COVID-19 impacted nearly every aspect of our daily lives and sent many businesses spiraling. How customers connect with businesses has changed, but the need for that connection is as vital as ever. Through it all, the department that remained most vital for continuity for businesses – including financial institutions – was the customer service function.

Contact centers at financial institutions had to quickly be up and running at the onset of the pandemic, and had to remain accessible, responsive, and effective to address urgent customer needs and concerns over the course of the challenge. Many customers’ economic conditions shifted, and their communication with their financial partners needed to be strong and at-the-ready to provide ongoing, and sometimes highly complex, service and support.

As contact centers evolve into a longer-term more permanent setting – whether that be remote, back inside one location, or a hybrid of the two – it’s important to look back at the key learnings and capture the lessons of the current crisis to thoughtfully plan for future disruptions.

The Quickest Method to Getting Your Contact Center Up and Running

Even when disaster prevents your contact center agents from using the office, stopping service altogether is not an option. Contact center operations should be uninterrupted, while employees can confidently work safely. One way to accomplish both is by moving your entire technology system to the cloud. But how can you do as quickly as possible, without impacting customers’ experiences?

One option is leveraging your existing infrastructure and integrating cloud functionality, like IVR, to intelligently route calls and provide self-service options for customers. Or adopting innovative solutions such as WebRTC soft phones or remote station dial-out to forward callers to a cloud solution that can queue calls and route them to remote agents at home. This allows your employees to get up and running in various locations in a matter of days, while staying safe. It also provides the business continuity needed during chaos, while reducing disruptions in the customer-business relationship.

Remote numbers allow agents to use their own computers and phones to handle calls as if they were sitting at their desks in the contact center. Even if you don’t have a web-based system deployed, an IIS server, with some minor set-up requirements, may be all you need to implement this process.

While expedient, this configuration that enables remote logins from a web browser and automatically routes phone numbers should not be considered a permanent solution because of its high cost. So, what’s next? A permanent migration to a full cloud solution.

Consider the Cloud as a Long-Term Defense Against Future Crises

The cloud is likely the best solution for more sustainable, long-term risk mitigation during future challenging events. Cloud-based contact centers equip businesses with a wide range of features and benefits, including remote access from anywhere in the world. Businesses moving to remote work via the cloud are also provided the necessary phone numbers, queues, and in-queue messaging needed to create optimal customer and employee experiences. The cloud makes it easy to have employees log in to the system from their web browser and field any interaction with no impact to the customer.

Moving to the cloud is the only real way to ensure disaster recovery and business continuity without having to cobble together makeshift, and sometimes expensive systems every time there is a crisis.

Combine Short-Term Solutions with Long-Term Thinking

The current uncertainty has made companies think seriously about problems that were only hypothetical in the past. Real solutions combine short-term fixes that keep your business viable with long-term strategies that help you fight the same battles in the future. Leverage the power of the cloud to keep your organization working no matter where its people are located.

When faced with a crisis, it is important to remember that you don’t have to find answers to your questions, all on your own. Outside technical partners that have guided other financial companies through adversity can be trusted partners. Learning from other institutions’ experiences can help you avoid similar mistakes.

Maintaining business as usual in unusual times is never easy. Take time now to reflect on the difficulties of operating during 2020, and the solutions needed to react and reset, to build a crisis response plan for the unexpected business disruptions of the future.

Robert Wakefield-Carl is senior director of the innovation architects team at Avtex, a full-service CX consulting and solution provider focused on helping financial services organizations create better experiences for customers. Avtex partners with leading technology vendors like Microsoft and Genesys to address CX challenges through CX design and orchestration.

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