Coronavirus and the Financial Services Contact Center
As coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to affect the financial services sector, it’s a good time to look at how the industry is able to adapt to the changing business landscape. From March 18th to March 20th, we held a town hall to look at the impact of COVID-19 on contact centres for financial services. At the time of the survey, two-thirds of the offices surveyed were still open, with measures being taken to ensure safety, such as physically spacing contact centre representatives (CSRs), additional sanitization, and asking CSRs with remote capability to work from home.
Although recent years have seen a trend towards remote CSRs, prior to the pandemic, only twenty-seven percent of surveyed CSRs were capable of conducting all of their work remotely. A further 28% were able to conduct over 75% of their work from home, and 36% of respondents could conduct under 50% of their work remotely.
In order to ameliorate this issue, 76.9% percent of firms had either rapidly expanded their remote capacity, or were planning to do so. The remaining 23.1% were already at full capacity. One attendee, in particular, transitioned from 0% to 100% work-at-home capacity in only 48 hours. Others have seen long-sought remote options quickly approved. Technology issues were the main obstacle in this expansion, though the gradual adoption, over the last few years, of VOIP services in the financial sector has eased the transition for many.
With an increase in market volatility, companies have also seen an increase in call volume, though not as significant an increase as might be suspected. In 41.7% of centres, an increase of between 25% and 50% was observed. A further 8.3% saw an increase of less than 25%. Only 8.3% saw a decrease in call volume. As a result, only 8.3% of contact centres decreased their staffing levels, while 25% saw an increase of up to 25%, and a further 8.3% saw an increase of between 25% and 50%. Over forty percent of the contact centres surveyed have either adjusted hours or are considering doing so.
Times of crisis often produce fraudulent behaviour, but only 22.2% of respondents noted an increase in fraud attempts, while 11.1% were too busy to check.
Finally, training has been a challenge for transitioning online. While some companies already conducted training online, others had to adapt quickly. One company allocated time that would otherwise have been spent training, toward FINRA exam self-study. On-the-job training has been more of a challenge, but conference calling combined with instant messaging has been used to replace it in some cases. In addition, screen recording has been used to allow tenured reps to observe trainees screens during training sessions.
As companies continue to adapt to the unfolding crisis, we are confident that solutions can be found to overcome any remote work challenges.