The crisis spawned by the global spread of COVID-19 has created a number of personal and professional challenges. for frontline leaders in contact centers across the country. The pandemic has affected not only the economy but also peoples’ emotional wellbeing and social interactions. There are many contact center challenges during COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to begin to recover from the damage done by the coronavirus in contact centers, we need to understand the unique challenges facing frontline supervisors under these new and troublesome circumstances. Below are some of the most pressing issues facing these leaders today. There is a lot that can be done to improve the situation in the workplace, be it remote/virtual, in person, or some combination of the two.
1. Demonstrating higher levels of empathy for contact center challenges during COVID-19 pandemic
During a time when emotions are running high, one of the most difficult things for supervisors to do is control their own emotions and demonstrate empathy towards employees and peers who are struggling. A recent study has shown that more than 50% of employees are concerned about job security, and over a third are concerned about their personal health.
These are issues that strike at the core of many workers’ anxieties, and it is crucial that frontline supervisors convey a sense of empathy in order to help employees feel secure, valued, and listened to in a time of crisis. Without empathy, leaders and entry-level employees alike are susceptible to problems with mental and emotional health, which can cause tension in the workplace and further damage attempts to rebuild in the wake of this new pandemic.
2. Building trust with contact center agents
On a similar note, the support contact center agents are craving right now, in the face of uncertainty, is a sense of trust. The good news is that 75% of workers trust their employer’s decisions in the midst of this crisis. Many of them are looking to leaders in the workplace to assuage their fears.
One of the best ways to do this is, to be honest with employees about the unspoken fears that many of them have about their work going into the future. Employees will appreciate a sense of honesty, even if it means diving into complex issues that cause anxiety.
Another way that leaders are building trust is by having heart-to-heart conversations with employees. They are listening to the questions that naturally arise as a result of changes in the work environment as the pandemic situation develops. Which brings us to our next point…
3. Virtually leading a remote team
Of course, the most concrete change occurring in contact centers across the country is the switch to virtual work and team-building instead of in-person. Many frontline leaders are beginning to see the shortfalls and weaknesses that they themselves exhibit in terms of virtual leadership.
This is, of course, frustrating for some leaders. It means extra difficulty in completing day-to-day operations during the duration of this crisis. This also affords opportunities for growth. It is like that with the end of this crisis, we will see frontline contact center leaders with a better understanding of how to use virtual resources to their full potential.
Another positive outcome is that leaders are seeing an increase in one-on-one time with peers. This has the potential to foster creative solutions in the workplace.
4. Putting employee well-being first
Due to economic hardship being placed on contact centers now, leaders are pushing for results. While this is important, it is also important to recognize the limitations of employees and put employee wellbeing first during the crisis. The reason for this is simple. A contact center cannot run without a healthy, motivated workforce. Employees are not effective under anxiety, mistrust, or frustration in the face of the crisis.
Current problems in the system are emphasized by statistics. Only 46% of HR say their companies are capable of preventing employee burnout. The most effective frontline leaders make it clear during the pandemic that employee wellbeing is valued. They also say that employees will be listened to when they voice their concerns.
5. Modeling individual resilience for contact center challenges during COVID-19 pandemic
Because frontline leaders are, well, leaders, they serve as models for other employees. Showing personal resilience in the face of this crisis will lessen the anxiety of employees. They might feel as though they were without strong leadership.
Some factors influencing employee perception of resilience are the positive attitude of leaders (or lack thereof). Including the relationships that leaders cultivate with others both within and beyond the boundaries of the workplace. Also including the individual growth and progress that leaders make as the situation continues.
Understanding your contact center challenges during COVID-19 pandemic
All of these will be important factors for contact center leaders to consider as the pandemic continues. This because it inevitably subsides, allowing opportunities for new growth. Different Contact centers face different problems.
As a leader, you need to understand your challenges in order to find solutions to them. Using skills such as empathy can help you to have a better understanding of how your contact center employees have been affected by the pandemic. How the pandemic affects each employee in some cases is different. As a leader, you need to take this into consideration as well.
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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.