Potential Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 on the Call Center Industry
The drastic changes in workplace norms due to the COVID-19 have had significant impacts on the call center industry and will likely continue to do so for years to come. While some of the changes are downright unwelcome, others might end up boosting the industry in the long run or providing a mix of both positive and negative effects.
As businesses suffer financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are laying off employees in favor of more economically viable alternatives. Some of the job losses may only be temporary, but many of them will never return. For example, some companies are permanently switching to cheaper non-human technology. However, the issue isn’t black and white, as the automation of simpler jobs may open the door to other better jobs for people.
Many companies are also choosing to ditch outsourcing, as the work-at-home model requiring a personal computer and internet at home is not always viable overseas. Similarly, there has been a rise in the hiring of people with disabilities, as working from home removes many of the barriers that may have otherwise prevented them from working on location in a call center.
Expansion of Digitalization
Call centers are already experiencing drastic increases in call volume as the pandemic pushes customers away from in-person actions and toward remote-access alternatives. The sudden shift has been overwhelming at times, but adapting to it may give call centers opportunities to play a larger role in new areas.
For example, banks in particular are pushing digital transactions to avoid the spread of COVID-19 via the transfer of physical money and in-person exchanges. Moving banking online will require centers to manage everything from opening bank accounts to performing transactions.
With the shift toward digital environments, technology such as automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will become crucial. They will serve as both replacements for more expensive human workers as well as a way to enhance human capabilities in more advanced roles.
In assistive positions, AI can help human agents in completing their jobs more quickly and effectively by providing rapid information and completing side tasks. This human-technology partnership can help call centers increase their metrics such as response time, handling speed, and overall scalability.
As the online environment becomes the norm, call centers will need to address potential increases in cybercrime. Cybercriminals will see and take advantage of the new rise in digital communications and transactions unless the industry takes the necessary precautions. Changes should include more rigorous proof of identity during calls as well as reinforcing the security of call center computer systems.
Both in terms of security and in other areas, the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the weak points of call centers. The options are now to fix those problems, find alternatives, or suffer the consequences. If the industry can adapt to the new norms, then call centers will become even more critical assets to businesses navigating the highly digitalized post-pandemic environment.