As COVID-19 coronavirus spreads globally, Gartner, Inc. has identified three impact areas for customer service and support leaders to focus on to manage risk and ensure continuity of operations.
“Though service leaders are familiar with business continuity and disaster recovery planning, pandemic planning is very different because of its wider scope and the uncertainty of impact,” said John Quaglietta, senior director analyst in Gartner’s Customer Service and Support Practice. “The global and dynamic impact of COVID-19 requires planning for longer recovery times and many scenarios because pandemic events are so fluid, and things can change quickly without notice.”
The three impact areas that Gartner recommends that service leaders focus on include:
Impact Area 1: Operational Continuity
Continuity of operations in service and support organizations is largely delivered by agents, operations staff and management. However, this is being threatened by increased absence due to quarantines.
“Since service and support are labor-intensive, having large numbers of staff miss work due to pandemic-related issues can severely impact delivery,” said Deborah Alvord, senior director analyst in Gartner’s Customer Service and Support Practice. “Delivery impairment has both short- and long-range effects on organizations’ ability to deliver service to customers and meet related service goals according to customer expectations.”
Service leaders should maintain continuity of business operations by completing a workforce planning assessment and determine outsourcing and work-from-home options. Additionally, they should implement and promote digital and self-service channels.
Impact Area 2: Staff Morale
Unpredictable work conditions create additional pressure and demand on employees, fueling anxiety, morale and retention issues. Gartner recommends service leaders establish programs that promote employee well-being, focus on employee engagement, and include employees in business continuity and disaster recovery planning.
Impact Area 3: Customer Demand
Communicating with customers during the life cycle of the pandemic is critical. It is important for service leaders to consistently provide updates on developing events and how those events affect the organization’s ability to provide service and support. If customers should expect delays, let them know in advance to reduce unneeded contact volume. Where possible, service leaders should use a multichannel strategy to communicate updates, process or policy changes, and changes in service caused by COVID-19. This can be done via inbound and outbound channels such as SMS, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and phone.
Additional information on what customer service and support leaders should be doing amid the coronavirus outbreak is available to Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leaders clients in the report “Coronavirus Impact on Service Delivery Continuity, Employees and Customers.”
Learn more about how to lead organizations through the disruption of coronavirus in the Gartner coronavirus resource center, a collection of complementary Gartner research and webinars to help organizations respond, manage, and prepare for the rapid spread and global impact of COVID-19.
About Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leaders
The customer service and support function is vital to maintaining customer loyalty and influencing brand perceptions. Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leaders provides indispensable insights, advice and tools needed to achieve service and support leaders’ mission-critical priorities, specifically improving the customer experience while managing costs. Gartner’s research, advice and best practices equip customer service and support leaders to design an optimal service channel strategy; measure and reduce customer effort; and hire, develop and retain high-potential frontline talent.