11th January 2023

Contact centres on the frontline of the cost of living crisis


Sensitively handling customers with financial issues

The topic of economics can come across as dry, highbrow and academic. 

And economists can often sound a bit blasé when they are discussing the cost of living crisis, appearing cold to the human dimension of what is, for many, a very difficult financial situation. 

That is something that contact centres can ill afford to mimic. Research earlier this year by the CCMA (Call Centre Management Association) revealed five contact centre trends:

  • The cost-of-living crisis is driving up contact volume as customers seek support and reassurance.
  • Assisted channels are more important than ever, as customers feel the urgency and seek certainty.
  • Emotional intelligence and well-being are still top of the leadership agenda.
  • Inflation adds further pressure to increase salaries, already influenced by the tight labour market.
  • The role of the contact centre in supporting society through difficult times has never been more important.

Positioned on the frontline of organisations, many contact centres get to hear first-hand the impact on customers. Organisations and enterprises such as Citizens’ Advice, financial services businesses and energy companies may be the first that spring to mind. 

The cost of living difficulties being experienced by many customers is certainly being felt by contact centre agents in organisations offering direct social support, such as local authorities and charities. However, this also holds true for practically any type of business where there are financial relationships.  Of course, this puts a strain on agents and increases the levels of anxiety of what, at times, may already be a stressful environment.

The hardship of Covid compounded by the cost of living

Many contact centre workers have endured a rough ride due to lockdowns. Customers were stuck at home, many under financial stress as a result of COVID-19. Inevitably, call queues became longer and contact centre agents became the victims of pent-up frustration. 

Research from the Institute of Customer Service discovered that 60% of customer-facing workers across the economy were forced to deal with an increasingly frustrated and disenfranchised public, leading to unacceptable levels of hostility and abuse. Industry research suggests up to 83% of customer-facing contact centre staff are suffering from burnout. 

On the back of Covid, the cost of living crisis has arrived, further turning up the temperature on the financial problems of many. Contact centre agents need to be empathetic, but they are not ‘punchbags’. The best practice for contact centres is to terminate calls when faced with abusive behaviour.

Before calls reach that unsatisfactory stage, there are ways for agents to deal with callers that can help to prevent customer irritation from escalating.

5 tips for dealing sensitively with customers who are under financial stress

When dealing with customers who are under financial stress, contact centre agents should approach the situation with empathy and understanding. The goal should be to help the customer find a resolution to their financial issues with your organisation. Here are 5 key things for agents to bear in mind:

1. Remain calm and professional – it is important to maintain a calm and professional manner. This can help to de-escalate the situation and prevent the situation from escalating further.

2. Listen and empathise – by listening carefully and showing empathy, you may be able to diffuse the situation and help the customer feel more comfortable.

3. Follow set boundaries – it is important to state the boundaries to abusive customers and let them know that policy is not to tolerate aggressive or disrespectful behaviour. Be firm but polite.

4.  Offer solutions – avoid confrontation and focus on finding solutions to the customer’s concerns. Aim to redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

5. Escalate if necessary – if the situation becomes unmanageable, escalate the call to managers or supervisors who have additional resources or expertise that may resolve the situation effectively to promote a good customer experience.

Provide better customer experience with Quvu

Of course, the features of your contact centre solution should already place customer experience at the top of the agenda when it comes to how well your contact centre performs.

These great features of Quvu not only help to create a good customer experience, they also support good user experiences for contact centre staff. Agents, system administrators, supervisory grades and compliance managers have dedicated consoles that provide a more focused and structured user experience.

Book a personalised demo to see what Quvu can do for your contact centre.

Simply call us on 01 556 3222 or email support@quvu.ie

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