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Keeping calm and carrying on
by Mark K. Smith

We are living through uncertain times to say the least. All of us will be thinking ‘what does this mean for my family’, ‘what does this mean for my job’ and (hopefully last) ‘what does this mean for me’?

Family wise – all you can do is follow the advice, isolate as necessary and stockpile toilet roll (why? I mean for gawd sake why??), the ‘me’ question is made much, much easier if you have no conditions underlying, but the job one is made much worse if you hold a leadership position, where your business is your people. Then all sorts of thoughts swirl around your mind as you weigh up the certainties (few) and uncertainties (many).

So over the weekend I was trying to reconcile what it is ContactEngine does as a business and whether we will be okay or not over the next few months. Here’s what I thought; I’m so grateful I’m not running an airline or a restaurant or a pub. Sport, that’s not good. Retail – well I guess toilet roll manufacturers are happy, as are hand sanitiser and surgical mask makers? But other businesses which are more optional, the barbers, the cinema, the theatre, the DIY stores, the bookies (see no sport above) the list is endless… Online will thrive I guess and Amazon in the UK are hiring like crazy, but deserted high streets….mmmmm……not great is it?

So I was feeling a little miserable and then I thought that what we do is all about automated conversations, and you know what, it’s just what is needed right now. Getting the right message out to the right people at the right time is not a ‘nice to have’ it’s a bloomin’ necessity.

It’s what happened next that surprised me…… our clients started to ask us to help and here are just a few of the use cases we’re working on right now, helping our corporate friends to help their customers and their colleagues in this time of crisis:

  1. Enabling call centre colleagues to work from home

One company has started to let their call centre colleagues work from home – however, they haven’t got the tech necessary to make that happen – but we have – so long as the agent has a cell phone – we can make automated conversations with the customer and direct the customer to the right agent – all we need is the agent’s phone number;

  1. In-home appointments

When employees are making home visits for installs, deliveries or repairs, ContactEngine are already (we started last week in the US) making COVID-19 pre-checks with the customer to make sure it is safe for employees to visit. BUT we also ask the customer if they are feeling fine and if the answer is no, then we ask them to reschedule (after 14 days of course);

  1. Emergency communications

For years we have run some emergency comms projects, especially for companies with very dispersed colleagues and no centralised intranet – this allows for escalation comms – whereby a colleague calls into an emergency number and says what the issue is – using their voice, then the recording is sent to various colleagues who decide to escalate (at the touch of a button) and schedule a conference call to decide the next action. It feels niche but it’s been used very extensively in the last few days for COVID-19 comms;

  1. Bandwidth upgrades

Upgrade and roaming comms – given people are working from home now and there are still packages out there that are ‘capped’ we have had enquiries about seeing if we can offer to upgrade for free – that should help get decent customer happiness in these troubled times;

  1. Lifting roaming charges

There are also people who are stranded abroad whose roaming charges might be punitive, so let them know you’ll waive that – Life Time Value uplift there for sure?

  1. CEO broadcasts to colleagues

For years ContactEngine specialised in CEO broadcasts to colleagues – that’s easily reinstated and can be on video or phone just to make sure everyone gets the updates they need.

Then there are the comms challenges yet to come. With the elderly asked to self-isolate for up to 3 months who wouldn’t like to make some “reassurance comms” a proactive duty of care if you like? ‘Are you alone? Vulnerable? Worried about things? Can we help?’, with a HELP response landing on a government site, call centre, information page. If people reply saying they are worried then with a little AI magic we could guide people towards some self-help, FAQs, videos, podcasts or whatever. Make them feel special – like you care. Because you do, right?

Then there is all the comms to colleagues when they self-isolate. Not only do you want to make sure they are okay, but also welcome them back (after all the vast majority of us will be fine). It could be that if the science shows that once you get better you are immune, these people will be your super star workers and able to help in areas where infection rates are still high to shield your, yet to be, affected colleagues?

And finally here’s a sneaky one – for those asked to work from home, you know you can expense your broadband don’t you (well you can in the UK anyway - terms and conditions apply….), so why not sneak an upgrade, I mean those video conferences are bandwidth heavy and Game of Thrones is therapeutic when you finish the evening commute of 10 yards….

Keep well all – this really will pass, not to say it won’t be horrible but human resilience is literally the stuff of legend and we will prevail.

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