses that wish to run more efficient call centers that save money while keeping customers happy. In some cases, like in the case of automation and agent enablement, recession-proofing can be a path to long-term cost savings due to reduced overheads and lower agent churn rates.

    Agent burnout increases

    Call center agent roles repeatedly rank as one of the most challenging jobs. In typical circumstances, agent churn is a significant issue for most call centers. During a recession, churn may be more likely — particularly if call centers do not take measures to mitigate the exodus. 

    Since recessions put more pressure on agents in the form of more requests and a higher performance threshold, call centers must invest in agent enablement as a counterbalance. 

    If agents don’t get the support they need or feel the company is not investing enough to enable them, they might just vote with their feet. Recession-proofing can prevent this by taking care of agents and providing them with all the tools they need to do their best work. 

    Customer churn increases

    Recessions are notorious for instigating customer churn. Since most customers turn to value-based bargain hunting — they want more bang for their buck — call centers come under increased pressure to retain customers. 

    In some instances, customers will demand more value from their current purchase. In others, they might require justification as to why they shouldn’t switch to a competitor. 

    In such cases, agent enablement and contact center QA become crucial to customer retention. Investing in tools like conversational intelligence can empower agents to provide necessary interventions to prevent customer downgrades or cancellations. 

    Pressure to justify spend increases

    As budgets tighten, call centers come under increased scrutiny and pressure to justify their current budgets. Management will want to know how the contact center contributes to the bottom line and whether there are any places to cut costs. 

    Automation and enhanced QA can help make a compelling case. 

    In the case of automation, call center managers can generate in-depth reports that show how the contact center is performing at a granular level. 

    Similarly, using an AI-driven QA enhancement platform like Level AI enables call centers to monitor and evaluate 100% of agent conversations automatically, making them 5x as efficient and providing 20x the accuracy of legacy systems. 

    These two factors alone can significantly influence management decisions regarding contact center funding. 

    5 effective recession-proofing strategies to implement

    As we’ve learned in the previous section, recession-proofing a call center isn’t just about cost-cutting. Instead, it’s a mission-critical exercise that affects the entire business. With that in mind, let’s examine five interventions businesses can initiate to prepare contact centers for a recession.

    1. Automate QA through conversational intelligence

    Conversational intelligence (CI) brings the power of AI to a call center, unlocking greater efficiency and effectiveness. CI platforms leverage natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) to listen in on all conversations across all channels and contact center apps. This data can then be quickly processed to empower QA. 

    For example, call centers using Level AI CI platform can review 100% of contact center data — not just the 1.2% standard methods allow. They can further utilize this data to build complex QA scorecards with customized grading questions, categories, scores, weightage, and more. 

    With a powerful CI platform, call centers can achieve 3x to 5x faster QA case selections. They can also use AI to automate QA evaluations at scale, providing a critical path to recession-proofing the call center. 

    2. Retool and enable agents

    Call centers are labor-intensive. If a contact center fails at empowering and enabling its agents, it fails at its most fundamental function, negating any other interventions. Retooling and agent enablement in a recession are critical factors in future-proofing a call center. 

    One critical area in agent enablement is access to information. One of the most frustrating things agents endure is trying to resolve tickets or calls without the necessary information. In this light, increasing information availability can significantly improve agent morale and call center outcomes. 

    For instance, Level AI’s Real-time Agent Assist crawls all accessible information databases, surfacing hints for agents in real time that quickly point them to the best information resources. With an AI assistant helping, agents will feel empowered to answer customer queries quickly and accurately, significantly improving QA outcomes and reducing agent burnout. 

    3. Provide better agent coaching 

    Agent coaching is another crucial factor in ensuring your contact center weathers the impending recession. One challenge call centers face, especially larger ones, is coaching at scale.

    In fact, most call centers can’t evaluate more than 2% of interactions while detecting performance issues at scale — that’s impossible without the right tools. Instead, many contact center trainers opt for a one-size-fits-all coaching plan. 

    However, greater effectiveness requires collecting and analyzing agent performance data at scale and providing agents customized coaching and feedback. 

    One way to achieve this is to use an AI-powered tool like Level AI. With it, you can analyze agent performance, identify gaps, set up action plans, select customer conversations for review and coaching, schedule coaching sessions, and track progress — all from one pane of glass. 

    In addition, call center quality assurance analysts get a dedicated space to track individual agent performance, identify improvement areas, and build coaching plans that reflect each agent’s growth path. 

    4. Rely on data-driven insights

    Omnichannel CX insights are critical to understanding a contact center’s performance. Without such insights, or when limited, call centers make erroneous assumptions, which feed into KPIs, negatively impacting outcomes. 

