Dealing with Coronavirus and High Call Traffic at Your Answering Service

Dealing with Coronavirus and High Call Traffic at Your Answering Service

Explore Ways to Allow Staffing Levels to Meet Call Traffic Projections

Concerns about the coronavirus and how clients react to it has increased call volume at most telephone answering services. Higher call volume this month will generally boost billing next month. This will have a positive impact on your bottom line, which is a good thing.

However, coupled with the heightened demand for your services is the need to boost your staffing levels to answer the influx of calls. Having existing staff work more hours, longer shifts, and overtime will only go so far to address this need. In addition, some employees may be reluctant to come to the office to answer calls. Or they’ll insist on staying home until the crisis has passed.

Here are some ideas to address this challenge of having enough staff to handle your clients’ present workload.

Update Your Office Environment

You’ve likely already changed procedures in your office to help protect your staff and their health. As a review, here are some ideas.

  • First, space out where operators sit. Most answering services have plenty of unused stations most of the time, yet operators tend to sit next to each other. Have them spread out. Most of the time, you can have an empty station between each operator.
  • Have each employee disinfect their position before and after each shift. Focus on keyboards, mice, and work surfaces that employees touch often.
  • Hopefully, you don’t have staff share headsets, but if you do, buy more headsets so that everyone can have their own.
  • Speaking of headsets, disinfect them too. Replace consumable items.
  • To the extent possible, stagger breaks so that there are fewer people in the break room at one time.
  • Remind staff of all the commonly mentioned protection steps.
  • And last, if they’re sick, insist that they stay home.

Allow Remote Work

Now that we reviewed the basics, let’s revisit work-at-home opportunities. Perhaps you already allow this. If so, now is an ideal time to take it up a notch.

On the other hand, perhaps you are dead set against having a distributed workforce. That’s understandable. But maybe you need to make an exception until this pandemic has passed.

Keeping people at home and working is the perfect response to coronavirus.

Approach Former Staff

Next review your roster of former employees who left on good terms. Maybe they’re willing to return for a time and help you out. They’re already trained so they’ll get up to speed fast. And it’s possible they were just laid off from their new job because of the pandemic and will welcome an opportunity to earn some money.

If they help you out until the crisis has passed and then return to their other job, that’s perfect timing and an ideal situation for both you and them. And if they do a great job and stick around, that’s a bonus.

Reconsider Terminated Employees

This tip is where it gets a bit tricky, but with care, it can provide a positive outcome. Review the situation of staff that you needed to let go. Most aren’t candidates to come back, and it’s good that they’re gone.

However, some of these former employees may have done a great job on the phones, but their life circumstances caused them to miss work, struggle with their attitude, or make poor life decisions that impacted their work. Perhaps they have dealt with their issues and may jump at a second chance.

Even if their return is short-lived, they may work long enough to help get you through the crisis; that’s the goal. However, there’s a possibility—however remote—that they make the best of this second chance and become an employee you want to keep around.

Hire Strategically

Most answering services expect their employees to answer all types of calls for all clients or at least for a large group of clients. But maybe there’s a different approach that will allow you to onboard people and have them be productive quickly—not after several weeks of training.

Do you have one large account? Maybe you can initially train your new employee to answer only those calls. Every call they answer is a call that your more experienced staff won’t need to address.

Next, do you have a group of simple accounts that are easy to handle or a repetitive process that doesn’t require much training? Hire new people to cover these simpler tasks now. If they acquit themselves well, train them more fully later. And if they don’t do so well, you can avoid the expense of providing additional instruction. Even so, they helped you during this crisis.

Conclusion

If your call volume is outpacing your staffing levels, it’s time to consider different approaches to ramp up your staffing until the pandemic is over and call volume returns to normal. And then you can resume your typical hiring and staffing practices—unless you want to keep some of these ideas for the long-term.

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