In the past, the world has been rocked by different pandemics. There have been similar situations with Ebola and H1NI that we can learn from. It is truly a difficult time for every aspect of life. Whenever a world pandemic happens, everyone panics and false information spreads. With the world experiencing COVID-19 pandemic, it is not only affecting people’s social lives, but it has had a huge impact on the world economy. Businesses have been highly affected.
Most places where the virus has already affected, businesses have closed until further notice. While social distancing is vital in this situation, employees and well as customers are in a panic as to what the future holds. Closure of businesses affects not only the employees, but customers are also affected too and your employees need to be able to still deliver a great customer experience. During these times people look up to leaders for reassurance and not only from world leaders but from business leaders as well.
3 Top Ways COVID-19 Is Impacting Contact Centers
As I meet with contact center executives there are three common themes among their concerns and decision-making that might be impacting you. These may shift as time goes by, join into the conversation in our Contact Center Virtual Summit Facebook Group. Here’s What I’m hearing now:
- Social customer care teams are swamped by 1:1 support
- Contact Centers are rapidly deploying work-at-home agents
- Many have seen volume decline (if they do not sell toilet paper) as society is narrowing their focus on core essentials
For now, fear is driving a lot of contact center contact volumes, but you need to take care of today and prepare for the next wave of this unplanned seasonal change due to this pandemic
In addition, in your contact center, fear is also driving your agents, supervisors, and support staff. All people need your leadership in safety and reassurance. As contact center leaders, there are 5 things to do to maintain employee morale during these tough times:
1. Be mindful of their emotions: They are always present, even if not displayed
During this difficult time, contact center employees may seem brave and may continue with business as usual. But with the continuous spread of the virus, the underlying fears of ‘no one is safe’ is everpresent. People may take precautionary measures to stay safe, however; the fear remains. Not only are people worried about the safety of their health and their families, but they are also concerned about the security of their jobs. As a leader, it is important to reassure employees that challenges will be dealt with in the best interests of everyone. This is a crucial time to maintain not only the safety of your employees but their morale.
2. Bring forth the Unspoken Fears Surrounding the COVID-19 Pandemic
People give clues on how to connect with their fears that they are unable to articulate. Ask questions for clarity, so you can serve best. Both your employees and your customers are concerned about different aspects concerning how the business will move forward. Even though during these times no one really has the answers, it is important as a leader to empathize with both employees and customers.
Often time’s people are not looking for answers because they understand that in times like this, everyone is just trying to get by. However, people want to be understood and listened to. Asking simple questions concerning their fears will help you as a leader understand how you can lead better and reassure your employees. It is also important to encourage that people follow reliable information outlets regarding the situation. Sources of information can contribute to mass hysteria and anxiety. While it is important to know what is going on, it is important to get information from reliable sources.
3. Share Visions of the Future After the COVID-19 Pandemic
Even though no one knows when this COVID-19 pandemic will pass, it is important to keep the eyes on the prize. While ensuring the safety of your employees and maintaining employee morale, it is important that as a leader you encourage people to focus on the future. This helps to decrease hysteria caused by the pandemic as it shifts the focus on to something more positive. All we have is hope, and hope can go a long way. Focusing on the future will help your employees feel more secure. It will give them a reason to push the business through a hard time. Not only will this increase employee morale, but it will also serve as a much-needed distraction. This can contribute to establishing a positive work culture.
4. Let it go: trying to be rational to the irrational is futile
Some of your people may panic. If they do, know that the hardest part is accepting your own lack of control over others. Once you accept that trying to communicate with them in that state is futile, you can choose to take action that protects others from falling into panic. Continuing to dwell on panic causes more harm than good. The situation is beyond anyone’s control.
It will be better for employee morale if as a leader you encourage everyone to focus on things they can control. Taking a ‘one day at a time’ attitude will help people focus on what they can control during these times. Simple things like completing work tasks and coming up with ideas to help better serve customers or during a tough time.
This can be incredibly difficult. We want so much to convince people—especially people we care about—to see “the truth.” We want them to stop being crazy and reconnect with us. It’s scary when someone we care about stops making sense.
5. Reward and acknowledge good work
During this period, it may be difficult for employees to do their best work. Anxiety, fear, and hysteria can largely affect the performance of your employees, so now is the time to step up your reward and acknowledgment of good work. Rewards do not necessarily have to be in the form of money. Simple recognition of outstanding performance or acknowledgment of good problem-solving skills will make your employees feel appreciated. It will make them feel that they are making a difference and this will encourage them to keep up the good work.
What Matters Most for Your Contact Center Employees During COVID-19 Pandemic
Most importantly, the safety of your employees matters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Coming up with a working system that does not put their health at risk with COVID-19 is one simple way to make the situation better. This will help them understand that their leaders are concerned and they care. It may also be a great time to have them contribute with ideas on how your contact center can be of greater value during this time. An important leadership strategy like this will help them focus on the positive. It will remind them that, we will all get through this.
- Here are five things you can do as a contact center leader to improve employee morale during the COVID-19 pandemic. – Click to tweet
- What are contact centers doing during this COVID-19 pandemic? – Click to tweet
- Talking about a positive future after the Pandemic can help your contact center employees get through this difficult time. – Click to tweet
- What are you doing as a contact center leader to help your employees get through the COVID-19 Pandemic? – Click to tweet
Jim Rembach is the Editor in Chief of the Customer Service Weekly and it’s Podcast host. He is President of CX Global Media and the creator of the Call Center Coach Virtual Leaders Academy. As the host of the Fast Leader Show Podcast, he has interviewed hundreds of experts, authors, academics, researchers, and practitioners on various angles, viewpoints, and perspectives for improving the customer experience. He has held positions in retail operations, contact centers, customer support, customer success, sales, and measured the customer experience. He is a certified Emotional Intelligence practitioner, Employee Retention Specialist, and recipient of numerous industry awards.