Like numerous frontline workers around the world, call center agents are working overtime to serve customers during the COVID-19 crisis. Call volumes for travel services, insurance plans, banks and credit cards have increased by over 50%, leading many companies to reroute calls to centers less impacted by the virus and even transition workers to home. In an already stressful job, agents are balancing elevated customer needs, alongside their own personal health and concerns during this global pandemic. 

No matter who you are, what industry you’re in or where you are in the world, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging time for all of us. But please know, however, you’re feeling during this time, we’re feeling it too. Our ability to have emotionally intelligent conversations and communicate clearly in times of crisis goes a long way toward serving customers and supporting everyone’s health and well-being. 

As such, Cogito continues to strive toward the unwavering support of our customers and their agents during this unprecedented time. Below, I’ve shared some recommendations to further support call center agents in order to help them to help others get through this.

 

Know your contingency plan.

Your organization’s disaster planning and response initiatives should include regular communication with employees and team members to keep them informed and prepared. In times of such rapid change and uncertainty, employees will look forward to regular and transparent communication. In one study by Global Strategy Group, 75% of employees said that they wanted to be informed about how companies plan to respond if an employee contracts COVID-19. In addition, the top two most important pieces of information ranked by employees were information about (68%) and preparation for (63%) COVID-19.

 

Check-in with each other human-to-human.

Right now, we are all concerned about our health, supply chains and finances during this crisis. Add in social distancing and it can really feel like we’re going at this alone. You, your customers and your employees are likely all facing the same concerns and stressors right now. This is the best time to use empathy. A simple “just checking in” or letting someone know that you are thinking of them during this time can be all that is needed to calm anxieties and build a connection. We feelings can escalate when we feel unheard or misunderstood. By opening this dialogue, you are creating space for customers and employees to feel safe and recognize their emotions before moving forward with a conversation.

 

Promote positive remote meetings and calls.

If you’re checking in with your coworkers and employees virtually throughout the day, share and practice good virtual meeting habits. Use video if possible. Have a designated working area that minimizes background distractions. Plan for cooking and mealtimes. Mark on your calendar or schedule when you’re taking breaks. Check out this list of Top Five Tips for Home-Based Customer Service Reps and these tips for working from home during coronavirus.

 

Encourage virtual coworker support and socialization.

Socializing is how we communicate to develop relationships and release stress. The small social interactions in our daily workday, like saying hello in the hallway or chatting over coffee, will be missed while we’re working virtually and practicing social distancing. Take two or three minutes at the beginning or end of work calls and meetings to share music or movie recommendations, pictures of children and pets at home, or new food recipes.

 

Be mindful of mental health.

With all of the focus on our physical health currently, it’s easy to overlook the stress, depression or and anxiety that agents, coworkers, and family members may be experiencing. Some studies estimate that as many as 50% of call center agents are already dealing with depression and anxiety at work. The COVID-19 emergency is a high-risk time for mental health issues. Stick to your regular routines as much as possible. Take breaks from the news. Keep hydrated and well-rested. The CDC lists this information here for mental health and coping during COVID-19.

 

Refer to your Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Now is the time to take advantage of free services offered by your employer. EAPs provide you with free health, legal and financial resources, including older adults or childcare, mental health, taxes and financial planning and contact information for state health departments. Even if your employer knows that you’re utilizing these services, the content of your meetings is confidential and will not be shared.

 

We are here to provide support during this challenging time. If you’d like to learn more about using Cogito’s call center coaching application or virtual mental health monitoring tool, please reach out to [email protected]. We will all get through this – together.

Victoria Smith
Victoria Smith

Victoria is Head of Clinical Operations & Development for Cogito’s behavioral health solutions. With a background in behavioral neuroscience and public health, Victoria oversees our software through NIH-funded clinical trials from start to finish, including our go to market strategies for those solutions. Prior to joining Cogito, Victoria conducted clinical neuroimaging trials and analysis at Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as serving as an advisory consultant at early stage digital health companies. Victoria splits her time between New York and Boston and loves to get in a CrossFit workout wherever she goes.