With service quality becoming one of the key differentiators during such times as these, virtual contact centers need to do everything they can to particularly retain their best performers, and their more profitable customers. Losing them or making staff redundant only plays into the hands of your competitors, and it can cause a potential loss in competitive advantage. So while the ‘credit crunch’ might impinge on most businesses, there’s an opportunity to gain a lead on your competitors through effective differentiation and innovation. After all there’s no point in following the herd – that will lead you nowhere, even if you survive the downturn. So ask yourself: "what I do differently?"

Success in a downturn begins with developing an understanding of the needs of the customer, how to better promote your business and of where to invest key assets and resources; those that significantly increase business performance. In a customer-facing environment like a contact center, one the key aspects of this is how they impact on customer-employee engagements. A downturn can create a negative operating environment, caused by the threat or imposition of job cuts and rationalization programs. These traditional reactions to a recessionary climate are detrimental to the ability of a virtual contact center to deliver high quality customer service and experiences. The situation is often further exacerbated by poor internal target-setting and measurement. 

So by re-aligning staff to the new operating environment, and by focusing your key resources where they make a difference, it will be possible to increase your performance levels for the right reasons. Part of this equation includes avoiding the traditional tendency of making your employees, your best assets, redundant. That will only lead to a loss of intellectual capital and experience, which are invaluable tools for delivering a higher level of customer service and satisfaction than your competitors. This is particularly crucial because competing solely on price is not always the answer to winning the game. That’s why customer-targeting and internal team, individual and organizational performance targets need to be more aligned than ever when times are tough. Good service created by effective customer-employee engagements will often win the day. 

 That’s why innovation is one of the key success drivers. Customer-facing staff like those working in virtual contact centers and direct sales can help a company to realize that new approaches might be required. They are the ones talking and hopefully engaging with customers, and when times are tough they’ll have to handle more objections and complaints. All of this information needs to be captured, and fed back to managers in order to allow them to make any necessary strategic improvements. 

There’s no point in just relying on capturing data in a CRM database, some of the answers can be found there, but not all of them. So companies need to try to capture the key elements of the conversations that staff have with your customers. The trouble is that many companies still don’t encourage such a collaborative approach as this, and it’s hard to set appropriate targets and measure performance based on customer-employee engagement.