Improving Crisis Management in Call Centers Using Desktop Integration

By John Broderick

Recently, while making travel arrangements, I called my travel agent’s customer service line. On hold for the better part of an hour, I listened to Muzak and intermittent assurances that my call was, indeed, very important. I experienced the same dilemma everyone does in this situation: “Should I call back later in hopes that the call volume has died down?” or “Should I wait this out so this time is not wasted?  It might only be a minute more.” Then it hit me. As this was during the height of the swine flu panic, they were most likely flooded with inquiries about air travel safety, added precautions, cancellations, and the like.

A majority of consumer service brands employ call centers. Even in today’s world of online transactions, sometimes you just have to speak to a “live person” to resolve an issue. In addition, when there is a full-blown crisis, no matter what the reason, call centers can become overwhelmed, less able to provide the level of customer service they strive for under normal circumstances. In order for call centers to handle “moments” of crisis, they must first be running as efficiently and effectively as possible. During crises, they need the ability to adapt quickly, provide agents with up-to-date information, and deliver a high level of customer service, particularly regarding immediate conditions. So what can call centers do to better handle different types of calls during periods of emergency and maintain the same high quality of customer service when it is most needed?

Desktop Integration and Automation – The Optimal Solution: At the heart of a call center, regardless of its purpose, are systems that assist management and call center representatives in managing their calls and providing necessary customer services. To provide quick and accurate support, agents need current and pertinent information regarding the caller and their issue, but valuable time is too often wasted by switching between applications and application screens, waiting for information to load, and, when necessary, calling in additional resources. Meanwhile, the caller is getting increasingly frustrated and forming negative associations about the company. This perception is compounded during times of crisis when customers are likely struggling with a negative experience, potentially more easily angered or panicked, and in need of immediate resolution of an issue. Companies using desktop integration can respond to these periods of crises by deploying new information from other systems, automating new processes, or providing pop-ups that walk agents step-by-step through relevant procedures.

Desktop integration defines and streamlines business processes, integrating systems where they are used – at the desktop. Desktop integration is an effective approach to organize complex work environments, simplify processes, and reduce the time required for knowledge workers to complete tasks. In addition, desktop integration is noninvasive and requires no server-side integration, thereby reducing integration costs, eliminating the need for additional, complex infrastructure, and lowering implementation times from months to weeks.

We all know how complicated and costly it is to change or cancel travel plans, so consider what it must have been like for travelers booked on flights to Mexico when the swine flu epidemic began. As agents working for the airlines and travel providers during this time can attest, anything that enabled them to quickly access necessary information and resolve issues would have been a godsend. This is just one example – all companies employing desktop integration would benefit from the same solutions, not only for the purposes of automating processes for regular call times but also to quickly adapt during periods of crisis. Your call center agents’ productivity and the level of customer service they can provide can only be improved by streamlining processes at the user level. Investing in solutions to integrate your disparate applications and automate necessary processes will reduce the time it takes to get an issue resolved and, more importantly, build customer brand loyalty.

With more than thirty years’ experience in business and finance, John Broderick joined Cicero Inc. in 2001 to manage the company’s global finance functions. He can be reached at 919-380-5000.

[From Connection Magazine March 2010]

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