How to Prepare Your Call Center for a Recession

By examining how past recessions have affected the retail industry and call centers, customer experience and marketing teams can prepare for the next.

Recessions have a unique impact on all industries and teams, and each team has their own responsibility to help their organization weather economic instability. Interestingly, research shows that the quality of a company’s customer experience (CX) is an important factor in how well a company can weather a recession successfully. This is especially true in retail, an industry dependent on customers’ whims and spending habits — and which is particularly vulnerable to reputational damage when customers have bad experiences.

By examining how past recessions have affected the retail industry and call centers, customer experience and marketing teams can prepare for the next. There are many strategies and tools they can employ to ensure their customer experience is as resilient as possible through future recessions. Here are some of the most common impacts call centers are seeing and what technologies or strategies can be employed to address these challenges.

Consumer spending is slowing

Recessions typically result in customers cutting back on spending, and they’ll likely be more cautious about where they even consider spending their money. A major deterrent for consumers is experiencing a negative interaction with customer support. The potential to deter customers from these bad experiences is already palpable in normal economic times, and a recession only makes it worse.

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However, the opposite is also true: good customer support experiences will help companies build customer loyalty and trust. Customer loyalty is an invaluable resource for CX teams to nurture during a recession. When people can quickly and efficiently resolve an issue with an agent, they are less likely to cancel orders or abandon the brand. The Harvard Business Review notes that during a recession, “Marketing isn’t optional — it’s a ‘good price’ that is essential to generating revenue from these key customers and others.”

Interactions subject matter experts emphasize that the last thing companies want to do during a recession is lose loyalty and business. Still, many companies turn to CX when they need to cut costs or lay off staff. An alternative to this plan is to prioritize customer relationships to earn loyalty and gain a competitive advantage over companies that choose to divert resources from CX.

For example, one important way to keep the customer relationship first is to invest in intelligent, conversational AI. Customers get quick and easy answers to their simple queries, and call center agents have more time to attend to customers’ more complicated issues—ultimately increasing customer satisfaction.

Making more CX investments will be a tough sell

Businesses need to reassess their spending habits and investments during recessions. This can include laying off employees or cutting budgets. Investments in innovation and technology may be on the wane as the organization seeks to focus on weathering the current storm and focus on day-to-day operations. CX leaders need to be able to make the case for the resources and innovation they need to keep customers happy and loyal in call centers and other customer-business touchpoints.

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According to Interactions experts, mapping the customer journey is an important step in preparing for this aspect of a recession. Companies can map this journey at any time, ideally when things are going well and the CX team has the resources and money to put it into the mapping. This helps identify areas where the contact center needs improvement, where costs are too high, and where more investment needs to be made. Knowing the customer journey from this reduced view helps companies prepare for uncertain events in the future – by knowing which areas can work with fewer resources and which cannot be further reduced. Another key benefit of customer journey mapping is that businesses can learn what kind of technology they can use to support a reduced budget to prepare for times of economic uncertainty.

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