In 2011, Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, reflected on the many strides researchers have made in terms of treating diseases such as HIV, malaria and polio. Gates warned us, “There is one area, though, where the world isn’t making much progress, and that’s pandemic preparedness. This should concern us all because if history has taught us anything, it’s that there will be another deadly global pandemic”.
Now, we face this deadly global pandemic, and the devastating impact on call centres is undeniable. President Ramaphosa recently stated, “it is essential therefore that we minimize the risk of the spread of this virus by limiting contact amongst groups of people.”
As a result, multiple companies have introduced a limit on meeting attendees and close proximity to one another, ultimately, conventional call centres will be among the most affected. The traditional manner of using call centres to engage with our customers can no longer be considered as our preferred method of engagement.
By nature, call centres are highly populated with agents being in close proximity to each other. With COVID 19 we are forced to reassess how we operate and engage with customers. We need to be effective and efficient, remain productive, and ensure we survive in these turbulent times.
How do we mitigate this risk for both business continuity and social responsibility?
1. Web Based Software Solutions
Remote access and minimising physical call centre requirements are already a reality for several companies. Companies need to look at acquiring web based software solutions for business continuity. This being said, very few companies have tested and implemented a remote strategy before the pandemic struck.
In order to mitigate the impact this pandemic has on businesses, web based software solutions need to become the order of the day. Businesses that have a clear offsite strategy will be those that survive, remain operational and able to serve their customers.
2. Customer Self-Service Collections Bot
With the advances in technology and utilisation of digital platforms, customer self-service has been an industry focus within South Africa and the rest of world for some time. Yet very few companies have implemented automated self-service capabilities though customer preferred channels, such as, mobile, especially in collections and recoveries.
“42% of people prefer to use chat as a mechanism of engagement”- Hubspot
“Artificial Intelligence Assistants are forecasted to handle 85% of all customer service queries by 2021” – Gartner
“By 2021, over 50% of enterprises will spend more on bots and chatbot creation than on traditional mobile app development” – Gartner
These statistics have not yet factored the impact of COVID 19, and will no doubt be significantly different in predicting the engagement for 2021.
Within the collections environment we find that:
- The majority of debtors are tech-savvy:
- Prefer to engage via communication platforms like WhatsApp (mobile based);
- Prefer to engage when it suits them;
- Self-service platforms outperform conventional platforms (sms, email and outgoing call centre) in:
- Incoming engagement;
- Engagement to payment arrangement conversion;
- Payment conversions.
Our Artificial Intelligence self-service web based chat-bot, Atura, provides our clients with a solution that can easily be implemented and integrated into your existing collections platforms. Atura enables your customers access to their account information at any time of the day, and allows them to engage with you to make payment arrangements, or obtain relevant account information so that they are able to manage their finances more effectively.
Organisations that implement Chat-bots provide their customers with more communication channels resulting in better customer service.
The time is now to engage and deploy automated self-service capability within operations, not just as a result of the pandemic, but because most customers prefer engaging in their own time and on their preferred devices.
In conclusion, this pandemic has struck us at a volatile period, both politically and economically, and this is possibly not the worst of it. We strongly believe that out of these challenges, opportunities are born.
We have noticed many organisations and customers are moving towards using various communication channels, such as, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, Instagram, Skype, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. Engagement through self-service Artificial Intelligence Bots are becoming the norm as connectivity through FTTH, 3G/4G and Wi-Fi Hotspots, are far more accessible.
This is the time to engage with your service providers and implement measures that will ensure business continuity in the long run.