    In an economic slowdown, contact centers can’t afford to make decisions based on incomplete assumptions. Insights based on all call center data is crucial in ensuring contact centers make data-driven decisions. 

    For instance, relying on less than 2% of call center interaction data significantly reduces the ability to entirely understand what’s happening in a contact center. 

    Using AI-driven tools can help bridge this gap. 

    Level AI provides a unified interface that gives visibility into exactly what’s happening across voice calls, email, and chat conversations. The resulting omnichannel CX insights can be used to generate custom reports using Level AI’s Query Builder, which seamlessly integrates with your analytics and business intelligence tools.

    5. Onboard agents faster

    Agent churn is an inevitable reality of running a call center. Unfortunately, churn may worsen during a recession. The best-performing contact centers do not just try to stop agent churn (a crucial strategy), they also anticipate and plan for agent churn. One way to do this is to streamline the agent onboarding process.

    Inefficient agent onboarding can drain resources in the near term while frustrating new hires. Coaches and QA analysts invest time to upskill new agents, taking them away from coaching current agents. Call centers can better streamline this process using automation, with two areas of focus: coaching and access to information. 

    Call center automation platforms like Level AI provide powerful coaching tools applicable to new and existing agents. Coaches get quicker and more detailed agent appraisals for new agents, providing a shorter path to agent onboarding. 

    Similarly, Level AI’s live agent assist provides new agents hints on how to solve queries, significantly reducing training and onboarding time. These two factors can substantially enhance a call center’s competitiveness in an economically suppressed business environment. 

    Key outcomes to focus on

    Recession-proofing doesn’t just streamline contact center operations and lower operational costs. It also significantly impacts mission-critical business functions like customer retention and call center ROI. Let’s look at these and other outcomes of effectively recession-proofing your contact center. 

    Increase value to customers

    In a recession, customers look to get more for their money. Although they might not necessarily be looking for cheaper options, they want to get more value from what they money they’re spending. Call centers are a little-appreciated factor in cultivating customer satisfaction in such scenarios. 

    When customers call, chat, or email and get satisfactory resolutions, they are more likely to perceive they are getting value. Investing in the above strategies can significantly increase customer value, which leads to the next benefit: customer retention. 

    Stabilize and increase customer retention

    It’s well-documented that retaining customers is much cheaper than acquiring new ones. In a recession, the risk of losing customers increases. Some might leave for more affordable options, but all leave due to a perceived mismatch between what they are paying and the value they are getting. 

    As the first line of contact for customers, your contact center must operate at an elite level to ensure that customer queries are managed quickly and effectively. An effective call center will stabilize and increase customer retention through the recession.

    Reduce agent churn 

    Reduced agent churn is another benefit of streamlining, automating, and empowering your contact center. If agents feel they have the tools to do their job effectively, they are less likely to leave. 

    Similarly, if they feel the company is actively working towards helping them improve through strategic investments and initiatives, they are less likely to seek greener pastures elsewhere. 

    Recession-proofing your call center is both a short-term measure and a long-term formula for success. 

    Better contact center ROI tracking

    ROI tracking sits at the heart of call center performance improvement. You simply cannot improve what you can’t measure or measure effectively. 

    The above strategies will significantly enhance ROI tracking due to better data collection and processing, enhanced analytics capabilities, and powerful reporting tools that integrate with your data presentation software. With an effective recession-proofing strategy, you can expect to create better-defined KPIs and track ROI at a granular level. 

    Minimize inefficiencies 

    Call center inefficiencies negatively impact important KPIs like NPS and CSAT. Implementing effective anti-recession strategies will improve contact center efficiency, boosting KPIs and overall outcomes. 

    Minimizing inefficiencies is something call centers must embrace to ensure their operations remain an enabling function — and not one that scuttles the efforts of other departments. 

    Use the recession as a springboard to contact center excellence

    Recessions are agents of change, forcing businesses to innovate to become more efficient. In every recession, the companies that emerge stronger and more competitive embrace change and allow themselves to transform into a more efficient and innovative version of themselves. 

    Using this approach with your call center is the only way to weather the recession and emerge on the other end stronger and more efficient. Key to achieving this is implementing the strategies laid out above, including automating QA, retooling agents, offering better agent coaching and onboarding, and relying on data-driven insights. 

    Level AI provides a powerful suite of AI-powered contact center tools ideal for recession-proofing a call center. Learn more about how Level AI can help you bring unrivaled efficiency to contact center operation by downloading the datasheet or scheduling a demo

    Get a free demo today!

    Your customers will thank you for it!