Covid-19 has created many operational issues for businesses and contact center operations is one of those areas impacted by it. It can be detrimental for businesses since the contact center plays a crucial role in managing customer relationships.

While many B2C businesses are struggling to stay afloat, they cannot ignore their customers during the crisis. Many legacy contact centers are not architected to cope with Covid-19 scenarios.

The pandemic has underscored the need for contact center resiliency to be part of the business continuity planning. So, what can happen to the contact center during the pandemic?

Below are some scenarios:

  • An infected contact center agent can result in the closure of the entire center due to the need to minimize the health and safety impact to other employees at the center (e.g., Citigroup Inc. closed its call center in Florence, Kentucky due employees at the center tested positive for Covid-19).
  • The lockdown of a city, state or country by governments can result in the closure of physical contact centers. This includes the scenarios where a contact center that is outsourced or in an offshore location that is affected by the lockdown (e.g., in India and the Philippines).
  • A surge in call volume resulting in longer wait times (e.g., spike in number of travelers calling their airlines to modify their itineraries or calls to health departments to get answers to questions about Covid-19).
  • A need for more call center capacity for outbound purposes such as customer outreach – including government organizations reaching out to their constituents for various reasons; and businesses reaching out to customers to avoid long queues at their retail outlets.
  • The need to quickly setup a Covid-19 hotline or specialist contact center.

Cloud based contact center solutions could be the answer

Especially for companies that are facing different degree of anxiety among customers, the ability to address customer needs is crucial for the long-term success. As things become unpredictable, businesses want the flexibility to scale their operations. In dealing with the immediate demand, there is no time for extensive RFP and vendor evaluation.

Established players such as Avaya, Cisco, and Genesys all have cloud-based solutions that can enable customers to scale their contact center operations. For example, Avaya is offering a 90-day complimentary license for remote agents and Genesys has a set of interim license programs to help customers manage higher interaction volumes as a result of Covid-19.

Cisco has also announced “Work from Home” Webex Contact Center Quick Deployment solution which offers a temporary solution (90-day subscription) with no minimum volume requirement and can be deployed in five days. In the longer-term, companies that are looking at replacing legacy solutions should consider a range of cloud-based solutions available in the market.

They should also consider the potential of AI in the contact center, the importance of having the ability to support omin-channel, and automation through communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS).

Amazon Connect offers rapid deployment

There are many cloud-based contact center solutions in the market. One that is gaining attention from enterprise customers is Amazon Connect. This solution has powered Amazon’s customer service retail business contact center for over 12 years. It was developed by the company from ground up to support its dynamic business across the globe.

Being a cloud-native solution, Amazon Connect comes with the obvious benefits such as rapid deployment, consumption-based pricing model (based on usage rather than capacity or number of agents) and the ability to scale to meet unpredictable demand. These are crucial attributes in light of the Covid-19 situation.

It is noted that in 2017 during Hurricane Harvey, American Red Cross was able to set up a new contact center based on Amazon Connect in 48 hours. This contact center helped supplement the usual Red Cross volunteer call center and when the peak volumes of call subsided two weeks later, the Amazon Connect solution was de-provisioned.

As a leading cloud provider, AWS enjoys competitive advantages over other smaller cloud-native contact center companies. Enterprise customers are familiar with AWS and many of them already use its services. Its scale, ability to innovate and the partner ecosystem are strengths that cannot be easily replicated.

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